The state of Washington is the latest to attempt to legalize online poker in California. House Bill 1114 was prefiled on January 9 and officially read on Monday. If passed, the bill would legalize online poker and reverse one of the strictest iGaming laws in the nation. At present, it is a felony to play online poker in Washington State.
The bill is the brainchild of Curtis Woodard, the head of the Washington Internet Poker Initiative. Representative Sherry Appleton (D-23) is the bills official sponsor. Appleton has worked since 2006 to try to reverse Washington’s ban on online poker.
Bill Offers Balanced and Straightforward Approach
Unlike bills in other states, including California, Washington’s online poker bill offers a straightforward approach that seeks inclusion rather than exclusion. The bill will be a poker-only bill, meaning that Vegas style iGaming will not be offered through this bill.
Licensing will be done on two levels. The first will be for network operators while the other will be for card rooms. There are currently over 70 card rooms in the state and this bill would allow all to apply for a license.
Regulation costs will be covered by licensing fees and taxes will be determined by the Washington State Gambling Commission. Licensing amounts were not disclosed in the bill. It is to be assumed that it is still a work in progress.
The most important factor of this bill is the lack of a bad actor clause. This means that companies such as PokerStars have a virtual welcome mat to operate in the state. Of course, they would still need to go through a licensing process and pass technology requirements as set forth in the bill.
Example that Could be Followed by California and Other States
One common complaint by supporters of online poker has been the slow path to legalization by states. At present, only three states have legalized online poker and states such as California have been slowed by bills that are either overly complicated or focus too much on a bad actor clause.
In the case of Washington’s bill, the decision to allow a provider to operate in the state would ultimately fall on the WSGC and not on lawmakers. If a “bad actor” applies to operate in Washington, the Commission can review their case and determine their suitability.
The Washington bill allows for the best and brightest in the online poker industry the chance to operate in the state. It also allows each card room to fend for themselves and work out their niche in the market.
Keep in mind that this bill is still in the draft stage, so things can change. However, at present there doesn’t seem to be a large outcry for major changes that would cause delays. Instead, lawmakers can now decide if they want to join New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware in the fledgling U.S. online poker market.
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