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Washington Poker Hands Fold

As of June 7, it is now a felony in the state of Washington to play poker on the Internet.

The bill, S.S.B. No. 6613, has stirred up great anxiety in poker forums. Players are worried that they might get arrested. Some are trying to organize political committees to get the new law changed.

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The Washington State Gambling Commission has taken the official position that the bill merely “clarifies” existing law:

Their position is that Internet gambling has never been an authorized activity in Washington. So the law was passed to make it very clear that Internet gambling is illegal in Washington 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 by phone with a bookie a crime. But it is questionable whether playing poker on the Internet fell under this law.

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 apply to the Internet at all, let alone to a game where the operator and all of the other players are in foreign states. S.S.B. No. 6613 added the words “the internet” and “a telecommunications transmission system” to the list. So, it clearly now is a crime to send or receive any gaming information online, which would include playing poker.

Washington is probably the only state to expressly make it a crime to merely bet online. It certainly is the only state to make it a felony. [24×7]

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