On June 7th, the new law in the state of Washington criminalizing online gaming and poker took effect. While this hasn't seemed to slow down the residents of the Evergreen State from playing in the 300 or so online poker rooms that are scattered across the Internet, the legislation is stretching its reach to extend into another very delicate area: poker information sites.
In an article in the Seattle Times by Danny Westneat on June 17th, it is reported that a poker information site has come under fire from the state. The site, called Integrity Casino Guide, is basically an information site for other Internet users which culls different information on the poker rooms on the Web and offers other pertinent details. The owner of the site, Todd Boutte, was concerned about the new law but, since he wasn't taking any wagers on his site, figured that all would be OK.
In a chilling sequence that could be compared to an Orwellian scenario from "1984", the state has said that he is still in violation of the new law in Washington. Because the site contains advertisements, links and information about poker rooms, it is viewed in the same manner as the offshore sites themselves. This could earn Boutte charges punishable with a Class C felony in Washington, which (as we have previously detailed here at PokerNews) is punishment usually reserved for serious criminals. For now, Boutte has shut down his site and is attempting to possibly restart it at sometime, albeit housed outside of the state.
Later in the article, Westneat also points out that his own newspaper publishes poker professional Daniel Negreanu's poker column on a weekly basis and wonders if they are violating the new law. According to the report, the state gambling commissioner, Rick Day, advises the columnist to advise his paper to quit publishing the Negreanu articles and also states that the commission is attempting to hire an investigator whose sole purpose would be to aggressively move on the new state law. All of this should anger poker players not only in Washington but across the United States and around the world.
There is an inherent right of the states to enact laws that govern their citizens. This same right extends up into the federal government and down to the local ones as well. What is bafflingly surprising and upsetting about Washington's approach here is that this is an attack on SPEAKING about the online game. One of the basic tenets of freedom in the United States is the ability to speak out about pretty much anything, no matter how offensive it may be.
Another thing that is tremendously interesting about this legislation is that the person who sponsored it, Senator Margarita Prentice, has refused interviews from a multitude of media outlets to speak about the law that she brought to reality. Another part of the American system is the right of the people to challenge their legislators and/or guide them on their legislative paths. By denying access to what her thoughts were regarding this piece of legislation, Prentice could be seen as directly violating her duty as an elected official.
So what's next in the state of Washington? Are you going to head into the local Borders or Barnes & Nobles in each city across the state and eradicate the poker books and magazines from the shelves? It is a startling turn of the cards (yes, pun intended) when situations such as this are happening and should serve as a warning and perhaps that kick in the backside that poker players across the United States and particularly in the state of Washington may need to drive to action.
Ed note: you should be driving the action at the tables of Hollywood Poker