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WA Law: 5 Years in Prison for Gambling Online 535

tpoker writes "Online gambling has been an ongoing legal issue for the federal government, but Washington State has recently decided to take matters into their own hands. The Seattle PI reports, 'Beginning next month [June 7th], Washington residents who play poker or make other types of wagers on the Internet will be committing a Class C felony, equivalent under the law to possessing child pornography, threatening the governor or torturing an animal. Although the head of the state Gambling Commission says it is unlikely that individual online gamblers will be targeted for arrest, the new law carries stiff penalties: as much as five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.'"
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WA Law: 5 Years in Prison for Gambling Online

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:17PM (#15439683)
    Wow, you can kill someone and get less prison time... Look at the guy in the northeast who set off fireworks in doors and led to 100 people dying and he only got 4 years!

    Good game, government.
    • by eln ( 21727 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:24PM (#15439746)
      I don't know about you, but from now on I'm going to threaten the governor and kick the dog every time I play poker online.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Buddy, it was a total accident. This guy got blamed for everything. The place was in total code violation yet the idiot fire inspector never did anything. He's the one who should have been tried.
    • by Jason1729 ( 561790 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:42PM (#15439919)
      You cause kill a nursing home patient through gross negligence and get about 10% of the fine you get for showing a breast for 1/4 second during the superbowl.

      Welcome to the USA.
    • magic the gathering (Score:4, Informative)

      by SEAL ( 88488 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:48PM (#15439966)
      Funny how Magic the Gathering Online, run by a Washington state company, now falls under this gambling bullshit. You can buy tickets to participate in matches, and the winners of matches can be awarded prizes -- therefore it's gambling in the eyes of the law.

      Congratulations on supporting local businesses, Gregoire! Oh wait you're in the pocket of the tribal casinos... I forgot.
    • by d34thm0nk3y ( 653414 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @08:47PM (#15440805)
      The funiest part is that in WA we have tribal gambling, lotteries, and you can even have actual poker rooms off the reservation if you get the permits etc.

      So gambling is apparently fine, it's the online part that is illegal.

  • The Morality Police will keep you safe, Citizen.

    These self-righteous asshole politicians should be ground up and formed into dildo-sized pieces then inserted into the ass of every voter who put them in power.

  • Age old problem... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dotoole ( 881696 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:19PM (#15439694)
    When will people learn that you can't legislate away social problems?
    • by H3lldr0p ( 40304 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:22PM (#15439732) Homepage
      As if this was a "Social Problem".

      This is about control. As in, the State cannot control the revenue generated wherever the gambling goes on. Be certain that if WA could get "their" cut from "their" citizens gambling they wouldn't have this law.

      Think of it this way: State is to Gambling as RIAA is to Music. If they (the State) can't control it, they don't want anybody else doing it.
    • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:28PM (#15439786) Homepage Journal

      Well, Prohibition worked so well keeping people from drinki—

      Wait, I meant that sodomy laws do such a great job of keeping people from being homose—



      *sticks finger in ears* LALALALALALALALALALALA!!!!!

    • by Itninja ( 937614 )
      Oh I think you can. Remember how forced segregation and banning 'Jim Crow' laws ended racism towards Blacks in the South?

      Remember how banning assault rifles ended gangland violence in LA?

      Laws can only effect what people do, not what they want.
    • They're not trying to legislate away social problems. They're trying to protect their monopoly [].

      Remember, kids! Gambling is wrong, unless it generates revenue for the state!
  • Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NBarnes ( 586109 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:20PM (#15439698)
    Pardon me, but what the hell is the point of this law if "it is unlikely that individual online gamblers will be targeted for arrest"? Selective enforcement... for the win!
  • Yeah, 'cause... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:20PM (#15439704)
    Most of the gambling houses are offshore, and the state doesn't get its cut.
  • by Bertie ( 87778 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:20PM (#15439707)
    So much more liberal and right-thinking than those evil Islamic theocracies of the Middle East.

    Keep on shining the torch of liberty into the darkest corners of the earth, now, won't you?
  • by mcpkaaos ( 449561 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:20PM (#15439709)
    possessing child pornography, threatening the governor or torturing an animal

    I'm pretty sure one of those is legal. I just can't remember which.
  • Tax Revenue (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Salo2112 ( 628590 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:21PM (#15439715)
    Amazing how the government can find the time and manpower to enforce crap laws like this when tax revenues are on the line.
  • God bless.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OzPhIsH ( 560038 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:21PM (#15439720) Journal
    God bless the good ol' land of the free. This is getting way past rediculous. It seems almost that soon murdering all witnesses that saw you commit some petty crime, like gambliing, will net you less jail time than getting busted for the small thing. I mean, 5 years for sitting at a computer and clicking a mouse. Sadly, it isn't sounding so unusual, but damn, that seems VERY fucking cruel.
  • by dotslashdot ( 694478 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:21PM (#15439721)
    Does that mean you can't buy & sell stocks online?
    • You can gamble online with stocks and bonds...but not with cards. Wonder why...

