Proposed Washington State Legislation to Lessen Criminal Charges for Gambling Online
The picturesque Northwest state of Washington is known for many things: great natural beauty, its magnificent coastline, and the tech-savvy hipster mecca city of Seattle, just to name a few. And, among certain circles, Washington state is also known for having some of the most specific, and arguably most severe, laws pertaining to online gambling out of all fifty states in the nation.
As anyone who has tried to play online poker from the United States in the last few years can attest, the availability of real-money online poker games that are open to, and can easily accept deposits from, US-based players has certainly diminished.
In 2006, when Congress passed a bill known as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, or UIGEA, processing financial transactions relating to gambling became unlawful, however some companies did continue to operate in the US market long after the implementation of the law.
The online poker climate in the United States shifted again in April of 2011 when Federal courts in the Manhattan, New York district handed down indictments to a handful of operators who were continuing to offer games to American online poker players.
Though playing online poker or betting on other games of chance is, in many places in the nation, not expressly illegal, its legal status remains quite nebulous both at the federal level and as far as many states are concerned, as well.
The indirectness of many state laws regarding online gambling is what makes Washington state a fairly interesting case, as it is arguably the strictest on online gambling. In Washington state, placing recreational online wagers currently constitutes a felony, however under new legislation that has been proposed, the crime would be reduced to a class 3 civil infraction. Presently it is a class C felony.
In part, the new language reads:
(2) Whoever knowingly transmits or receives gambling information over the internet or knowingly installs or maintains equipment for the transmission or receipt of gambling information over the internet, in his or her primary residence for recreational purposes, commits a class 19 3 civil infraction under chapter 7.80 RCW. For purposes of this HB 1824 subsection, “recreational purposes” means solely for the defendant’s own enjoyment and not as part of an enterprise that derives income from operating an internet web site that transmits or receives gambling information.
Whether or not the suggested alteration to the existing law signals a sea change in Washington state’s attitude toward online gambling remains to be seen. But as we’ve said many times, in the absence of action on the issue at the federal level, which backers have said is unlikely in the current Congress, it is likely that we will see quick movement at the state level as states scramble to bring in new forms of revenue. As to the question of adding Washington to the list of pro-Internet gambling states, we might not be going that far just yet.
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