Washington State is tucked between Idaho, Oregon, and the north Pacific in the North-Western portion of the United States. This Jewel Evergreen state is any outdoor enthusiast’s dream. It is complete with remarkable Olympic mountains, buzzing rainforests, a tumultuous Pacific coastline, and perilous deserts.
Besides these wonders, Washington is an agricultural sensation in the US. Testifying to the Evergreen State’s agricultural prowess is that about $9.9 billion was realized from agriculture in 2020. In addition, the state’s education and tech sectors are also expanding rapidly, making Washington the 10th largest state by GDP.
Aside from all these serious things, natives of the Evergreen State still know how to have a good time. The gambling sector here is very much alive and thriving and there are currently 30 tribal casinos in the state. However, online gambling of any form is strictly prohibited in Washington, and it does not look like that will change anytime soon.
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The Situation Report of Gambling in Washington
One of Washington’s largest revenue generators is the state lottery, founded in 1982. This unusual revenue source has consistently generated over $700 million annually. When the administrative expenses and cost of purchasing the prizes are subtracted, about $175 million is realized from the program per event. This sum is then channeled into various state programs.
Besides the state lottery, Washington also realizes solid tax revenue from its licensed card rooms. The entire state provides over 1,155 table games and 33,300 slots. The card rooms earn over $250 million yearly, and the Evergreen State receives one-tenth of this sum. Due to the buoyancy of the state’s gambling industry, the native casinos collectively make as much as $2 billion annually. Since the native casinos are not levied with taxes, they can use their earnings to meet tribal needs.
Auburn’s Muckleshoot Casino is one of Washington’s most extensive and renowned wagering centers. Here, players can access 75 table games and 3,100 slot machines. Closely following Auburn is Ilani casino. With 20 table games and 2,500 slots, Ilani is the second largest casino in Washington. Apart from these terrific casino houses, there are smaller mini-casinos, small bingo parlors, and poker rooms. The poker rooms are about 300 in number, where players can take their pick from pai gow poker, blackjack, baccarat, let it ride, and Caribbean stud.
2006 was a memorable year for the e-gaming world because Washington declared it a felony for anyone to indulge in online games and online poker in the state. This was serious business as unlike in many other states, the state went on to prosecute defaulters. Five years later, in 2011, a bill was proposed to legalize online poker and casinos. But unfortunately, the bill was rejected by congress.
To counter the 2006 anti-online gaming action, two bills were proposed in 2014, the Internet Poker Player Decriminalization Act of 2014 (IPPDA) and the Washington State Internet Poker Act of 2014 (WSIPA). Both bills were proposed by the WA poker pro-gamer Curtis Woodward and other players. In the same vein, Senator Paul Harris has been fighting to lighten the felony charges affecting online poker players. All these bills are being reviewed by the Washington State Code Reviser’s office.
On the bright side, a bill was passed to legalize sports betting in the district in 2018. In 2020, the state legalized sports betting, and the first retail sportsbook in the state opened its doors in 2021. This may be a sign that there is hope for online casinos in the future.
Gambling Laws in Washington
Unlike in California and other casino-loving states, the state of Washington is more tilted toward the offensive as far as gambling is concerned. Some types of gambling are legal, but most are not. Unless the activity is authorized by state law, it is considered illegal. To put it simply – the state is against any activity that incorporates a deposit, chance, and a reward.
There are currently 30 tribal casinos within Washington, and most are located around the major cities. Workplace gaming has been accessible and legal in Washington since 1973. The rules are very strict; for example, only a specific number of workers can play at any one time.
When we examine charitable gambling in the state, the situation becomes more confusing. Some forms are allowed. Some require a license, and others don’t. Based on your ability to obtain a license, your corporation might be permitted to offer full-blown casino nights, bingo, or even poker.
You might not find online casinos or online poker in Washington. There are also no regulatory provisions for such, so you won’t find any site with a license issued by the state.
Is Online Poker in Washington Legal?
Washington is one of the exceptional states in the US that not only clearly calls out online poker as a criminal undertaking but tags the enterprise as a felony. For example, in 2006, State Senator Margarita Prentice publicized a bill that made online poker a felony with a five-year prison sentence or a $10,000 fine.
