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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Rousso Tries Again to Save Poker in Washington

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Lee Rousso, an attorney in the state of Washington, has had nothing if not an interesting journey in his fight to legalize poker. And though his hope of becoming Governor of the state to make changes from the inside of the political machine was squashed, he continues to fight for the rights of poker players in Washington.

In early 2008, Rousso threw his hat in the race for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Washington. His goal was to take the highest seat in the state from incumbent Christine Gregoire, who signed SB 6613 into state law in 2006 to make playing poker and gambling online a class C felony. However, only months into his campaign, he withdrew from the race “with a heavy heart and great reluctance” due to a change in the state’s primary election rules.

Rousso stated that his decision was based on a decision by the United States Supreme Court that resulted in the rule change. Basically, the August 2008 primary would be held with only the top two candidates, and anyone – like Rousso – running as an alternative and seeking crossover votes would not be able to stay in the race. At that time, he wrote on his website, “Even though I am dropping out of the political arena, I will continue to work to change the laws so that internet poker players can enjoy the Great American Game from the privacy of their own home.”

He is doing just that. With the support of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) as its regional director for Washington State, he continued with his court case challenging Gregoire’s law. The suit was originally filed on the first day of the 2007 World Series of Poker main event and challenged the constitutionality of the 2006 Washington law.

When the case was initially delayed, the state’s legal representatives asked for Rousso’s personal online poker information as part of the discovery process, but Rousso filed an appeal. He said the request was “propounded to harass, oppress, intimidate and threaten.” His appeal was initially defeated but subsequently upheld by Judge Mary E. Roberts in April. Rousso noted, “Judge Roberts issued her ruling on my discovery dispute with the state. The judge agreed with me about 99%, the state about 1%. In layman’s terms, it was a rout.”

The date for Rousso’s case has now been set for May 15th in Seattle. He is asking for as much support as possible in the courtroom and at the courthouse, and the PPA will be issuing a call to action as the date approaches.

While Rousso won’t be able to fight for the rights of Washington’s residents from the Governor’s office, he will continue to do so as a fellow resident and attorney. He feels very strongly about the issue and deserves the support of everyone who wants to see a victory for poker in the United States.

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