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The State of Washington is the only state in the United States that has a specific law prohibiting online gambling. In many states, existing gambling law may pertain to online gambling, but this is not always clear, whereby in Washington they have taken the step to make it very clear that it is illegal.
The Gambling Act of 1973 did prohibit the sending and receiving of various gambling information across the technologies of the day, but this did not of course include the internet. So in 2006, the state legislature passed Bill SSB 6613 which added the technologies of the internet and other means of telecommunications as being prohibited for use for gambling purposes in Washington. They also upgraded the offense from a gross misdemeanor to a felony (1)
The law was challenged in Washington State Supreme Court by the Poker Players Alliance in 2010 on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, but the court upheld the law. So it is here to stay unless there is a political will to change it, and so far this hasn‘t been the case.
So if you are playing poker online and reside in the State of Washington, you are both receiving and transmitting gambling information over the internet, and therefore you are clearly in violation of the law and have committed a criminal act.
So this means that online poker players in Washington now face possible jail time for playing online, and while no one has gone to jail yet for this, it probably won’t happen either because no online poker room will touch players from this state anymore.
It has been quite some time in fact since any poker room offered play to Washingtonians, and even Poker Stars and Full Tilt stopped taking players from there long before they stopped taking Americans in general. This is all unlikely to change unless it becomes regulated at some point down the road.
As of right now, the ONLY poker site only that currently accepts players from Washington is Ignition Poker and BetOnline, which is ok with us because they’re not only one of the most trusted rooms out there today, but they also provide solid cashout timeframes and soft cash game tables.
Efforts To Improve The Legal Situation Of Online Poker
Some in Washington State have argued that since poker is primarily a game of skill, it should be treated differently from other forms of gambling such as sports betting and casino games. However, this has pretty much fallen upon deaf ears, and poker continues to be treated just like any other gambling contest.
Even efforts to reduce the penalty involved for playing online poker have met with difficulty. A bill was introduced to try to decriminalize online poker playing, reducing it from a felony to a class 3 civil infraction, and setting a maximum penalty of a $50 fine, but it remains to be seen if we will ever see even this (2).
There is a view that many politicians are looking to protect the state’s land based gaming operations, which are quite extensive indeed, and they certainly stand out as far as the levels they will go to in order to prevent online gambling, including poker.
Washington though is known as a fairly permissive state where gambling is concerned though, and some have speculated that there may be a will to regulate online poker at some point down the road, although there is nothing on the horizon as of yet.
The Washington State Gambling Commission might be in favor of it though when you look closely at their position on online gambling, with all of the pitfalls they list being remedied through regulation (3).
So for those who live in Washington and want to play online poker, the best – and really ONLY – option is Ignition Poker. You can check out their review above the review on this page or sign up directly from this page as well.
Washington State Live Poker
There are over 50 locations that offer live poker in Washington State, and the list is in fact too numerous to mention here, although an up to date list can be found in the following reference (4).
in addition to permitting the many Indian casinos to offer poker, Washington does license card rooms in a similar fashion as California, and they used to only permit player banked games like California does, meaning that the house can’t take a percentage of the betting, but this has since changed and now they permit raked games as well (5).
These card rooms also not only offer poker for money but other card games as well such as blackjack.
The poker rooms tend to be on the smaller side although they range as high as 32 poker tables. There is quite a bit of tournament action available in addition to the cash games offered.
So in spite of the toughest laws in the country against online poker, poker players in Washington can still fairly easily find a game, due to the very large amount of places throughout the state that offer real money live poker.
Sooner or later, as the regulated online poker market in the U.S. matures, and more and more states get in on the action, the lure of the additional tax revenues involved may end up luring Washington State politicians to be more open to this idea.