It’s a sad day for online poker players in Washington State. Just a few weeks after PokerStars stopped providing real money games to players in the state, Full Tilt Poker followed suit. The news has been met with outage across the industry’s largest online poker forums, as players in Washington State have now lost access to the two largest sites in the business.
Text found on Full Tilt Poker’s website broke the news to players on Friday morning: “Due to recent legal developments, Full Tilt Poker has announced it will no longer provide real money games to players located within Washington State.” Real money play from in-state or out-of-state residents is prohibited as long as a person is within the borders of Washington State. However, play money games and freerolls will remain open.
Players who now find themselves without access to Full Tilt are encouraged to un-register for all real money tournaments, cash out if they so choose, and e-mail [email protected] with any questions. The Full Tilt Poker Store and Black Card Store will remain open to Washington State residents, although players will be unable to purchase cash bonuses and tournament tickets.
One poster on the popular online poker forum PocketFives.com asserted, “Wow, this is getting ugly. I feel for all you WA State players, horrible turn of events… But, as ‘Quartersack’ said, we online players need to fight and muscle our way through all of this legislation BS that’s taking away from our online poker playing privileges and be more proactive. Best of luck to all WA State poker playing residents as they try to persevere through this.” Sites like UB.com, Carbon Poker, and Bodog appear to remain open to real money players from Washington State.
If this is the first time you’ve heard about Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars blocking Washington State residents’ access to cash games and real money tournaments, we’ll give you the background. In 2006, just prior to the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), a law was approved in Washington making playing online poker a Class C felony. Then, Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Washington State Director Lee Rousso sued, arguing that the statute violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
The PPA filed an amicus brief on behalf of Rousso, who argued in front of the Washington State Supreme Court in May. While the PPA’s State Director was busy discussing his constitutional challenge, the PPA staged a rally on the courthouse steps. In September, the state Supreme Court determined that because the harsh statute discriminates against in-state and out-of-state internet gambling companies equally, it does not violate the Constitution. Rousso plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
PokerStars pulled out of the Northwest state shortly thereafter and Full Tilt Poker followed suit on Friday. PPA Board Member Rich Muny posted on TwoPlusTwo, “Laws do have consequences. I don’t know how PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker could be expected to break WA laws outright, especially as the DoJ has parked itself in WA to conduct investigations and seize funds.” Over a half-million dollars in payment processor funds was seized two weeks ago, potentially accelerating Full Tilt’s decision to act.
It’s ironic that Washington State has one of the toughest laws in the country, as one of its Congressmen, Jim McDermott, introduced HR 4976, a tax bill related to the legalization and regulation of the internet gambling industry on a national scale. McDermott’s bill, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act, has four co-sponsors.
If you’re located in Washington State and have any questions, be sure to visit Full Tilt. Stay tuned to MacPoker.com for the latest poker legislation news.