    • Does that mean you can't buy & sell stocks online?

      Buying stocks is legal. Good comparison too as what is the difference between betting on GM and Vegas?

      But the real point is that stocks are legal as the government gets a cut. When you file your income taxes the gains and dividends realized are taxable. But on line they can't economically get their hands in your pocket.

      It is all about greedy politicians insatiable thirst for increasing the governments take.

    • Or insurance? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SydShamino ( 547793 )
      Are they charging people who use and now, too? What is insurance but a form of wager?

      With gambling, you are spending some money in exchange for the chance of a good return. Your odds are improved if you are skilled or have someone on the inside.

      With the stock market, you are investing some money in exchange for the chance of a good return. Your odd are improved if you are skilled or have insider information.

      With insurance, you are spending money in exchange for the possibility o
  • Dumb Law... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:23PM (#15439736)
    Although the head of the state Gambling Commission says it is unlikely that individual online gamblers will be targeted for arrest, the new law carries stiff penalties: as much as five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

    There should be a law that you can't put a law on the books with no intention of enforcing it. The law has enough baggage from previous years when politicians would grandstand for the "hang 'em high" crowd. I suggest hanging high anyone who puts a useless law on the book. :P
    • "There should be a law that you can't put a law on the books with no intention of enforcing it."

      No way! Then the great state of Washington could have these laws on the books:

      It is illegal to attach a vending machine to a utility pole without prior consent from the utility company.

      No person may walk about in public if he or she has the common cold.

      Destroying a beer cask or bottle of another is illegal.

      It is illegal to entice girls away from the Maple Lane School for girls.

      X-rays may not be used to fit shoes
    • Re:Dumb Law... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jetlagQ ( 611731 )
      How about a law that says it is illegal to make laws which in any way penalize consensual acts between adults?
  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:25PM (#15439759)
    Look it, the only reason that the gov't HATES online gambling is because it doesn't get paid tribute.

    The gov't hates when industries that rake in cash don't pay special tribute by donating, ect. Look at how google is now throwing out cash to avoid investigations and avoid the trouble MS had in the 90's.

    Pay tribute to the masters and you can do what you want.

    plus the state has a monopoly on gambling (state lotteries), they don't want that threatened. so lets throw harmless people in jail for a non-violent, victimless crime. Yes, america "home of the free" what a load of crap
  • Washington residents who play poker or make other types of wagers on the Internet will be committing a Class C felony, equivalent under the law to possessing child pornography, threatening the governor or torturing an animal.

    So, if you place a bet online (e.g., engage in commerce, benefiting the economy) you are as evil as purveyors of child porn?

    They should make buying lottery tickets a felony. Why the hell should the gubbament have a monopoly on gambling? Allow competition, or don't allow gambling at all
  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ ( 559379 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:27PM (#15439771) Journal
    Mandatory sunset date of one year. Not just this stupid law but also laws that your congress-vermin pass. One year, it's re-evaluated and then passed again or thrown away.
  • Isn't there something in the constitution about Cruel and unusual punishments.
  • Politician's Thought Processes:

    1. Gambling = Bad
    2. Supplier = Hard to Target
    3. Demander = People I see in gutter
    4. Action = Call immoral and punish the gutter people
    5. Result = Re-elected (Profit $$$)

    That's right folks it's an election year! Next up, child pornographers get life in prison, film at 11!
  • awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by austad ( 22163 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:36PM (#15439859) Homepage
    This is sweet. We definitely need to fill our prisons with more people that shouldn't be there.
  • Jackpot (Score:3, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:37PM (#15439869) Homepage Journal
    Jack Abramoff's main gig (as far as we know so far) was lobbying for "antigambling" laws to stop new casinos from competing with his casino clients. Also under the guise of "protecting gamblers from themselves", even enlisting the most popular Christian political organizers.

    Sounds like "antigambling legislation" is a bigger rigged game, a nest for money launderers, mobsters, bribers and bribees. We should protect our legislatures from themselves by keeping them out of the business. They're welcome to stay in the business of busting money launderers, mobsters, bribers/bribees and extortionists, and rehab for compulsive gamblers - but I doubt they'll be as interested in that losing game.
  • by xswl0931 ( 562013 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:40PM (#15439897)
    In Washington State, Indian reservations are building more and bigger casinos. Online gambling is considered a threat. They have successfully lobbied for this law. That's all there is to it.
  • This is pretty crazy. Washington has tons of casinos nearly everywhere (except Seattle, and the city limits of some other suburbs). That said it seems like they're trying to crack down on the competition. You can go to your local tribal or nontribal casino and blow your money, but don't you *dare* do it online.

