The Washington State Gambling Commission’s Compelling Case for State-Regulated Online Gambling

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Let me say upfront that the Washington State Gambling Commission doesn’t set policy, they carry it out. But there is something I find interesting on their page dedicated to the topic of online gambling.

In the left column, headed ‘Illegal Internet Gambling,’ they spell out the letter of the law, including citing the RCW Chapter and verse that makes it so. But it is the second column, headed “Gambling Online is Risky,” that I find so interesting.

It starts out with “Unlike other licensed and regulated gambling activities . . . “, which to me points to a lack of regulation as the reason for what is to follow.

Is this not an implicit statement that regulation would alleviate the following risks?

Now let’s look at the risks given as an example. It goes on to say that “Internet gamblers don’t know:”

  • Who is operating the gambling site;
  • If the games are honest;
  • If winnings will be paid;
  • If the money wagered will be used for criminal purposes.

Interestingly, they seem to be making a good case for licensing and regulation.

Licensing certainly addresses the issue of who is operating the site. Regulations requiring testing of gaming platforms assure the games are honest. Licensed operators required to maintain cash on hand and/or be bonded in a sufficient amount to cover player balances assures our winnings will be paid.

And, of course, if the money wagered is done so on a site operated by a Washington State licensed/authorized entity that is already offering gaming in the state, we can be reasonably sure that the money will not be used for criminal purposes. More likely than not, it will be going to one of the state’s gaming Tribes.

The page goes on to say that “Players have no recourse if they are not paid or cheated.” This is an issue of utmost importance to players. But again. with licensing and regulation, the operators are in state, and the state courts provide all the necessary recourse needed.

Players put themselves at risk of credit card fraud, identity theft, or other financial crimes by disclosing information that should be kept secure.”  Once again, this is one of the prime reasons FOR regulation. Regulations on internet gambling would make this type of risk lower than that for any other form of e-commerce. These are the very things we, as advocates, are demanding.

Finally, “Internet gambling creates an uncontrolled environment for problem gamblers and minors.” Clearly, it’s not internet gambling that creates the uncontrolled environment, it is the prohibition that creates the uncontrolled environment.

Strict regulation of that environment will assure the controls are there to thwart underage play, and to detect and offer help to those who may have a gambling problem. Currently, those players are simply ignored, under the assumption that prohibition made it go away.

Without coming right out and saying it, and I did try my level best to get them to come right out and say it, the Gambling Commission, on its website, makes a strong case for the need for regulation of internet gambling in our state. Now, if we can only get the legislature to listen.

View the WSGC page on Internet gambling here.

- Curtis is a recreational poker player from Seattle, WA who advocates for state ipoker legislation. He is the founder of the Washington Internet Poker Initiative and sponsor of Initiatives 582 and 583. Catch him on Twitter at @curtinsea and @ipokerwa (WIPI).
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