Gambling Laws and Online Poker in Washington
2021 Update: Can I Play Online Poker in Washington?
Washington State still hasn’t passed legislation regarding online poker and it doesn’t seem likely soon. Despite being a very permissive state when it comes to cannabis regulation and others, there’s been strong pushback against online gaming. Part of this is due to the fact that the state has 29 tribal casinos across the state. These casinos have a strong say when it comes to gambling legislation in the state. That’s why, even though the state passed sports betting legislation, it only allowed for in-person sports betting.
Washington has had some pretty strict anti-gaming laws in the past and sports betting legislation was the first major step forward in a while. The bill, HB 2638, had a fairly easy path through congress. It passed the House with an 84-14 vote and it flew through the Senate with a 34-14 vote. Gov. Jay Inslee then signed the bill into law on March 25, 2020, right before the coronavirus pandemic halted things in Washington.
The bill only allows sports betting in the state’s tribal casinos. You still can’t place bets yet though. The casinos have yet to officially launch any licensed sports books. So it’ll still be some time before you can start sports betting in Washington.
Gambling Laws and Poker in Washington
Washington is a pretty strict state when it comes to gambling. While there are several card rooms and tribal casinos scattered throughout the state, the local government has always been reluctant to allow gaming. The Washington State Gambling Commission says that “gambling involves three elements: prize, chance and consideration (wager or anything of value).”
The state statute covers the definition in a bit more detail. It defines gambling as:
“Staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or future contingent event not under the person’s control or influence, upon an agreement that someone will receive something of value.”
This is a broad definition that goes beyond what most states have in their books. This one states “staking or risking something of value.” Lots of states define gambling as wagering with money, but Washington’s laws means that betting anything that could be considered valuable. Most states use the word “chance” in their definition and this gives poker some leeway since a federal judge ruled it to be a game of skill. But the addition of “future contingent event not under the person’s control or influence” broadens it a lot. That would definitely encompass poker since, no matter how hard we try or pray to the poker gods, the river is always out of our control.
Can I Play Poker on PokerStars in Washington?
Nope. If you’re in Washington, you can’t play on PokerStars. While there are plenty of live card rooms around the state, Washington has yet to regulate online poker and let PokerStars back in. PokerStars is back in the United States, but it’s only back in two of them. Those states are on the other side of the country. Only Pennsylvania and New Jersey have PokerStars at the moment. Each state has segregated player pools though. There’s no saying yet whether that pool will grow anytime soon.
But there are some sites that take players from the West Coast and all 50 states. These sites have large player pools, generous sign up bonuses and a solid selection of cash games and tournaments. This makes them great PokerStars alternatives for poker players in Washington. Our top recommendations include Bovada and Ignition Poker, but there are a few more that are good options. Check out our reviews below for more details on each site:
Legal Gambling in Washington
Despite having some pretty strict gambling laws, there are legal forms of gambling in Washington. You can even have slot machines, as long as they’re at least 25 years old and are free to play. There are some options beyond that.
Like most states, Washington allows charitable gaming and has a state lottery. The state lottery saw $736.7 million in revenue in 2017. $457.9 million of that went to players while $182.9 million went to state programs, mostly education.
The biggest form of gaming in Washington are tribal casinos though. The state has 27 tribal casinos operated by 21 different tribes. These casinos are supervised by the Washington State Gambling Commission. These casinos offer a full myriad of table games and poker rooms. They also have a lot of pull in the state. They’ve been actively lobbying against any online poker and online gaming in general.
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