Fighting for the Right to Play Online Poker in Washington

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) finished up a busy week last week by appealing their case in a Washington Supreme Court followed

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) finished up a busy week last week by appealing their case in a Washington Supreme Court followed by a pro-Internet gambling rally. The PPA’s Washington branch is challenging the current state law which charges that playing poker or casino gambling online is a felony offense. 

The PPA, represented in court by Washington state director Lee Rousso, argued their case based on the federal Commerce Act. Under terms of this act, no state can “pass legislation that discriminates against (any) section of any industry.” Rousso stated that since playing poker and blackjack is legal in online casinos, it should also be legal online. He argued further that no one benefitted from banning online gambling in Washington except for the legal bricks and mortar casinos.  

Assistant State Attorney General Jerry Ackerman argued on the other side that online gambling is impossible to regulate and that the Washington government supports tribal casinos in the state because of federal legislation requiring such casinos. 

In attendance at the hearing was PPA Chairman Alfonse D’Amato, a former New York senator, and also speaking for the PPA’s case were PPA Executive Director John Pappas and professional poker player Phil Gordon.  

During the hearing and afterward, online poker players rallied outside the Supreme Court in protest. The Washington chapter of the Poker Players Alliance has 20,000 members, despite certain legal pressure on online poker sites in the United States. The PPA thanked the “the turnout of poker players who joined us this morning on the steps of the Supreme Court to support Mr. Rousso’s case” in an official statement. 

The PPA went on to claim that a recent poll showed 80% of registered voters in Washington were for legalizing online poker. The organization said that “The PPA looks forward to working with Washington’s state and federal lawmakers, regardless of outcome in this case, to establish effective licensing and regulation of online poker as opposed to criminalizing citizens for playing the game.”  

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, the federal law heavily restricting U.S.-based financial institutions in processing payments between casinos and individuals, into full effect on Tuesday. Though American gambling laws exist on the national level, several states are currently exploring in-state Internet gambling.

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