Online Poker Loses Appeal in Washington State

The fight to legalize – or at least decriminalize – online poker in the state of Washington has been ongoing for a number of years. Yesterday, the case took another hit as a state appeals court rejected the arguments of Lee Rousso and unanimously refused to allow the case against the state law to move forward.

The 2006 law was, in fact, an amendment to the 1973 Gambling Act and was implemented at the hands of Governor Christine Gregoire, which made the act of gambling online, which included playing poker online, a Class C felony. Attorney Rousso fought the law and eventually even decided to run for Governor of Washington for the purpose of making changes from within the political system, though he withdrew from the race when it became apparent that his candidacy would not qualify for the 2008 primary race. At that time, Rousso stated, “Even though I am dropping out of the political arena, I will continue to work to change the laws so that internet poker players can enjoy the Great American Game from the privacy of their own homes.”

Rousso then became the Poker Players Alliance’s regional director for Washington and pursued his court case against the state law, challenging its constitutionality. He asserted that the classification of online gaming as a felony was cruel and unusual punishment, and it violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. In May of 2008, however, a King County court judge upheld the state law. After Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts’ decision, Rousso vowed to appeal.

It was on Monday, March 23rd that the state appeals court rejected Rousso’s latest attempt at overturning the law. According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the three Division I judges noted that Rousso would have to prove that criminalizing internet poker imposes excessive burdens. “Ultimately, given the importance of the state’s interest in protecting its citizens from the ills associated with gambling, and the relatively small cost imposed on out-of-state businesses by complying…Rousso has failed to meet his burden…”

While there have been no prosecutions of online gamblers under the law to date, Rousso feels the principle is important enough to pursue further. He is currently considering an appeal to the Washington Supreme Court.

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