Washington State Online Poker Laws Explained

Located in the farthest northwest reaches of the 48 contingent states, Washington is the 18th largest and 13th most populated (6,971,406; est. 2013) state in the US. It is known for being the nation’s most extensive producer of lumber, as well as a number of tree-grown fruits (apples, pears, sweet cherries, etc.). Among the government’s many supplementary tax resources is the gambling sector, although the state only collects a minimal tax on casinos style gaming due to the fact that they are all tribal and/or charitable in nature. Commercial casinos and online poker rooms are not currently regulated in the Evergreen State.

With such a relatively high population, there is no lack of poker players who prefer to enjoy their pastime over the internet – or at least, they used to. Most land-based casinos now post unequivocal signage stating that it is illegal to play online poker or casino games in the State of Washington. But still, some players are confused as to whether it’s truly illegal, and if so, what are the penalties imposed? We’ll examine the land-based gambling industry and relative laws of Washington in an attempt to answer those very questions.

Land-based Gambling in Washington

Washington’s stance against gambling has changed a great deal since state lawmakers, furious at the rampant gambling that went uncontrolled in the late 19th century, passed legislation stating, “The Legislature shall never authorize any lottery…”, which, at the time, translated to all forms of gambling. But now, over a century later, more than two dozen tribal casinos authorized in Washington State, pari-mutuel betting on the ponies and state-run lottery games are all legal, to some extent. No commercial casinos exist, though.

Unfortunately, this is one of a few states where online poker has been expressly prohibited by the government. Prior to the passage of S.S.B. 6613, which made playing online poker a felony in Washington, internet gaming fell into a grey area of the law that could, at most, fault the player with a gross misdemeanor. The 2006 amendment specifically included “internet” gambling while increasing the penalty to a Class C felony, worthy of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Deciphering the Laws of Washington as they relate to Online Poker

The following text, taken from the Washington Constitution and the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), relates to online poker laws in the state.

Section Text Meaning (in re online poker)
Art. 2, Sec. 24 Lotteries and Divorce Lotteries shall be prohibited except as specifically authorized… The antiquated text of the Washington State Constitution refers to all forms of gambling as lotteries. Therefore any form of gambling that is not authorized by law is illegal.
RCW 9.46.240 Gambling information, transmitting or receiving Whoever knowingly transmits or receives gambling information by telephone, telegraph, radio, semaphore, the internet, a telecommunications transmission system, or similar means, or knowingly installs or maintains equipment for the transmission or receipt of gambling information shall be guilty of a class C felony subject to the penalty set forth in RCW 9A.20.021. Gambling over the internet is illegal, including playing online poker for real money.
RCW 9a.20.021

Maximum sentences…

(1) Felony. Unless a different maximum sentence for a classified felony is specifically established by a statute of this state, no person convicted of a classified felony shall be punished by confinement or fine exceeding the following:
(c) For a class C felony, by confinement in a state correctional institution for five years, or by a fine in an amount fixed by the court of ten thousand dollars, or by both such confinement and fine.
If convicted of playing online poker in Washington, the penalty is incredibly harsh, sentencing up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $10,000 fine.

Is Online Poker Illegal in Washington?

Yes. State officials made a point to amend the state legislation to criminalize all forms of internet gambling, including online poker, in 2006. Further verifying the prohibition of online poker is the text Washington State Gambling Commission, under Internet Gambling. It clearly states:

The Washington State Constitution (Article II Section 24) prohibits all gambling activities unless the activity is specifically authorized in State law. Internet gambling has never been authorized and is illegal in Washington State.

To further clarify this, in 2006, the Washington State Legislature amended RCW 9.46.240 to affirmatively state that Internet gambling is illegal in Washington State.

The penalty for transmitting gambling information was also increased from a gross misdemeanor to a class C felony.

It is illegal to:

–          Operate an Internet gambling site.
–          Gamble on the Internet.
–          Install or maintain equipment to send or receive gambling information.
–          Facilitate Internet gambling in any way.

Is Washington working to legalize Online Poker?

