Confusion and Inconsistency in the State of Washington

by Lou on June 9, 2006

In 2004 the State of Washington’s Legislature enacted a law that made it legal to bet the horses online, on the condition that bets were placed with a state licensed wagering firm.

While online horseracing in Washington State has been basking in the sunshine for a few years now, a new state law took effect a just days ago that raised online poker from a misdemeanor to a felony. And while Washington State officials have been quoted as saying that they don’t plan to go after individual gamblers, a felony is still a felony, and it’s not something most people want on their record.

Do you see the inconsistency here? It is disingenuous at best to brand poker players with a felony, while those wagering on horses can do so with the full support of the state. Wagering is wagering, and if online poker is a danger, why is horseracing any different? And if betting the horses is benign, shouldn’t that be the case for online poker too?

The fact that most online poker rooms are located offshore is frequently raised by those seeking to legislate against online gaming. But it’s a straw man. Many internet cardrooms are well-capitalized, publicly traded companies in the United Kingdom, which has legislation in place to regulate and tax online gaming, while providing for the safety of the bettor.

Now that this legislation has gone into effect, no one in the Pacific Northwest seems willing to talk about it. Not even the legislation’s authors. State Senator Margarita Prentice, the legislation’s the main sponsor, has refused interviews. According to her staff, she “. . . doesn’t want to participate” in any interviews about online gambling, but wouldn’t say why.

If you press them, her staff will send you a copy of a letter the senator wrote to her constituents in which she explained the law and claimed that too many people are confused by the new regulations.

I’m amazed by her reaction. If I were a legislator, the last thing I’d want would be for constituents to be confused by legislation I authored. I’d hold press conferences and take every interview offered in order to explain my point of view to the voters. But Ms Prentice is taking another tack entirely, favoring a convoluted approach to what’s not really a problem at all, then clamming up anytime she’s asked to explain her legislation or defend her intentions.

Go figure.

I sure can’t.

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