Washington State Online Poker Bill Introduced

January 12, 2015
Washington State Online Poker Bill Introduced

A new online poker bill has been filed in Washington state.  The bill would legalize and regulated online poker in the state, putting an end to a prohibition that makes playing online poker a class C felony.  It was introduced by state Rep. Sherry Appleton.  The bill is HB 1114.

The bill seeks to protect the residents of Washington from the dangers of offshore sites.  It would allow players to access poker sites from any device connected to the Internet.  The bill gives the governor authorization to enter into interstate compacts to share liquidity.

Poker would be the only game available under this bill.  The minimum age for players would be 18.  This is a major change from the three existing regulated states, where players must be at least 21 years of age.  No bad actor language is included in this bill.

Existing licensed card clubs and tribes would qualify for licensing, assuming all regulatory requirements are met.  Licensees that operate skins must have a gaming license in good standing for at least two years prior to launching a regulated poker site.

Sites would be required to be bonded equal to the entire amount of player funds, or $1 million, whichever is greater.  Licenses would be issued for one year.

One interesting clause states “no person or entity with an ownership interest in any entity licensed to operate an internet poker network may hold any interest in a tribe or licensed card room offering internet poker”.  Outside companies must operate the platforms that host skins branded by Washington tribes and card rooms.  Washington card clubs and tribal gaming interests would be unable to develop internal software.

Sites would be allowed to create networks and share liquidity.  All players must be located within Washington at the time of login to access real money games.

The bill hopes to create a tax rate of nine percent when including all licensing fees.  Five percent of these funds must go towards problem gambling resources.

The internet gaming commission would license companies within two categories; poker sites and network operators.  Other duties would include creating regulations that cover:

  • Problem gambling services
  • Payment processing licensing
  • Enforcement against licensing violations
  • Investigating unlicensed sites
  • Operator licensing requirements
  • Dispute resolution
  • Employee licensing
  • Tax collection

The internet gaming commission would also have the ability to draft any resolutions it deems necessary to regulate poker sites.

Washington state has been the home to the harshest online poker laws in the country since 2006.  That was when it became a felony to not only operate an online poker site, but to play at one, too.  The law passed with widespread support, with a vote of 93-5 in the House of Representatives and unanimously in the Washington Senate.

A movement by the Washington iPoker Initiative, led by Curtis Woodard, helped draw attention to the online poker situation in the state.

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