View Full Version : WA State Residents Read - From KING 5 News - Legality Of Online Wagers

05-07-2004, 01:32 AM
For gamblers who frequent casinos and card rooms, the leap to online gambling sites seems like a natural move. But visiting those virtual casinos can cost gamblers more than they bet for.

Dean Hasegawa has been playing the card rooms since he was 17. He discovered online gambling about a month ago while cruising the local card rooms and watching TV.

“In card rooms like Diamond Lil’s they hand out free magazines that advertise these web sites,” says Hasegawa. “I was watching the Poker World Series on the Travel Channel and they had banners advertising for poker rooms online.”

Flipping though Cardplayer Magazine, gamblers can see advertisements for a number of online gambling sites – partypoker.com, paradisepoker.com, bugsysclub.com - all of them with the small print at the bottom of the page that reads:

Resource links
FAQ on Internet/online gambling in Washington state

U.S. loses WTO ruling in online gambling

The legalities of gambling online
Before playing in our real money games please check with your local jurisdiction regarding the legality of Internet gambling.

The legality of participating in online casinos varies from state to state. However, unknown to Hasegawa and many casual online gamers, placing a bet on online gambling sites is illegal in Washington state.

“It is all illegal,” said Rick Day, director of the Washington State Gambling Commission. “It is illegal to advertise and it is illegal to conduct that kind of gambling in the state of Washington.”

Operating an online casino is illegal in the U.S., but in a number of foreign countries, like the Dominican Republic and Antigua, online gambling is not only legal, it is a major source of revenue for the country, bringing in millions of dollars. Most Internet gambling sites operate from foreign shores; however, a ban by the U.S. makes it illegal for these operations to accept wagers from people in the U.S.

The U.S. policy on Internet gambling is currently at the center of an international free trade dispute involving Antigua and Barbuda, two islands in the Caribbean. Antigua filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) a year ago, complaining that the U.S. ban on Internet gambling has cost the country more than 4,000 jobs and $90 million in income. In April, the WTO ruled in favor of Antigua and Barbuda, which the Bush administration vowed to appeal.

The decision, however, has not hampered U.S. efforts to dampen the growth of Internet gambling. Last year, federal prosecutors started a grand jury investigation and issued subpoenas to American broadcasters, publishers and Web sites that ran ads for online casinos, threatening legal action. Both Google and Yahoo!, two of the most widely used Web search engines, announced in April the decision to eliminate online gambling ads.

While Washington State Gambling Commission officials say it’s illegal, agents most likely won’t be knocking on your door to find would-be perpetrators. But playing or running an online game site is a gamble. In some cases, online gamers could face first, second or third degree professional gambling felony charges, with a penalty of one to ten years in prison and as much as $20,000 in fines, depending on your level of involvement and the amount of money at stake.

The state gambling commission is mostly warning "player beware." Most online casinos require a credit card number to play, and there’s little guarantee that your information won’t be comprised. And since little is known about who orchestrates the online casinos, there’s nothing the state can do if you lose your money unfairly.

“They are transferring funds into a third party account from their bank account sometimes and then authorizing this enterprise to transfer money for a gambling organization,” said Day. “They have absolutely no idea who is on the other end of that game.”

If you play and win, and then don't get your money, don't come crying to state regulators.

“Obviously the commissions interest would not be in recovering the funds you lost,” said Day. “It would be focus on stopping the form of illegal gambling either by you or on the company's part.”

For Hasegawa, there’s no tears lost over lost wages on the Internet.

“It wouldn't hurt my feelings,” said Hasegawa. “I would just head back to the casino. It's not something I desperately need or want.”

There will be a form of legalized online gambling available soon to Washington state bettors. You'll be able to play the ponies from your home computer on a Web site licensed and regulated by the Washington State Horseracing Commission.