Last week, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld a harsh state law that makes playing online poker a Class C felony. Poker Players Alliance(PPA) Washington State Director Lee Rousso, who brought on the legal action, argued that the statute violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. However, the state’s highest court, which heard oral arguments back in May, ultimately decreed, “The statute prohibits internet gambling evenhandedly, regardless of whether the company running the website is located in or outside the state of Washington. The effects imposed on in-state and out-of-state entities engaging or that would engage in internet gambling are the same.” This week, Rousso joins the PocketFives.com Poker Podcast.
Despite the setback, Rousso plans to appeal to the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. and told the PocketFives.com Podcast, “The court agreed that the Federal Government has not really granted this power to the states. The court ruled that this statute is evenhanded because it would deprive you of internet poker whether [the company was] located inside or outside of Washington State.” Whether the U.S. Supreme Court would take the case remains to be seen.
Interestingly, the decision handed down last week included a variety of language addressing the morality of internet gambling and stressed possible ties to organized crime and money laundering. On the language, Rousso observed, “That’s out of place. The Supreme Court is out of touch of where the population is on the issue of gambling. When this state was founded, there was a strong anti-gambling sentiment, but here in 2010, gambling is very much a mainstream activity. The moral element of the decision is wrong.” The PPA sourced a poll conducted earlier this year showing that 80% of Washington State voters oppose the 2006 law.
The statute criminalizing online poker players in Washington was adopted prior to the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) on a national level. Rousso described what has been done in the past four years to overturn the measure: “Since this law was passed in 2006, there have been a few legislative efforts, but they didn’t get very far. The following year, there were a couple of bills introduced. Nobody has really made any attempt since then, so there’s not a lot of political willpower in that direction.”
On the possibility of the nation’s highest judicial body taking the case, Rousso forecasted, “I see it as a pretty important issue of constitutional law, whether states can regulate internet gambling and to what extent they can regulate it. That’s an issue the Supreme Court should take a look at.” Washington State has legalized land-based gambling on Indian reservations.
Heavily involved in the case is the PPA, which submitted an amicus brief on Rousso’s behalf. While Rousso was testifying to the Washington State Supreme Court in May, the PPA staged a large-scale rally outside on the courthouse’s front steps: “We’re winning the public relations battle here in Washington. Nobody likes this law and everyone knows how stupid it is, but to get someone to change it is going to take a little bit of work.”
Also this week, PocketFives.com sat down with Tyson POTTERMarks (pictured), who banked the largest prize in the history of online poker for winning the 2010 PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) Main Event. Marks pulled down $2.2 million after outlasting the 2,443-player field and edged out PokerStars member joeysweetp heads-up. The 2010 WCOOP saw PocketFives.com members take down 28 bracelets.
Check out this week’s edition of the PocketFives.com Podcastfeaturing PPA Washington State Director Lee Rousso and 2010 WCOOP Main Event winner Tyson POTTER Marks.