PokerStars Pulls Out of Washington State Market

October 8, 2010

PokerStars recently announced that they would be blocking Washington state residents in the US from participating in real money poker on the PokerStars website. This would be the first time that US residents from any state would be blocked from PokerStars, as they made it clear they would not shut out US players following the 2006 UIGEA ruling, though other big poker clubs like Party Poker did.

Because Stars and Full Tilt Poker are private companies (unlike Party Poker that is publicly traded and has to answer to shareholders), they were able to make the call to stay in the US market despite the laws that only prohibited banks from processing online gambling related payments. While some states have ruled poker as a game of skill, making it legal to play online, no such ruling has been made on the federal level.
However, Washington is a different story. The laws in place there cite online poker players with penalties of up to five years in prison plus a $10K fine, though no one has ever actually been accused or charged in Washington with online gambling.

Lee Rousso’s lawsuit that challenged the law failed in Washington’s Supreme Court, making it clear that Internet poker in Washington state is in fact illegal, and it is unlikely that this will ever change in the future.

Why Poker Stars suddenly seems to care is because by offering Internet poker in Washington, they would be breaking laws, something they don’t want to do so that when regulation is implemented (now 2013 is the expected date) they will be able to operate in the US. As of now, they feel they have a secure argument that they are not breaking any laws within the UIGEA. It’s a way to a means; if having access to the rest of the US means shutting out a state or two, it by far justifies it to the poker rooms.

It is unknown if Full Tilt will follow Poker Stars, as the following statement regarding the issue was made recently by Full Tilt: “While the option to play real-money poker games of skill is still available on Full Tilt Poker, we will have further information about the status of real-money play by Washington residents in the near future.”


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