Not at present. The only way to get online poker legalized in Washington is to get an initiative on the ballot, followed by an affirmative vote of 60%+ from the public. The last attempt was made by professional poker player Curtis Woodward, but getting the initiative on the ballot required a petition with at least 246,372 signatures. He was unable to harvest enough signatures, thus the initiative failed. While Washington is a prime candidate for online poker regulation, there simply hasn’t been enough support in public office, or among the citizens of the state, to get the job done.

Online Poker Players from Washington

Perhaps the most well-known online player from Washington is poker pro Curtis “2themuck” Woodward, who was responsible for organizing the Washington Internet Poker Initiative and sponsored an online poker bill, Initiative 582, Washington Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker. Unfortunately, Woodward failed to receive enough signatures to get the initiative on the Nov. 2014 ballot. Other known online poker players in Washington include Jonathan “Quagaars” Scott, Aaron “AaronThivy” Thivyanathan, Ken “FlashTacoma” Connel, Kyle “xave4000” Jantzer,

Land-Based Card Rooms in Washington

Washington State is a hotbed of legal, land-based gambling activity, where the majority of casinos offer live poker action throughout the week. All of the state’s casinos are trial in nature. Note that a few establishments already offer free-to-play online gambling services in hopes of an eventually regulated online poker and casino market.

7 Cedars Casino
Location: Sequim, WA
Poker Room: No

Angel of the Winds Casino
Location: Arlington, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Casino Snoqualmie
Location: Snoqualmie, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Chewelah Casino
Location: Chewelah, WA
Poker Room: No

Clearwater Casino Resort & Poker Room
Location: Suquamish, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Club Hollywood Casino
Location: Shoreline, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Coulee Dam Casino
Location: Coulee Dam, WA
Poker Room: No

Coyote Bob’s Casino
Location: Kennewick, WA
Poker Room: No

Crazy Moose Casino – Mountlake Terrace
Location: Mountlake Terrace, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Crazy Moose Casino – Pasco
Location: Pasco, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Elwha River Casino
Location: Port Angeles, WA
Poker Room: No

Emerald Queen Casino
Location: Fife, WA
Poker Room: No

Golden Nugget Casino
Location: Tukwila, WA
Poker Room: No

Joker’s Casino
Location: Richland, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Lancer Casino
Location: Clarkston, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Legends Casino at Yakima Nation
Location: Toppenish, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Little Creek Casino and Resort
Location: Shelton, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Lucky Dog Casino
Location: Potlatch, WA
Poker Room: No

Lucky Eagle Casino
Location: Rochester, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Lucky Dragonz Casino
Location: Seattle, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Mill Bay Casino
Location: Manson, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Mr. Z’s Casino
Location: Pullman, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Muckleshoot Indian Casino
Location: Auburn, WA
Poker Room: Yes

New Phoenix Casino
Location: La Center, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Nisqually Red Wind Casino
Location: Yelm, WA
Poker Room: No

Nob Hill Casino Yakima
Location: Yakima, WA
Poker Room: No

Nooksack Northwood Casino
Location: Lynden, WA
Poker Room: No

Nooksack River Casino
Location: Deming, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Northern Quest Casino
Location: Airway Heights, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Okanogan Casino and Bingo
Location: Okanogan, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Quil Ceda Creek Casino
Location: Marysville, WA
Poker Room: No

Quinault Casino Resort
Location: Ocean Shores, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Red Dragon Casino
Location: Mountlake Terrace, WA
Poker Room: No

Roxy’s Casino
Location: Seattle, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Royal Casino
Location: Everett, WA
Poker Room: No

Shoalwater Bay Casino
Location: Tokeland, WA
Poker Room: No

Silver Dollar Casino – Mill Creek
Location: Mill Creek, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Silver Dollar Casino – Renton
Location: Renton, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Silver Dollar Casino – SeaTac
Location: SeaTac, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Silver Reef Casino
Location: Ferndale, WA
Poker Room: No

Skagit Valley Casino
Location: Bow, WA
Poker Room: No

Swinomish Northern Lights Casino
Location: Anacortes, WA
Poker Room: Yes

The Point Casino
Location: Kingston, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Tulalip Resort Casino
Location: Tulalip, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Two Rivers Casino
Location: Davenport, WA
Poker Room: No

Wild Goose Casino
Location: Ellensburg, WA
Poker Room: Yes

Wizards Casino
Location: Seattle, WA
Poker Room: Yes

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