Many states have threatened to punish online poker players in the past, but it seems Washington has taken the lead in this initiative. The governing house supported the Prentice movement, and Governor Christine Gregoire signed the bill into law. So, as it stands today, it is illegal to engage in online poker. If you defy the law and engage in the game, you could be charged with a Class C felony.
In a bid to loosen things up for the online poker lovers of Washington, Lee Rousso sued the state in 2008 for the freedom of poker players. However, despite several appeals and tremendous backing from the Poker Players Alliance, the Supreme court threw its weight behind the state’s decision. As a result, the case was rejected in 2010.
When Will Washington Online Poker Be Legalized?
It is impossible to determine this since there are several factors weighing against the legalization of online poker in Washington state. The foremost of these is the fact that the prominent lawmakers in the state are not in support of online poker. This is the reason why no bill directed at legalizing online poker has succeeded to date. There appears to be a bleak future for online poker in Washington state since as of 2022, there have been no signs of legalization.
Can You Play Online Poker in Washington State?
Some authorities argue that Washington state’s online gambling laws and their enforcement are directed at the sites rather than the individual player. Nevertheless, it is better to be safe than sorry. WA online poker laws are too stringent for anyone to risk their necks, either as a site developer or a player. So, the short answer is no – best not.
Who Regulates Washington Online Poker?
Usually, the casinos come under the supervision of the Washington State Gambling Commission. The commission also regulates all kinds of social gambling like office sports pools and brackets. But for online poker, the subject of its regulation remains complicated, much like the laws of Washington gambling.
It is simplest to say there are no regulatory bodies for online poker in Washington. By our prediction, the state will remain hostile to online poker unless its major stakeholders develop a significant interest in it.
How Legal Are Online Sweepstake Poker Sites in Washington State?
Online sweepstake poker sites differ from real-money online poker in their method of operation. Players do not have to deposit actual money before they can win in sweepstake games. Essentially, sweepstake poker ought not to be termed gambling for this singular reason. But, welcome to Washington! Nothing that bears any similarity to gambling is welcomed here.
Except where the law allows such activity, it is illegal, and you could get punished for it. Many sites have sealed their services from WA residents out of caution. Sites like the renowned Global Poker (the foremost sweepstake poker site) withhold their services from WA residents to prevent problems with the state authorities.
How to Play Online Poker In Washington State
We have already established that wagering online in WA can be very hectic and challenging. As a result, several sites have shut their doors to players from Washington. There is also the risk of getting caught and prosecuted for playing online poker.
The best way to play online poker in Washington is to play poker for play chips only, or register with a site that uses a special format. For example, some sites offer subscription fees that eliminate the need to deposit money per play. This is good insurance against running up against Washington State laws.
However, to stay on the safe side and avoid getting into trouble with the law, we suggest you avoid any form of gambling in this state. It’s best to head to a state where gambling is legalized if you want to take part in this activity.
FAQs About Online Poker in Washington
Is online poker legal in Washington?
Despite the many confusing portions in the gambling laws of WA, some things are very clearly spelled out; online poker is one such area. Prospective gamblers can be sure that online poker is illegal in Washington.
Are sweepstakes seen as legal online poker alternatives in Washington State?
Sweepstakes are usually the closest substitute in many other states where real-money online poker games are prohibited. Unfortunately, this is not the case in WA as even sweepstake games are considered illegal.
What specific law prohibits online poker in WA?
Under the 2006 amendment, any wager made through telegraph, telephone, semaphore radio, or the Internet deserves to be punished with a Class C felony. From the constitution, this is the concerned section; “Whoever knowingly transmits or receives gambling information by telephone, telegraph, radio, semaphore, the internet, a telecommunications transmission system, or similar means, . . . shall be guilty of a class C felony subject to the penalty outlined in RCW 9A.20.021.”
How enjoyable is WA online poker?
It is not very easy to play online poker in Washington State. Players are in danger of prosecution. Many sites are unwilling to accept players from WA; and if you do find a site willing to accept you, caution must be exercised. Gaming on the site might be great, but the stress involved cannot be overlooked.