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Washington State Online Poker Ballot Initiative

Apr.30, 2013 8:46:AM
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Two online poker ballot initiatives are active in Washington State.  If these initiatives receive 300,000 signatures from Washington State residents on either or both proposals then the state legislature will have a chance to act on them.  If Washington lawmakers are unable to pass the initiatives then they would go to a statewide vote in November 2014. 

Washington Initiative I-582

Washington I-582 would authorize online poker in the state.  Casino games and sports betting would not be allowed.  The proposal would allow the Washington State Gambling Commission the ability to create a licensing process for online poker rooms.  Licenses would be issued for one year with one year renewals.  Online poker rooms would pay taxes but the rate is not covered by this initiative.  Washington State card clubs pay up to 20% of their gross revenue in taxes to local jurisdictions.  There is no state tax on commercial card clubs.

Players would be required to be at least 21 years old.  Internet and mobile poker would be allowed. 

Read I-582 text here. 

Washington Initiative I-583

Washington law currently makes it a Class C felony to play online poker.  Playing online poker or any other online gambling game in the state could subject a player to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.  This is a case where the punishment clearly does not fit the crime.  Washington I-583 tries to resolve this issue.  It would repeal criminal penalties for online poker players as long as they were not involved in the operation of the gaming platform. 

Read I-583 full text here. 

How Washington Residents Can Help

The Washington online poker movement requires 300,000 signatures to place an initiative on the legislative agenda or November 2014 ballot.  Petitions may be found here.  Signatures must be returned no later than January 3, 2014.  Each page must no less than 11 inches wide.  One of the movement’s leaders told Legal Poker Sites:

The best place for mass signature gathering is the local mall. The courts have found that large shopping malls are akin to public squares, and as such, owners cannot prevent us from gathering signatures in such locations. The can, however, designate the times and areas, so contacting the management ahead of time is still a good idea.

Outside the local Safeway is another matter, you will need permission to set up outside the local grocer. Again, asking permission first saves potential headaches later.

 It is important to know that online poker players are not the only people that will support this initiative.  Many people are fed up with internet censorship and the loss of freedom some perceive in this day and age.  It is important to approach anyone that is a registered voter in an attempt to get these issues on the ballot. 

Each petition will require 300,000 signatures to be considered.  If only one receives the required number then it can go on the ballot without the other measure.  It is also possible that a similar bill could be proposed by Washington lawmakers.  Any ballot initiative will require a 60% vote to pass.

Signers and volunteers should be aware that an individual may only sign one petition.   A website has been setup for Washington State online poker proponents to educate them about the ballot initiative process.  That website is waipokernow.com.