Rep. Paul Harris had high hopes a few days after a hearing to discuss reducing Washington state's online poker penalties. But that ended on Thursday when Harris announced that legislation is dead for 2012.
The proposed bill would have reduced the merciless 2006 law that has playing online poker in the state listed as a felony - punishable by up to five years in prison - down to a civil infraction that would carry a maximum fine of $50.
Tuesday's hearing found some committee representatives asking that more be done to mention amending the bill to decriminalize online poker play and the discussion also moved into the regulation of online poker in the future. But that's all they did; they talked, nothing happened, and next year is a new year.
“We're more disappointed than surprised,” Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas told PokerNews.com. “What we've done is build a strong base of support there. I think next year we'll be in a good position to push even a broader bill. Our goal is not just to repeal the law in the state but to establish a licensed and regulated market. This would have been a nice step in the interim to have this bill done, and we're really upset that clearly it has been tabled for the year.”
Washington does have a very short legislative session which opens only for the first few months of each year and Harris released a statement that said committee members “had some concerns on clarity and requested a few minor fixes, but due to the short amount of time before cutoff we will have to wait until next year's short session to get this passed.”
Harris is confident the bill will be heard again with serious consideration in the next session.
Lee Rousso, who served as the PPA's Washington state director and an attorney, challenged the original law in court, going as high as the state supreme court in 2010 but the law was not overturned even though no player has been charged with a felony since the law went into effect.
“Do not get discouraged,” Harris said to Washington state poker players. “It was an important step to even get this bill heard. We will get online poker legal again in Washington state.”