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Why is online gambling still illegal in Washington state?

I’m a poker player. There was a time when you would have to whisper that fact in hushed tones and make sure you watched who you were talking to. That was before the World Series of Poker was televised nationwide on ESPN, and people generally accepted the fact that there is skill involved in the game. That was before there were personal computers in every pocket and very smart people would try and solve the game with algorithms.

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Did you realize that in the state of Washington it is a Class C Felony to play a hand of poker online for real money? Yes, it is a felony to place an online wager in Washington!

Just to give you some context, here is the explanation of misdemeanors from the Washington State Courts webpage: “Examples of gross misdemeanors are theft of property and driving while under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. Among the many types of misdemeanors are disorderly conduct and prostitution.”

You got that right. A DUI and prostitution are misdemeanors, while placing a wager online is a felony.

Here’s the thing though, people like to gamble. It’s fun, and it can add a little excitement to a dull day. So I was surprised to read on Geekwire that Muckleshoot Casino is rolling out a new app that has a clever work around this draconian online wagering law.

Here’s how it’s going to work starting in the fall. You download their app to your phone, then physically go to the casino and purchase games with cash money. Then you can leave the casino and play the games anywhere virtually. If you win, you’re winning real money that you collect the next time you’re at the casino.

These won’t be games like poker or roulette, but more like bingo and other games where you’re not playing against the house.

I’m tempted to go on a diatribe on how stupid the state of Washington is for criminalizing an online behavior that is perfectly legal in real life. Instead, I’m going to view this as a positive step.

Hopefully, this will end up in court and the current laws will be thrown out.

Society is slowly losing its judgments about archaic prohibitions from a bygone era. Attitudes are becoming more liberal around the idea of placing a bet for entertainment. Look no further than the recent Supreme Court decision on sports wagering.

Washington state needs to wake up and realize this is a perfectly acceptable tax revenue stream that is no different than ordering your groceries online instead of going to the brick and mortar store. If people want to use their entertainment budget to play a game, isn’t that their business?

Kudos to Muckleshoot for moving this issue forward. Now let’s take the next logical step and allow responsible adults to do online all the things they can legally do in a casino.

You can hear “What are we talking about here?” everyday at 4:45 p.m. on 97.3 FM.

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