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Poker On Trial in Washington State
5/28/10 - If nothing else, lawyer and poker player Lee Rousso will have achieved major mainstream media publicity for his fight against Washington State’s draconian law against online poker in the Washington State Supreme Court Thursday.
Rousso resurrected the Betcha.com case as an example of the law’s inequitable and sweeping nature in the appeal case of Rousso v. Washington State, supported by a small but vociferous demonstration outside the court by Poker Players Alliance members.
Rousso will probably have to wait for months for a decision on the case as he attempts to strike down the state’s harsh law against online poker.
Washington law allows people to go to land casinos to play poker, but won’t let them play it online in their homes on pain of serious Class C felony punishment. It’s a way of protecting local [land] gambling operations to the detriment of out-of-state and out-of-country gambling operations, and that’s a violation of the interstate commerce laws, Rousso contended.
Washington state lawyers argued that by state law poker is illegal unless it’s played in a state-regulated facility, and there’s no way Washington can regulate Internet gambling sites operating from such places as the Isle of Man and other offshore jurisdictions.
Assistant attorney general Gerry Ackerman at one point said: “Internet gambling is the crack cocaine of gambling,” having clearly picked up on one of politician Spencer Bachus’s much-used exaggerations.
The chairman of the Poker Players Alliance, former Senator Alfonse D'Amato, released the following statement at the conclusion of oral arguments presented before the State Supreme Court:
"The PPA is pleased that the Washington State Supreme Court agreed to hear this case, and today's arguments have provided the court compelling reasons to reverse this ridiculous law.
“Washington is the only state in America that makes its citizens felons for enjoying a game of poker - even penny ante games - on their own computers in their own homes. This law is not about the legislature protecting the state's citizens, but rather it is about protecting special interests and tribal casinos from competition.
“In fact, a recent poll of Washington voters found that almost 80 percent of voters oppose this law. The court of public opinion has spoken and now the state Supreme Court must strike down this unconstitutional and invasive law.
"I was amazed by the turnout of poker players who joined us this morning on the steps of the Supreme Court to support Mr. Rousso's case. These Washington poker enthusiasts are doctors, lawyers, auto mechanics and school teachers, not hardened felons. The Poker Players Alliance is grateful that the local poker community is so dedicated, and I hope local lawmakers know that these voters care deeply about their freedoms.
"The PPA looks forward to working with Washington's state and federal lawmakers, regardless of outcome in this case, to establish effective licensing and regulation of online poker as opposed to criminalizing citizens for playing the game."
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