Washington State Online Poker Bill Introduced
Online Poker Report

New Bill Would Legalize, Regulate Online Poker In Washington State

Bridge Over Deception Pass Washington State

UPDATE 2/4: Sponsor Rep. Appleton confirms that HB 1114 will not move in the 2015 session.

Original story follows

The least hospitable state for U.S. online poker players is a small step closer to shedding that dubious distinction.

The state in question: Washington, the only in America to explicitly make playing online poker a felony.

The movement away from that draconian approach comes in the form of a new bill – HB 1114 – that would authorize and regulate online poker.

The bill was prefiled for introduction late last week by Rep. Sherry Appleton (D – 23).

Read the full text here.

Bill driven by independent poker advocate

The bill is the culmination of extensive effort by Curtis Woodard, the force behind the Washington Internet Poker Initiative.

“For too long, the state has taken a harsh stand against, and then turned a blind eye to, internet poker,” Woodard told OPR.

“This state allows us to play poker in Tribal casinos and licensed card rooms, but considers us felons if we play from the privacy of our homes on our computers.”

“This is not only silly,” Woodard continued, “it is ineffective, as players continue to play on sites operated from outside the state’s reach, and without any real consumer protections.”

As for Woodard’s decision to pursue Appleton as a sponsor, Woodard noted that Appleton has “cosponsored and supported several measures to undo the criminal prohibition of online poker since the 2006 law was passed,” creating a natural fit with Woodard’s efforts.

Inside HB 1114

The bill is a relatively straightforward document that leaves much of the detail work to the Washington State Gambling Commission.

Some of the key points:

  • Poker-only.
  • Two levels of licensing: One for network operators (b2b) and one for consumer-facing card rooms (b2c).
  • No obvious “bad actor” clause.
  • The cost of regulation will be covered by licensing fees.
  • Taxes to be determined by the Commission.

Full bill text here.

Players should like the approach, argued Woodard, because it gives them “access to the best available platforms, with a wide variety of  ‘skins’ from which to choose. It means the card rooms will compete with each other for players, and those players will reap the benefits of that competition.”

And card rooms and tribes can both capture significant upside from online poker, Woodard said, which offers both “an opportunity to extend their brands online, both as a new revenue source and as a marketing tool for acquisition and retention of players. It gives them equal opportunity to access the top platforms, with the networks competing with each other for their business.”

A model for action in other states?

Regardless of what happens next with HB 1114, Woodard’s experience should prove both informative and inspirational for supporters of online poker.

His willingness to approach and engage with the political process – a process many players regard with an unwavering cynicism – and his success in doing so serves as proof that individuals can train political attention on the issue of online poker without deep pockets or other levers of influence.

And that proof may light the fuse on a coordinated, multi-state grassroots push for regulated online poker, a scenario Woodard addressed in a recent op-ed for OPR.

New Bill Would Legalize, Regulate Online Poker In Washington State
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Chris Grove
Chris Grove - Chris is the publisher of OnlinePokerReport.com. Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.