The Washington State Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee will hold a hearing on online poker and daily fantasy sports today: January 18, 2017.
US Poker will post continuous updates of the hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. PST. Live stream of the hearing is available here.
Washington State was identified as one of nine candidate states for online gambling legislation in 2017.
The Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee
The committee consists of five Republicans and four Democrats:
- Michael Baumgartner, (R) – Chair
- John Braun, (R) – Vice Chair
- Karen Keiser, (D) – Ranking Minority Member
- Steve Conway, (D)
- Bob Hasegawa, (D)
- Curtis King, (R)
- Dino Rossi, (R)
- Rebecca Saldaña, (D)
- Lynda Wilson, (R)
Backstory on Washington State and online gaming
Playing online poker in Washington State is a felony, thanks to a piece of legislation passed in 2006. The law survived a legal challenge and was fully enacted in 2010. The bill’s sponsor, Marguerite Prentice, is no longer in the legislature.
Because of the 2006 legislation, daily fantasy sports is illegal in Washington state, and neither FanDuel or DraftKings has ever operated in the state.
Grassroots efforts to repeal the Prentice bill and legalize online poker have so far come up short.
In November of 2016, Spectrum Gaming Group produced a report for the Washington State Gaming Commission that estimated the market could generate $100 million in revenue annually. Based on New Jersey’s revenue numbers from 2016, this number could be as high as $150 million when the market reaches maturity.
John Pappas, the executive director of the Poker Players Alliance will be testifying at the hearing. You can find his full written testimony here.
5:30 EST: Gaming part of hearing begins
John Pappas is the first to testify on the subject. Pappas is calling in via Skype.
Pappas calls Washington State’s current law prohibiting online poker nonsensical and unenforceable. One member of the committee makes note that playing online poker in Washington State is a felony, which by way of comparison, Pappas says is the same type of penalty you’d give a sex offender.
Pappas makes the case that the current prohibition isn’t working, as he invites anyone to Google, “can I play online poker in Washington.”
Pappas points to his submitted testimony for a deep dive into the regulatory successes in the three states that have legalized online gambling.
Brian Considine and Chris Stearns of the Washington State Gaming Commission are up next.
Chris Stearns is the Chairman of the Washington State Gaming Commission and a proponent of regulated online gambling.
Considine is giving a brief overview of gaming laws in Washington, including the 2006 law that added online gambling to list of prohibited activities. As Considine notes, you could conceivably receive a five year prison sentence for playing online poker in Washington State. However, Considine notes they focus on companies and not players, and have never prosecuted a player. Considine notes that if they catch a player they often use them as an informant or use their account to build a case against a company.
Considine moves on to legal online gambling, and how Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have regulated these industries with land-based casinos acting as the operators, and how the states receive tax money from revenue.
Senator Keiser asked Considine from the WSGC how Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey were able to legalize online gambling with UIGEA in the way. The question, which is easily answered since UIGEA only applies to unlawful internet gaming and not online gambling legalized by the state, shows how much education needs to be done to get lawmakers up to speed on this issue.
Chris Stearns is now giving an overview of other states, specifically Michigan, New York, and California, that are looking at legalizing online poker or online gambling.
At this point the hearing is being rushed along, and answers are being cut short and summaries asked for.
The committee is now hearing from online poker advocates from Washington State. Grassroots advocate Curtis Woodard who spearheaded the online poker bills from 2015 and 2016 raises the point that online isn’t an expansion of gambling per se, but rather a different venue for a game (poker) that is already legal in Washington State.
Committee chair notes that the legislature doesn’t have a bill on online poker in front of them, and “if we did we’d give this issue more time.” Once again, Senator Keiser (who is on the committee that handles gaming) asks a very rudimentary question; a clear indication that these educational hearings are sorely needed.