Washington State Bans Online Poker
Washington State made it so that anyone who plays online poker in the state is no better than a burglar or a rapist, equivalent to possessing child pornography, torturing an animal or threatening the Governor. The state of Washington passed a law, making online poker a Class C felony. As of June 7, 2006, the bill S.S.B. No. 6613 makes it so that at any time the feds or CIA or FBI or whatever can bust down your door because you placed a $1 bet online.
Obviously, it’s ridiculous, but it was passed. Many poker forums echoed the sentiment that they have been blindsided, because they were not aware of any bill coming out. It was truly a behind the scenes thing, fully undercover. Factually, for instance, when the Seattle Times published an article about bills to make Internet gambling a crime, it only mentioned proposals pending in Congress.
The new law took effect June 7, and before that passed the Legislature earlier that year without much public attention. But word began to spread among gamblers online and in old-fashioned "brick-and-mortar" card rooms, and the players weren't pleased. Among worries of getting arrested, some players tried to organize political committees to get the new law changed.
In fact, internet gambling was never a fully authorized activity in Washington, but this law was passed to make it very clear that Internet gambling is not legal in Washington. This would include gambling on the Internet, operation of an Internet gambling site, or facilitating Internet gambling in any way whatsoever.
Prior to being amended by S.S.B. No. 6613, the law read:
Whoever knowingly transmits or receives gambling information by telephone, telegraph, radio, semaphore or similar means, or knowingly installs or maintains equipment for the transmission or receipt of gambling information shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor…
This made betting via phone using your bookie of choice, such as Pinnacle Sports or Sportingbet a crime. But Internet Poker’s place under this law was in question. It was not specifically worded to take care of the playing of internet poker.
Other Washington statutes make it a crime to participate in any form of gambling that is not authorized by the state or a pure social game. But there is at least some doubt as to whether these applied to the Internet at all, let alone to a game of such legal complexity because the operator and probably all the other participants are in foreign countries.
S.S.B. No. 6613 added the words “the internet” and “a telecommunications transmission system” to the law. After that it was a clear crime to send or receive any gaming information online, which would include playing poker. Playing poker was comparable to threatening the governor, for crying out loud. At least you could feel like a bad-ass when playing online poker then.
At the time, Washington was probably the only state to expressly make it a crime to merely place bets online. It certainly was the first state to make it a felony though.
A “Class C felony”, as stated in American law, means a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. How exactly the act of playing poker would land a person in jail for 5 years including a $10K fine is impossible to understand for a normal person, but it passed anyway. How does playing poker online compare to threatening governors and torturing animals is beyond normal human comprehension. But, with a little thought and analysis, you could speculate as to why such a bill could possibly get passed into law. It would probably have involved the live casino operators such as certain local Indian tribes, some bourbon, and lots of hefty bribes. There could have been more and bigger fish (excuse the pun) involved though.
This law also gave the religious zealots who will oppose gambling forever tons of ammunition. Some of these might have even gone as far as to think that someone will actually get arrested as a consequence of this law. Sadly for them, and happily for everyone else, no arrests were ever made due to this ridiculous law. Imagine that? A whole S.W.A.T. team kicking down your door and seizing your mouse, because you placed a wager online.
Several sites which were based in Washington at the time decided to shut down their services, because with heavy linkage and banners and whatnot promoting what according to the law was taboo would also make the site operators liable of a Class C felony offense. An example of this was Integrity Casino Guide, and its owner Todd Boutte.
Another particularly interesting thing about his legislation was 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. The American system offers its people the right to challenge their legislators and/or guide them on their legislative paths. Basically, if applied correctly, it would prevent gaffes such as this big blunder and make laws that are actually credible and fair. By denying access to what her thoughts were regarding this piece of legislation, Prentice could have been seen as directly violating her duty as an elected official. And what’s even more interesting is that 3 years later no reference to the S.S.B. Nr. 6613 appears in her Wikipedia page. Hmm…
May this be a history lesson to you. Always be on the lookout for when the unfairness is about to be applied around you, as you never know when it’s your turn to get it. Corrupt and “misguided” officials are plentiful, ready to promise the world to get elected and then delivering not much more than a dog with diarrhea would. Be on the lookout dear reader, you have been warned.
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