Playing poker for money online will remain illegal in Washington state, a King County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday morning. But the Seattle-area attorney...
Playing poker for money online will remain illegal in Washington state, a King County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday morning.
But the Seattle-area attorney and poker aficionado who filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s right to regulate international online gambling said he will press forward to the state Supreme Court if necessary.
“There is virtually no public support for this law,” said local attorney Lee Rousso as he stood among poker fans in front of the Regional Justice Center in Kent after the hearing Thursday morning.
The lawsuit was filed last year in response to a 2006 revision to a state statute that added online gambling to the list of electronically transferred gambling activities banned in Washington state.
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The law also makes online gambling a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. No cases have been prosecuted.
The Poker Players Alliance, which claims more than 1 million members and estimates 800,000 online poker players in Washington, said the punishment is outrageous.
“Subjecting poker players to criminal penalties that are on par with those for possessing child pornography or distributing heroin is unmerited and unfair,” said spokesman Taylor Gross.
Rousso, who is also the PPA’s state director, said he filed the lawsuit because he loves to play “the great American game of poker” online and because he believes the law violates his constitutional right to do so.
Rousso had asked the judge to find that the statute violates the commerce clause in the Constitution.
He argued the state has no jurisdiction over online gaming, which takes place among individuals from around the world and through companies typically located overseas.
Assistant Attorney General Bruce Marvin argued that the state’s right to regulate gambling falls under its general right to police its citizens and establish a criminal code. He said the federal government has consistently affirmed its desire to have gambling licensed and regulated by the states themselves.
King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts said Rousso had not proven that the state law unfairly protected gambling interests inside the state at the expense of interests outside the state.
She also said the state’s historically strict prohibition on gambling influenced her ruling.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org