    This is reminicient of the smoking ban just last year. I don't gamble or smoke, but I do believe in personal freedoms. Sadly, this place is slowly turning into a nanny state as the years go by.
  • This would get overturned if ever appealed to a sensible court. The interstate commerce clause gives Congress exclusive jurisdiction in regulating matters of interstate trade.
  • "Gambling Commission Director Rick Day and Prentice, who sponsored the legislation, said the law is necessary, partly to protect the gamblers themselves."

    Not sure getting 5 years for losing 100 bucks to an offshore fly-by-night operation will make me feel very protected.

    Just follow the money on this one. This guy's in charge of making sure the state gets their cut. This is EXACTLY like getting 5 years for buying merchandise out of state and not paying state sales taxes.
  • the head of the state Gambling Commission says it is unlikely that individual online gamblers will be targeted for arrest

    Then why have the stupid law in the first place? If you wonder why people disrespect the laws these days, it's because of crap like this. Who are they going to go after? Internet gambling cafes?

  • Torn (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TastyCakes ( 917232 )
    I'm a little torn on this issue. On the one hand, I would like to believe adults can make their own decisions and should be allowed to gamble their money away if they wish. On the other hand, I can understand why gambling is illegal in some places because people are simply too stupid or weak willed to recognize and kick a gambling addiction. This seems just as true for online gambling, and if anything I think the anonymity it affords makes it more insipid than "old fashioned" gambling. Part of me wants
  • by bill_kress ( 99356 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:50PM (#15439988)
    We have quite a few Indian casinos, and playing poker is legal in general. The online joints are probably taking revenues away from the state, so I'm not terribly surprised.

    Besides, with unregulated online casinos running in another country, why on earth would anyone A) implement a casino without the ability to skim (Which could be completely invisible to anyone without some serious probabilities analysis tools and a lot of time to sit playtesting) or B) want to play said unregulated online casino?
  • by AriaStar ( 964558 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:52PM (#15440002) Journal
    You can choose to smoke cigarettes around a newborn baby, even blowing smoke in its face, and it's completely legal, but to gamble your own money should be a crime? Because they can tax the cigarettes, but it's difficult to enforce taxes on online winnings. Without that tax money, how are they supposed to vote themselves more payraises? There is no logical reason for this. If you think about it, most laws are in place for no reason other than as reasons to fine us or tax us to death.

    The original purpose of laws at all was to impose a minimal number of laws to ensure the safety of lives and property of citizens. How does it ensure the safety of my life or property if I cross a suburban street anywhere other than a street corner if no cars are coming? I learned to look both ways. It's still a crime a cop could fine me for.

    What politician does it hurt if two guys want to go consensually behind closed and do whatever the hell they want to do with each other? Who does it hurt if I want to give a guy a blow job, or he wants to go down on me? Hell, we're adults, and yet these are still crimes in some states. Must we get permits?

    See why I like a lot (but not all) of the ideas behind anarchy? Get the government the hell out of our lives.
  • Wanna bet? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anne_Nonymous ( 313852 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:00PM (#15440063) Homepage Journal
    Five bucks says they'll never catch me.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:15PM (#15440172) Journal

    IMHO, the purpose of the criminal justice system is not to punish. Let that sink in. I don't want to punish criminals. It's stupid. It's vindictive. It's emotional and it isn't constructive.

    What SHOULD be the purpose of the justice system? One thing, and one thing only:

    To separate dangerous individuals from society, and keep them separated.

    Note, by "dangerous" I mean physicly harmful only. I don't mean, "they don't live like we think they should". I don't mean "they stole a lot of money". Yes. That's right. Thieves don't belong in jail unless they hurt people physicly. If the crime is monetary, there is an excellent argument for RESTITUTION in the form of fines and wage garnishment. There is no good argument for SEPARATION unless the guy waved a gun in somebody's face to get the money.

    I may not *like* the Enron criminals, but wouldn't mind living next door to them. These guys are not going to stick a gun in my face and BLOW MY HEAD OFF. They are (probably) not going to rape my children.

    Get it, government idiots?

    Some guy who plays online poker and smokes weed on the weekends does not belong in jail. If you want to tax the weed and the poker, fine but I am SICK AND TIRED of my government setting child rapists and armed thugs free so they can put functional members of society behind bars because of their particular notions regarding crime and punishment. Frankly, that kid of life sounds like enough punishment.

