PokerStars to Restrict USA Players from Washington

Nicole Smith
Posted by on 10/08/2010
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A new bill was recently passed in the state of Washington that forced PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker room, to discontinue acceptance of its Washington based poker players. What was once considered the most liberal of all poker sites is now being watched with a wary eye as industry analysts wonder whether other states will incorporate similar laws.

For the last four years, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) has failed to set forth any guidelines that would define the country’s online gambling laws. Thus some of the biggest poker operators, including PokerStars, have continued to permit USA players to deposit and play poker online for real money with no repercussions defined.

The Washington State Supreme Court recently ruled that the state’s current laws against online gambling identify the crime as a class-C felony, thereby solidifying the illegalization of online gambling within its borders.

Washington’s law had been in place for some time, but was challenged by the Poker Players Alliance as being unconstitutional. The judgment finally came down from the supreme level, ruling against the PPA and in favor of the state.

PokerStars sent out a regretful letter to its members in Washington explaining that it would no longer be able to accept their deposits, nor allow them to play poker online for real money at this time. The letter read:

“In light of [the Washington State Supreme Court] decision and following extensive consultation with our legal advisors, we believe that the right course of action is to now block real money play by Washington residents on the site. This policy will remain in effect until the law changes or subsequent legal challenges succeed.”

The letter from PokerStars continued to say that members from Washington would still be able to log in and request a cash out of any funds remaining in their account. Thousands of the online poker site’s members were affected by the sudden prohibition of Washington based players.

The country is effectively split on its stance towards the legalities of online poker and online gambling in general. California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with representatives of New Jersey, Florida and most recently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, has expressed an interest in legalizing online poker. They are working to enforce state laws to decriminalize certain forms of online gambling before any federal laws become further restrictive.

Now that Washington has clarified its own position against online gambling, the ramifications could be widespread as other oppositional states may work to integrate similar laws.

Unfortunately for Americans, it could be yet another long wait before anything becomes clear, one way or the other. A bi-partisan bill was passed through the House Financial Services Committee that would set forth the foundation for regulating the online gambling industry in the United States, but it promptly stalled thereafter. It is not expected to be further discussed until the November mid-term elections at the earliest.

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