Washington Judge Upholds Poker Ban

Published on: May 17, 2008 

A King County judge has made a bunch of poker players disappointed when he upheld the state’s statute that bans Internet gambling and online poker.  This case could’ve helped online poker advocates immensely in the fight to have the ban lifted, and lawyer Lee Rousso is intent on continuing the fight all the up to the Supreme Court of the United States is he has to.  He is the man that brought the case to the Washington state government in the first place.

The statute in the state was voted onto the books in the 1973 Washington Gambling Act and then amended in 2006.  The original state amendment banned the “receipt or transmission of gambling information” via radio, telephone, and telegraph.  In 2006, the Internet was added to the amendment and the violation was upgraded from a gross misdemeanour to a felony conviction if caught and found guilty.  Anyone found guilty of this crime could be subject to having the personal property seized and forfeited.

Rousso, who is the head of the Poker Players Alliance, filed a lawsuit in 2007 in the hopes of having the amendment declared unconstitutional, contending that the law was discriminatory against online interstate businesses and that the ban was to protect the profits of Washington state’s brick and mortar casinos and card rooms.  According to Rousso, the bill was sponsored by a Senator whose district just happened to have said casinos and card rooms located in them.  The federal government gave the states the authority to ban or allow gambling within their borders regardless of where the company is located.

State Court Judge Mary Roberts dismissed the 2008 complaint by Ruosso stating that she could find anything in the law that was protecting the interests of the brick and mortar casinos and card rooms at the expense of interstate commerce interests.  She went on to claim that her decision was based largely on the states history of gambling prohibition.  Ruosso commented that the law was hypocritical and blatant in its discrimination, stating that, “The state loves gambling, it's a gigantic business. It's just the state protecting its turf.”  At a press conference after the hearing, he addressed members of the Poker Players Alliance, telling them, “to continue to fight the good fight.”  He then added, “We are going to win this battle. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday soon.”  

While state representatives are claiming that they are only trying to protect the citizens from being taken, poker players feel like the government is trying to unfairly dictate what residents can do in the privacy of their own home.  They don’t feel that playing poker online is a crime, just like it’s not a crime to play at a real casino in a real poker room.

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