Internet Poker – Still a Felony in Washington

March 4, 2013

Since a lot of the US states are legalizing online poker within their premises, Paul Harris, a state Representative in Washington suggested that the state should change its law with regard to online gambling as well. Even though, no resident has been arrested for playing online poker in the state of Washington, Harris feels that the state should amend its law on online gambling, issue a fine against playing online poker, and not treat it as a felony. So playing online poker would remain illegal in the state, but it would not be a serious offense in the eyes of the state.

The need to make the change in the law

According to the 2006 gaming law in the state of Washington, online gambling and online poker are illegal in the eyes of the state government. In the past few years, none of the residents have been punished for playing recreational poker in the state; however, the state does not have a system where the residents can have access to authorized poker sites.

According to Harris, the state can continue to consider online gambling illegal; however, instead of treating it as a felony, it should change its punishment to a fine system. Harris eventually wants to introduce a bill on the legalization of online poker in the state of Washington, so he is suggesting this amendment in order to develop a positive attitude towards online poker within the state.

If the lawmakers charge a fine instead of punishing people for playing online poker, it will be considered a violation of the law, just like a traffic violation; however, it will not be considered as a serious felony. So the residents will look at online poker in a more constructive way.

A discussion to implement the changes

In order to propose this change, the lawmakers of the state had a 50-minute long discussion on the punishment of playing online poker. During this discussion, Harris proposed the fine system in front of the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. Some members of the committee seemed to agree with Harris, but others felt that this decision would make the residents more relaxed about online gambling, which could have a derogatory impact on the state. So the discussion failed to lead to any progress in this matter.

Looking at poker as a skilled game

During the discussion, the members of the committee discussed poker as a skilled game as well. According to Harris, unlike many other gambling activities, the players need to have a skill set in order to play quality games of poker. So, considering online poker as an illegal activity is not completely justified. A lot of the members of the committee didn’t agree with this point made by Harris, but introducing the point of view of looking at poker as a skilled game helped Harris in laying down the foundation for an online poker bill within the committee.

Legalization of online poker in Washington

According to experts, looking at the positive response of the various US states on online poker, there is a possibility that states like Washington might consider legalizing of online poker as well. At present, the state considers online gambling activities as illegal; however, many officials within the state committee have started supporting the idea of legalization of online poker already.

According to the Poker Players Alliance, Harris might formally introduce an online poker bill in the Washington state house in the coming year. This is the primary reason as to why he initiated the discussion on the amendment of the 2006 law on gambling. The alliance feels that if the state authorities view poker as a skilled game that has a positive impact on the economy of the state, they might legalize online poker easily. However, the alliance is not sure if the state authorities will support the decision so easily, as all the policy changes take place gradually.

Nonetheless, the alliance is hoping that in the coming few years, more and more US states will legalize online poker, so that all the US based poker companies will be able to develop an intrastate market for the interested poker players.