Washington Legal Poker

Last Update: March 20, 2015

Online Poker

Update 3/29/13 – Washington State poker player Curtis Woodward is championing two ballot initiatives designed to decriminalize online poker in Washington and to require operators to have a physical presence in the state.

Washington is one of the few states with a statute on the books that explicitly addresses online poker. It is a felony to engage in any kind of online gambling within the state.

In 2006, the state overwhelmingly passed an amendment to the Revised Code of Washington §9.46.240 to specify that all forms of gambling, including internet gambling, are considered felonies unless specifically authorized by statute. No form of online gambling is specifically authorized by statute, including online poker. The RCW defines “gambling” similar to how New York State defines it, namely risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance.

Legal challenges to §9.46.240 have failed. Lee Rousso, an online poker player, challenged the law as an unconstitutional infringement of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The case went all the way to the Washington Supreme Court, which in 2010 ruled against Rousso and preserved the criminalization of online gambling.

Immediately following that decision, several online poker sites that continued to serve the U.S. after the 2006 enactment of the UIGEA stopped serving players in Washington State. A 2013 attempt to modify the law and reduce the crime for internet gambling from a felony to a violation died in committee.

The Washington Internet Poker initiative is attempted to not only repeal the law criminalizing online poker, but to also pass a bill legalizing and regulating the industry.

In 2015 Woodard’s efforts to legalize online poker bore some fruit as Representative Sherry Appleton introduced his proposed bill into the legislature. The bill was unable to meet the legislative deadline in early February and will have to wait to be reintroduced in 2016.

Live Poker

Washington has a robust live poker scene. Live poker, as a “social card game” under Chapter 9.46 of the Revised Code of Washington, is explicitly authorized by Washington law and his been legal since the mid-1970s. However, under the law individual cities and counties can choose to ban card rooms.

The licensing and operation of Washington State card rooms are handled by the Washington State Gambling Commission, which regulates poker and other card games pursuant to Title 230, Chapter 230-15 of the Washington Administrative Code. Each card room is permitted to operate a maximum of 15 tables. As of early 2013, the WSGC listed more than 150 licensed public card rooms.

Washington also has several dozen tribal casinos that operate under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Although the tribal casinos are permitted to offer poker, not all do.

As you might expect, with card rooms legally permitted in Washington, home games are also acceptable so long as nobody profits from the game other than by their winnings.

Legal Poker By State