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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Lawyer sues Washington to Overturn Gambling Ban

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Apparently no one ever told Lee Ruosso that he can't fight city hall. The Washington attorney has filed suit against the state of Washington to overturn the state's recent legislation specifically outlawing Internet gambling.

Rousso, an avid poker player who qualified online for the 2005 WSOP Main Event, filed suit in King County Superior court to overturn the law. He said that he prefers to overturn the law in the courts to pursuing legislation to repeal the law, and felt confident in his suit. "I think my chances are darn good," said Rousso.

The ban on internet gambling went into effect in June 2006 and elevated the offense from a misdemeanor to a Class C felony, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $10,000 fine.

The Renton, WA-based Rousso said in his filing that the law is unconstitutional, as it unfairly protects the state's brick-and-mortar casinos, which is contrary to the Constitution's Commerce Clause. Rousso also states that the law incorrectly claims to attempt to bring poker under the federal Wire Act. According to a statement released by Rousso, "Most state attempts to regulate the internet run afoul of the Commerce Clause, and Washington's law, which was passed to protect the state's brick-and-mortar casinos from otherwise legal out-of-state competition, should be no exception."

No one has yet been prosecuted under the law, but Rousso's lawsuit seeks to overturn it before anyone can be labeled a felon under what he feels is an unconstitutional law. Rousso is seeking a judgment against the law, which would make it unenforceable.

Susan Arland, spokeswoman for the Washington Gambling Commission, said commission lawyers have not seen the lawsuit and would comment only after they had read it. "We don't have anything to say just yet," she said.
Rousso, the Washington state representative to the Poker Player's Alliance, said that if this lawsuit failed, he would pursue legislation to repeal the ban on internet poker. It never violated the Wire Act, he said, because the federal law refers only to sports gambling, not poker.

"Our backup plan is to get this done politically."

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