Online Poker in Washington

August 30, 2015
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Is Online Poker Legal in Washington?

Washington Poker Quick Facts
Washington Online Poker

Via Article 9.46.220, Washington State has made sure that their original gambling laws extend to the world of online poker, but don't worry! Poker laws are extremely favorable in Washington and online poker is completely legal for non-professionals!

State Population:
State Size:
71,300 sq. miles
Is online poker legal in Washington?

No. As of 2015, online poker in Washington is not legal. In fact playing Internet poker in Washington could result in a felony charge. Read on to learn more about the legal status of Washington online poker sites.

Washington's anti-gambling regulations date back to 1889, when the state government tried to get a handle on the rampant gambling amongst settlers. The constitution stated that all gambling was illegal as of 1889, but authorities had a tough time enforcing it, especially through the Prohibition era when most things like alcohol and gambling went underground to preserve it. In 1933, the state decided to legalize betting on horse racing, and Longacres race track opened that year. But illegal gambling of other sorts still persevered, especially in Seattle and King County. A sting in 1971 arrested and indicted 51 police officers and public officials for accepting gambling payoffs. Those were flagrant illegal acts, unlike the Washington poker sites that have been targeted by the federal government in the 21st century. On the other side of the coin, Washington legalized bingo and raffles in 1971, though it was soon ruled unconstitutional. That brought it to voters in 1972, who voted to legalize it. That led to the creation of the Gambling Commission the following year to oversee pull tabs, bingo, raffles, and casino night fundraisers for charity, and keno is the most recently added game to charitable gambling allowances.

Washington Online Poker FAQ

Q. Are online poker sites included in the online gambling law?

A. Yes. There have been attempts to assert that poker is a game of skill and should be separated from other gambling games, but those have been unsuccessful to date. As the law reads, online poker in Washington is just as illegal and worthy of felony charges as any other type of gambling.

Q. Could online poker players in Washington be arrested?

A. According to the law, Washington online poker site players could be arrested. There are no cases to date that involve authorities arresting and prosecuting an online poker player who competed in the confines of his or her home, but that's not to say that the law doesn't allow it.

Q. Are there any poker tournaments held at Washington casinos?

A. While online Washington poker sites remain illegal, live poker flourishes at more than 100 locations throughout the state. Some of the casinos have small tournaments but no large tour or series like the World Poker Tour or World Series of Poker has made its way there yet.

Q. Did the Tulalip tribe campaign against federal online poker legislation?

A. A representative of Tulalip testified in a Congressional committee regarding concerns about currently proposed federal online gambling legislation. The primary concern is that gambling is too broad, and online poker in Washington and on the federal level is the only type of gambling that should be considered. He expressed other concerns from tribes about a level playing field with large corporations, but he was not strikingly opposed to the idea.

Washington and Online Poker

Card rooms were approved in 1974, meaning that establishments with proper licensing could offer card games like poker and blackjack. They were required to be player-banked games, in which the house doesn't win versus the players, but house-banked games were approved in 1997. The rooms grew to be nearly full casinos, with table games and unlimited pull tab machines. The trial period was considered a success, and the number of them eventually grew to near 60. In all, today, there are more than 135 gambling establishments in Washington, including four horse tracks and several gambling cruise ship lines that are permitted to dock at the shores of the state and offer gambling services there. The progressive nature of Washington with respect to table games, especially, leads one to believe that legal online poker sites in Washington are a succinct possibility.

Washington Poker Laws

The lottery came in 1982 to help solve a budget crisis. The legislature approved the state lottery because of deepening financial problems, and the Washington State Lottery Commission was established to oversee it. Tribal casinos were then authorized in 1988, and the first compact was signed with the Tulalip Indian tribe in 1992 for a gambling establishment. Some of the 16 tribes then expanded their scope by rallying to run card rooms not specifically affiliated with the tribes and with the house as the bank, and the legislature approved that in 1997. Tribes then received approval for slot machines in 1999. Charitable gambling includes everything from raffles to poker games and casino nights, some of which require a license to operate but most of which are allowed to be conducted with little oversight, unlike anything that could happen with Washington legal online poker. You can contact your legislator about this issue by clicking here: Washington Legislators.

Social gambling, including live poker is allowed if no person receives a profit other than gambling winnings, meaning no rake or profit for the house. Washington online poker was addressed in a 2006 law, saying that gambling information transmitted or received by a number of devices, including the Internet, is a crime and the person who knowingly transmits that information is guilty of a felony. That law was challenged by Lee Russo and the Poker Players Alliance and taken to the Washington State Supreme Court, where the law was ruled constitutional in 2010.