Washington Online Poker
Sadly, unlike the majority of the United States of America, playing online poker in Washington could result in a felony charge. This is obviously bad news for online poker players in the state, but we remain hopeful that the situation could change.
Why is online poker illegal in Washington?
The Evergreen State has had some form of anti-gambling legislation as far back as the 19th century, although enforcement has always been a struggle and in fact Washington legalized betting on horse racing back in 1933, and other land-based games like bingo later in the 20th century.
In the 1970s, legislation was approved allowing licensed card rooms to offer games like poker and blackjack. Also, as in many other US states, it is legal to play live poker with friends or family at home or at a bar, providing no one is profiting as a result of taking a rake from the games.
More recently, as online poker has grown, many felt the best form of legal poker Washington residents could play was via the multitude of legal online poker sites licensed offshore. Lawmakers ultimately cracked down on this in the early 21st century. However before this crackdown, top online poker players like Matt Affleck and Alex Fitzgerald were able to hone their skills on legal online poker sites
Washington made it a crime to transmit gambling information over the internet in a bill introduced in 2006. Naturally, many of the best poker sites in Washington lobbied for change and the legislation was subject to a lengthy legal challenge from the Poker Players Alliance in an effort to allow poker players to continue to play legal poker online in Washington. Unfortunately the Evergreen State’s Supreme Court deemed the law constitutional in 2010 – forcing some previously legal poker sites in Washington to stop allowing players from the 13th most populous US state.
Does Washington’s anti-gambling legislation include online poker
Unfortunately, yes. While some American states are keen to make a distinction between online poker and other forms of online gambling, Washington’s law covers online poker as well as online casino games, online sports betting, and so on. Efforts continue to be made to define poker as a game of skill, but these have so far been fruitless.
Can you be arrested for playing online poker in Washington?
In theory, yes, though we are yet to find evidence of anyone being arrested for playing online poker within Washington State boundaries. Still, you may wish to prefer to be safe than sorry, as even playing online poker from the safety of your own home is in theory an arrestable offence, and you could be charged with a felony.
What about live poker in Washington – is this allowed?
When it comes to legal poker Washington still has some options for players in the form of its many live casinos. Many of these venues are Indian casinos (in fact, Washington’s state motto – Alki – is of Chinook origin), and they offer affordable daily poker tournaments for Washingtonians and anyone visiting the state who wants to play poker. As of 2018, however, none of the big live USA poker tours have held events in Washington.
Did the Indian tribes have anything to do with the current online poker law?
No, however a representative of the Tulalip tribe spoke out with regards to federal online gambling proposals. Reassuringly – for online poker players at least – his involvement was to suggest federal online gambling should be limited to legal online poker, suggesting support for online poker in the US is growing, even within Washington. Whether the Evergreen State would opt out of federal legislation is an entirely different matter, of course.