The state of Washington has placed into effect a new law that was signed by Governor Chris Gregorie making online gambling a felony; this is on top of the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The previous state law, the 1973 Washington Gambling Law had a 2006 statute stating a ban only on the receipt or transmission of gambling information via radio, phone or telegraph; this newest amendment to the law now includes the internet as well.
Attorney Lee Rousso who is also the Washington State Director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) had brought the case in front of State Court Judge Mary Roberts on May 16th, 2008 in hopes of having the law overturned. Several PPA supporters rallied outside the courtroom wearing t-shirts that said “Poker is not a crime”. Poker Professionals Andy Block and Barry Greenstein were at hand to show their support as well. Greenstein was quoted as saying, “the politicians are dictating what you can do in the privacy of your own home. Makes it look like a pretty backward place.”
Rousso argued that the law is unconstitutional. He stated the law infringes upon the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution; State Legislatures are not allowed to regulate interstate commerce, only Congress has the authority. Rousso held steadfast to his claim that the law was only in place to profit Washington’s land based casinos and card rooms to the detriment of online gambling companies.
Apparently Senator Margarita Prentice whose district includes said land based casinos and card rooms had sponsored the initial bill that put the ball rolling for this new law. State Assistant Attorney General Bruce Marvin told the judge the states were given the right and power to govern their criminal laws individually and the Washington law bans online gambling whether the internet company is managed in or out of state.
Lee Rousso’s efforts fell upon deaf ears on Judge Roberts as she dismissed the case citing it had not successfully proven that Washington State is unfair in the protection of the gambling industry in regards to land based casinos versus online casinos. The King County judge further went on to say that the state’s long and strict prohibition on gambling was a basis in her decision. Rousso told the judge that the law was discriminative and filled with hypocrisy.