May 4, 2006

Washington State Criminalizes Poker

Free $1800 WSOP Package

Land of the free?

Thirty years ago, when I was 16, I realized that in 30 years, when my generation was running things, they would open up all the jails and let out the pot smokers, since we all knew it was safer than either tobacco or alcohol and simply evil to lock people up who hadn’t harmed anyone except perhaps themselves. Today, 80% of Americans are against imprisoning pot smokers and yet we still have more people in prison than the Soviet Union did under Stalin. Apparently 30 years wasn’t enough.

Meanwhile, while all poker players’ eyes are on Washington’s annual failed effort to ban Internet gambling, the other Washington, my home State, quietly passed a law banning Internet gambling and specifically including poker. While they were at it, they made it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.


Poker is legal in Washington State. We have always had card rooms and now we have big Indian megacasinos. Yet under the pretext that unregulated gambling is a social evil, they have made it a felony to play online poker in the privacy of your own home. Mind you, this bill was passed unanimously in the State Senate and almost that in the House.

What are they thinking?

I am seriously concerned about the future of this country. Why is the government so preoccupied with legislating morality? Do they really believe they can do good? When has it ever worked in history? Or have every single one of them been bought off by Indian gaming hoping to stifle competition?

It’s been a bad week.



KenP said...

Back in my shallow youth--I am now in my shallow dottage--I heard a quote that has always stayed with me. I just can't remember the exact source. It was a Chief Justice--Jay or Marshall, I think--that said: 'You cannot legislate morality.' And, here we are a couple of hundred--give or take--years later with the same topic on our plate.

Anonymous said...

Richard: Calm down a bit. Two points:

1)the law won't matter. Impossible to effectively enforce, and perhaps unconstitutional.

2)"Legislating morality" is all in the eye of the beholder. ALL laws are in the end moral judgements. For god's sakes, LEGALIZING gambling is a moral judgement, no?


Anonymous said...

Sorry, QuietLion, I am not with you on this. Since there is no way to effectively regulate Internet gambling, the only way to prevent children from gambling is to make it illegal. That is why I am strongly in favor of a national law making it illegal for credit card companies doing business in the United States (i.e., all of them) to offer merchant accounts to any company offering gambling over the Internet.

Richard Brodie said...

This is some very mushy thinking.

1) How would making it illegal prevent children from gambling?
2) Children don't have credit cards.
3) None of the gambling sites accepts US credit cards anyway.

What do you like to do? I'm strongly in favor of a law making it illegal, whatever it is.


Anonymous said...

Seems to me this is just a microcosm of a much larger issue related to government involvement. To the extent the government feels it has a right to dictate your economic freedom, through to right to asses taxes whenever it wishes for whatever purposes it wishes to deploy those taxes, it will always feel it has the right to impose itself on all aspects of your life.

Allowing government the right in some areas to define what is moral, such as income redistribution, gives it the right to do so in other areas, the bedroom for example, by default.

Anonymous said...

THE CHILDREN!?!?!? Are you kidding me!? For a kid to gamble, he'd have to have access to his parents' credit card(s), and they're going to notice the charge. So either the parents will pummel the kid. If they don't, the parents are more of problem than the gambling is and as we've long proven worldwide; you cannot legislate bad parenting out of existence.

I'm hopeful this law will be challenged and declared unconstitutional. It'd be difficult to enforce as well... what do you do, have a state provided list of online gaming operators that ISPs are required to filter??? I wanna see that happen. It's a boneheaded tax revenue play and a sop to the brick-n-mortar gaming operators in the state.

Anonymous said...

Before this debate about this topic gets hysterical - i think the previous condition of online gambling in washington state needs to be understood. My home ring game involves several lawyers, and from talking to them - it appears that playing poker online has always technically been a class 'C' felony, and that the new law didn't change anything.

That said - some people seem to think enforcement is not practical, but I am a software engineer, and i think you could net large numbers of and once given access to a small number of ISP's (ultimately ISP's are still regional businesses) - it would be trivial to identify users of known poker sites. Identifying 'real money' users vs. 'play money' users might be a challenge - since poker clients communicate through a reasonably secure channel- but I'm sure the you could figure out the flavor of what was going on if you chose to do so.

Unknown said...

I think the religous zealots need to take a look at what people want vs. what they believe is right.

This moral authority crap is killing what America meant as the "land of the free" (as you titled).

If I feel like flushing my paycheck down the tubes on King-Jack offsuit, that should be my freedom to do so.

Anonymous said...

I'm not from Washington St., but this sounds like politics as usual, i.e. follow the money and it will start to make sense. Odds are pretty good that the Indian casinos and bigger card rooms are behind this legislation. Its a no-lose for the politicians because a) the big online sites aren't likely financing local opposition candidates in Washington St. and b) on first glance to the average Joe (that doesn't play online) it seems like an anti-crime bill.

If anyone starts enforcing it I would imagine Party etc. would find a way to get some money into the game and change the law. or else maybe players could unite to try to change public opinion.

Agree its totally sad, but I'm sceptical that it is a moral issue.

Anonymous said...

QL, I enjoy your blog, and have played online with ya a couple times. I live in Seattle, and this law is a joke.

Before I recently left, I was a founder of a fairly large regional ISP. I can assure you that it is pretty remote that this law will be enforced through electronic means.

Of course, I have a vision of making the final table at the Main Event this year - and having a couple of Washington State Troopers show up to haul me off when ESPN indicates that I won my seat via online poker!

Cheers, all the best.

Richard Brodie said...

I couldn't have said it better, Joe. And congrats on the WSOP win.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the poster that suggested that this isn't a moral issue, but clearly a "follow-the-money" situation. It's not as if Washington State is a bastion of fundamental theocracy - a quick look at the top statewide elected officials can resolve that.

It's a scary-looking law, to be sure, especially making it a felony, but is the ban technically much different from national law on online gambling? It seems at best to be unevenly enforced, if not never.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see how this law holds up in court. I wouldn't be surprised if the big online sites didn't come together and file a suit against the state of Washington. Unless, of course, their attorneys think the law would pass muster.

Anonymous said...

Sen. Margarita Prentice, the sponsor of the bill, receives large donations from B+M casinos. Look her up and you'll see that she has consistently been in favor of casinos she can profit off, but vehemently opposed to those she can't. Clearly, like someone said, this is just about the money.

Karol said...

This is bi-partisan insanity. The right opposes it on moral grounds while the left opposes it on 'what about the children' grounds. But wow, banning online gambling while not banning B&M gambling is a little more than insane.

Anonymous said...

believe it or not: I'm more of a right sided morals believing person, however, even I have a problem with this issue. I'm not so sure poker or gambling is a moral or biblical issue anyway. To me, the morality part is if you cheat...not just because you enjoy playing. I have to agree on the money trail...apparently someone thinks they're not getting their fair share

Anonymous said...

I hope ever poker player in the state of WA writes their representatives to let them know how irresponsible it is for them to even spend time with a bill like this.

And I think we should change the new state motto from "Say WA" to "Say WTF?".

Anonymous said...

did your blog die out or whats the deal

Anonymous said...

My names John I'm a business owner in Washington State= and feel my rights as a United States citesen have been unrighteously taken away it is legal to play poker in the casinos in Washington State but not on your computer B.S. what I say!