Washington State Online Poker Bill Gets Another Chance

January 31st, 2016 | by Kaycee James
Washington State HB1114 online poker bill submitted.

Washington State online poker could become a reality in 2016, after Rep. Sherry Appleton reintroduces HB1114. (Image: crosscut.com)

Washington State online poker is once again up for debate, thanks to the resubmission of an old iGaming measure.

HB1114 was submitted for consideration in January 2015, but despite many assuming it would be heard, the bill was overlooked and never gained any traction.

However, a New Year brings with it fresh hope, and earlier this week, the online poker bill was once again filed for consideration by Washington State Representatives Sherry Appleton and Vincent Buys.

Washington’s Unique Online Poker Stance

As it stands, online poker is illegal in Washington State, thanks to a piece of legislation that was passed in 2006.

Unlike other US states (excluding regulated Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware) where UIGEA simply prevents residents from enjoying regulated and legal real money gambling online, Washington State actually passed a law that made the act of anteing up a felony.

Thanks to pressure from tribal gaming authorities, that legislation enabled judges to hand out prison sentences to anyone caught playing online poker. Fortunately, the bill has been largely ignored, due to its overzealous punishments and, to date, no one has been sent to prison for playing online.

HB1114 not only seeks to overturn this law, but put in its place a framework that would make online poker a legal industry within the state.

“Poker has long been an authorized [land-based] activity in Washington state, and with the internet as a technological aid, poker can be conducted in a virtual environment and played from the privacy of one’s own computer or mobile device,” the bill states.

Regulated Framework for Poker

Like other US states that have already passed online poker laws, Washington State would hand out licenses to qualified operators. These licenses would be valid for 12 months and operate on a two-tier basis, with poker room providers and network providers being required to hold separate licenses.

One of the most interesting aspects of the online poker bill is that it doesn’t contain a “bad actor” clause. That means that operators who remained active in the US post-UIGEA, such as PokerStars, wouldn’t be barred from submitting a license application.

But although HB1114 makes a number of logical and credible points, such as the Internet being an “integral tool” in modern life, the bill will no doubt face a wave of opposition. Some of the main opponents are likely to be the same tribal gaming organizations that pushed for the 2006 anti-online poker law.

Although tribal attitudes to online gaming have mellowed in recent years, it’s possible they will want to tailor certain aspects of the bill to suit their needs. That attitude could slow down the passage of the bill and, ultimately, the regulation of online poker in Washington State.

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