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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Online Poker Still a Felony in Washington State

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Despite the efforts of attorney and former candidate for Washington Governor Lee Rousso and the Poker Players Alliance, online poker will remain illegal – a class C felony, in fact – in that state. The King County Superior Court judge ruled it so on May 15, 2008.

Rousso recently withdrew from the race for the Democratic nomination for the governorship of Washington but continued to pursue his lawsuit to challenge a current state law that makes it illegal to play online poker. The law, which makes online gaming a class C felony and guilty persons subject to up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000, was established by Governor Christine Gregoire who signed SB 6613 into law in 2006.

Rousso recently became the Washington regional director for the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), and the organization has been supporting his efforts to overturn the law. With the case on appeal, he was initially hopeful about the likelihood of Judge Mary E. Roberts siding with him. And the PPA called on its members to support the cause, many of whom wrote to their state lawmakers to express their disdain for the current law.

Approximately 70 members of the PPA, including poker pros Barry Greenstein and Andy Bloch, made the trip to the courthouse on May 15 and were disappointed that despite a public outcry to overturn the law. After Rousso argued his case that the law violated the Constitution and that it was discriminatory toward the brick-and-mortar card rooms and lotteries authorized by the state, Judge Roberts ruled that Rousso had not proven that the state law unfairly protected gambling interests inside the state and that the law is in keeping with the state’s long-time strict stance against gambling.

The poker playing community in Washington – and around the country in light of the precedent it sets – has been disappointed, but Rousso vowed to fight on. “There is virtually no public support for this law,” he said to the crowd in front of the courthouse after the hearing. He noted that he will take the case forward and all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, but he needs the help of the poker community to show their support for his cause. “It’s incumbent on each of you to tell your politicians how you feel.”

To track Rousso’s progress with the Washington court appeals and pledge support, visit www.PokerPlayersAlliance.org.

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