With Delaware and Nevada being the first two states allowing its residents to play online poker in the US, and New Jersey being very close to it, the northwestern state Washington may also relax its laws a little.
A bill waiting to be submitted before the state legislature proposes to remove playing online poker from the list of class C felony offenses. As it stands now, anyone caught wagering real money in such games may be slapped with as much as a USD 10K fine and sent to prison for up to five years.
While American gambling laws do not make online gambling explicitly illegal for the individual players, several states have chosen to implement more prohibitive legislation for their own residents.
The bill is authored by Washington State Rep. Paul Harris and aims to change the labeling of online poker to a class 3 civil infraction. Such offenses carry a maximum USD 50 fine and “statutory assessment” is Washington.
The strict law has been in place since 2006 and critics claim that it was meant purely as a means to protect reservation casinos from competition by limiting player choices with regards to all possible online casinos in the US or offshore.
The new proposal is clear on being aimed at the individual players and not gambling operators. It would decriminalize only those cases of online gambling, when it is done “solely for the defendant’s own enjoyment and not as part of an enterprise that derives income from operating an internet web site that transmits or receives gambling information.”
Harris must still find co-sponsors before the bill would get a hearing.