  • by melted ( 227442 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:24PM (#15440226) Homepage
    All that's needed to circumvent the law is for me to have a machine with SSH login in another state (or country). I then can do

    putty -D 8080 -ssh

    And set my browser to proxy requests through SOCKS proxy. No one ever will know what sites I'm contacting. Granted, most poker players are incapable of launching a free tool from the command line and obtaining a free shell account, but the smart ones will still play wherever the heck they want.
  • by Andy Somnifac ( 971725 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @08:09PM (#15440565)
    Although the head of the state Gambling Commission says it is unlikely that individual online gamblers will be targeted for arrest, the new law carries stiff penalties: as much as five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

    This one falls into two categories with one go...:

    • I don't think I need to even mention how ridiculous it is that playing poker online can land a greater prison sentence than child porn. In fact, I'm sure it's already been said, so there's no need to delve into that one.
    • Do we really need another law on the books that is either unenforced, or unenforceable? No wonder the rights of American citizens are eroding and no one seems to care. I'm willing to bet that many Americans see the laws that are being passed as nothing more that words that won't be enforced. Imagine how surprised they will be if (I can only hope that it is an 'if') they're wrong...
  • by Antony-Kyre ( 807195 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @08:26PM (#15440677)
    I'm not sure how they do it, since it's on gross receipts. Maybe it's the total difference of incoming money and outgoing money from a given individual casino concerning gambling. The B&O tax is a fixed rate, more or less. It tends to be either 1.5% or 1.6% of the gross receipts for gambling if you look at []

    This law doesn't bother me. Gambling via the Internet seems like a bad idea. You cannot check for someone's age, and plus there's no way to deal with people who have gambling problems.

    However, what does bother me about the law is the punishment. One, at most it should be a gross misdemeanor, not a felony. Two, they should go after any business which doesn't hold a disclaimer saying Washingtonians cannot gamble via their site. A fine equal to 110% of the winnings or amount gambled, whichever is greater, for the individual Washingtonian who gambled.

    How many have heard that Washington state is considering raising the gambling age from 18 to 21?
  • by tyrione ( 134248 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @09:28PM (#15440995) Homepage

    I don't even gamble but this stupid law makes me sad to be a resident of Washington State. Sometimes the greed in our State government knows no bounds. They weasel their way into raising our tab fees after we voted them down and they screw us on our road bills where they say roads will be paved with high grade concrete only to be stripped and replaced with asphault, guaranteeing more idiots working the roads and less efficiency in our state funds going to improve more infrastructures. Vote Libertarian and force these pukes to follow through and put the money where they proclaim it will be put and no more.

    Let the idiots who become addicted to gambling shrivel up in their own miseries for being weak. Re-privatized our Liquor stores that presently force everyone to drive to the reservations for reasonable prices. Good for the reservations and their exemptions but come on! Stop screwing your residents. Fix out power grids with a joint private venture so we are less susceptible to power outages and real jobs are created instead of the various strip mall retail service ilk.
  • by soft_guy ( 534437 ) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @12:35AM (#15441997)
    One thing I can think of is that in Washington (and other states) they regulate casinos in order to make sure the games are fair.

    How can the state make sure the online games are not rigged?

    Why is this not a problem that bothers online gamblers? If you gamble online, please reply and tell me how you know the virtual cards or virtual dice or virtual roulette wheel is not rigged. I am curious to know as I don't gamble at all.
  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @02:45AM (#15442561) Journal
    At the state his namesake state has fallen to.

    For the record, all day today KIRO was running a piece about how reprobates have been running an open air crack cocaine market across the street from the King County courthouse in Seattle (this state's largest city) for years, and even they (one of the largest radio stations in the state) couldn't get police to respond. Note to furriners: the sale and use of crack cocaine is prohibited in the US.

    I am curious about what offended our state representatives more... that their sponsors the tribal casinos weren't getting a cut or that the state wasn't getting a share. They're certainly pleased to pander to habitual gamblers with scratch tickets and lotto in every convenience store, gas station and grocery in the state. They get a cut of every bottle (or glass!) of alcohol. Certainly they make more bucks off of a pack of cigarettes than the farmer who grew the tobacco, or anybody else who touched it before it arrived at the consumer -- tax is > 50Pct.

    Certainly it wasn't the cops, who must use care now only to pull over offenders driving later model cars so as to not overburden the Justice Profit Center with an excess of violators who can't pay their fines.

    Yes, that's Washington - the state where you're safe from online gaming and you can't buy Sudafed because you might make meth with it, but you can sell meth, crack, heroin and Ecstasy with impunity in the Junior High School because there's no profit in arresting you. Click it or ticket. Fines are double in work zones. Thanx.

    It offends me that I live in the state that reelected Baghdad Jim sts [] after this piece ran.

    It would be more honest to put a menu on the state house: Calendar days: $50K, Minor issues: $500k. Major Issues: $4M. Public/Private partnerships like ballparks or public transit: Profit sharing whatever we can fleece the taxpayer for. No law too unenforceable, no cause to liberal. It's for our children, dammit! Won't anyone think of the children?

    Do I sound bitter? Yes. My son really deserves an "Alex recognition day" on the state calendar, but where am I gonna get $50K?

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