Washington State Online Poker Bill Declared Dead for Short Term

An online poker bill introduced late last month that aimed to authorize and regulate Internet-based play for Washington State residents has already been abandoned for the current legislative year, according to one of the prominent backers of the proposal.

washingtonSeattle poker enthusiast Curtis Woodard, head of the poker-activist organization Washington Online Poker Initiative, announced earlier today that the bill would not be receiving current consideration at the present time.  Woodard helped draft the Washington State bill, HB 1114, which would have authorized the game.  HB 1114 was pre-filed for consideration at the start of 2015 by WA State representative Sherry Appleton.

Woodard announced the bill’s practical demise in a self-written feature for Online Poker Report, and also posted several related messages on social media accounts maintained by the Washington Online Poker Initiative group (also known as WA iPoker Now)

Had the bill passed, it would have reversed an onerous law passed in 2006 that declared the playing of online poker a felony in the state.  Washington is the only US state to have such an extreme law, which was strongly lobbied for by the state’s tribal gaming interests.  That ridiculous law calls for prison terms and fines that could literally make the playing of penny-ante poker from one’s own computer the felonious equivalent of possessing child pornography; the law has been deemed so ridiculous, though it remains on the books, that state authorities have declined to prosecute any of the thousands of Washington state online poker players who participate on offshore sites.

The state’s tribal gaming authorities have appeared to soften their opposition to online gaming in the near decade since the original bill was passed, perhaps now more clearly seeing the Internet as a probable revenue source, if properly regulated.  HB 1114 called for a dual regulating scheme that allowed for both tribal interests and state-regulated casinos (if any such should be authorized) to offer poker-only online services.

However, interest in backing the bill remained sparse amid other legislative matters.  Writing at OPR, Woodard said, “It appears that internet poker regulation will continue to wait in Washington state, as HB 1114 has stalled, and will not be getting a hearing this session.”

Woodard separately quoted a comment from Rep. Appleton about the bill being dropped from consideration.  Responding to a constituent’s online comment elsewhere, Appleton wrote, “The bill did not get the support that I had originally hoped for and consequently we will not be moving forward with it this session.”

Woodard thanked both Appleton and the bill’s other supporters for the work they did in getting the pro-poker cause before the state’s citizens.  The bill was a follow-up of sorts to a a voter initiative launched by Woodard’s group, which gathered significant press attention but failed to garner the hundreds f thousands of verified signatures needed to place the matter on the state’s ballot.

Writing separately for his Washington poker group on Facebook, Woodard said, “While disappointing, this is not the end. It is only the beginning, and we will no doubt see a stronger lobbying force building towards next year. We wouldn’t be here if not for the efforts of the players, so let’s not be dissuaded from continuing to speak out for internet poker in our State!”

Though not yet declared, it is expected that Woodard and other poker backers in Washington State will continue to plead their unjust circumstances to elected representatives, perhaps with the intent of getting a new measure introduced in 2016.


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