(Population 6,971,406 as of 2013)
Washington took an early stance against iGaming. In June 2006, the legislation passed a bill, SSB 6613, that made it a Class C felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and/or five years in prison to play poker online. It was a harsh penalty, but the state supreme court upheld the law in September of 2010 when challenged by Lee Rousso, an attorney who served as the PPA's Washington state director. That in turn inspired sires like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker to pull out of the state.
Washington became the first state to make it a crime to play online poker, and a poll in 2011 indicated 79 percent of registered voters disagreed with the law. Despite that, and attempts by the PPA to get the law off the books, it still stands and online poker is a big no-no in Washington.
In early 2013, Rep. Paul Harris sponsored a bill that would have made the law less severe, making it a civil infraction with a maximum $50 fine, but the bill ultimately died in committee.
“We're more disappointed than surprised,” PPA Executive Director John Pappas told PokerNews. “What we've done is build a strong base of support there. I think next year we'll be in a good position to push even a broader bill. Our goal is not just to repeal the law in the state but to establish a licensed and regulated market. This would have been a nice step in the interim to have this bill done, and we're really upset that clearly it has been tabled for the year.”
Washington is a long way from iGaming, especially when you consider they’re more concerned with changing a law against it than legalizing and regulating it. Still, there have been some positive changes, including the departure of Margarita Prentice, who pushed for SSB 6613, from the state Senate after 20 years. That’s inspired iGaming advocates to take up the issue with new vigor.
“The goal this year is to come up with a measure that can be agreed upon in the next session in 2015 that runs January-April. Failing that we can look at an initiative drive for next year that would likely put the measure on the ballot in 2016,” said Curtis Woodard of the Washington Internet Poker Initiative
It doesn’t look good for iGaming in Washington, but many residents are fighting the good fight.