In breaking news, PokerStarshas blocked real money play from customers in Washington State. The site made the decision after the Washington State Supreme Court ruled last week that the statute making playing online poker a Class C felony did not violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Poker Players Alliance(PPA) Washington State Director Lee Rousso brought on the constitutional challenge and plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. He’s also our guest on this week’s PocketFives.com Podcast.
A message sent by PokerStars posted on PocketFives.com on Thursday explained why the world’s largest online poker site was blocking cash play from the Pacific Coast state: “In light of [the Washington State Supreme Court] decision and following extensive consultation with our legal advisors, we believe that the right course of action is to now block real money play by Washington residents on the PokerStars.com site. This policy will remain in effect until the law changes or subsequent legal challenges succeed.”
PokerStars added that any funds Washington players still have online would be available to cash out. PokerStars lamented, “We regret this decision, which will no doubt disappoint our customers in Washington State. However, in all of the jurisdictions where we operate, we are committed to making responsible decisions that are based on a full and considered understanding of the most up-to-date legal advice.” The site had been operating under the pretext that Washington’s harsh law violated the Constitution. However, the State Supreme Court seemingly shot down that position.
PokerStars and its sponsored pros have been largely supportive of legislative efforts to legalize and regulate online poker in the United States. Text found in PokerStars’ letter to players on Thursday noted, “PokerStars remains supportive of passing sensible internet poker regulation in the United States that will provide much-needed tax revenues and formalize consumer protections.”
Congressman Barney Frank‘s (D-MA, pictured) HR 2267, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, was passed out of the House Financial Services Committee in July by a 2:1 margin. However, the U.S. Congress has yet to debate the bill and the legislative body’s scheduled adjournment date is next Friday.
Per an amendment attached to it, HR 2267 allows states to opt out within one legislative session. Accordingly, Washington could opt out or elect to become part of the Federal framework. The tax companion bill to HR 2267, Congressman Jim McDermott‘s (D-WA, pictured) HR 2268, prescribes that a 6% tax on deposits be returned to each state, potentially curbing a portion of Washington’s severe budget deficit. McDermott calls the state home and has represented it since 1989.
PokerStars is converting all tournament tickets and T$ balances to cash for affected players and expects to complete that process by October 4th. Each player’s VIP status will be frozen at its current level, so if players were to move away from Washington, they’d pick up where they left off in PokerStars’ VIP program. The room also cautioned, “Even if you are simply visiting [Washington], you may not play on PokerStars while you are there,” regardless of whether you are a resident.
Play money games will remain open for Washington State residents on PokerStars.com and PokerStars.net. The Washington Supreme Court ruled that the state’s law treated in-state and out-of-state internet gambling outfits evenhandedly and therefore did not violate the Constitution.
Washington native Daniel dmoneymillsMiller commented in a thread in Poker Discussion on the issue, “This definitely hurts… but it’s not like there aren’t other sites to make $ on as well. FTP/UB/CAKE can fit the bill for a lot of games. I’m way more worried this is going to set a precedent for the other online sites to follow, then we’re in deep doo doo.”
We’ll keep you posted right here on PocketFives.com.