(Let's get this out of the way first: Yes, poker is not a sport; it's a game. You sit on your butt and play cards. But I'm filing it under Sports and Humor, anyway. So nerts to any of you wise-asses in advance.)
The great misguided state of Washington recently passed a, er, law that effectively bans online poker and gambling in the state effective June 7.
The bill, first introduced into the Senate by State Democrat Magarita Prentice, sailed through the House of Representatives (93-5) and then went to the Senate. That's when the fun started.
The bill was passed 44-0, but with a little amendment that makes playing online poker and other forms of online gambling a Class C felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years. Yes, the same legal level for sexual predators.
But before you perverts muck your cards, consider this: The state has yet to set up any sort of regulatory agency to monitor play, let alone enforce it. The thought is that in the future the state might use credit card and bank statements and possibly ISPs to monitor play, and that should rightly raise the hackles of privacy rights advocates like the ACLU. Moreover, the punishment laughably doesn't fit the crime. Goodness knows we card players are a dangerous lot that should be separated from the rest of society, but 10 years? Now that's a "bad beat".
So is this just another dumb unenforceable law, like banning the sale of TVs on Sundays (an actual law in Spokane, WA)? Probably. Then why do it? Well, Prenctice, like many other politicians here in Washington, has close ties to the Indian tribes and their casino operations (WA state has some 65 Indian-run casinos). So likely there was pressure from the tribes who've long (and wrongly) argued that online gambling adversely affects their brick and mortar casino business. If anything, online gambling, particularly with the boom in poker, has increased their B&M business.
Yet the overwhelming passage of the law also suggests two other things. One, that there was the "moral" issue of gambling involved. Online gambling is no doubt a huge business, and not just among adults. Underage gambling is very much a problem, and something I'm strongly against. But that's not the state's problem; it's a private parental problem. And if parents are forking over their credit cards to their kids--the only way you can get online and play--then it's up to the parents, not the state, to monitor their children.
Second, the state could be testing the waters to see how a possible online gambling tax might go over; something to which I'm not entirely opposed. But again, enforcing and collecting the tax would raise some serious privacy issues.
In the end, this is likely just another dumb law passed by dumb lawmakers in an effort to appease some dumb people in an ever increasingly dumb state. (It really makes me wish that some of dumb lawmakers played poker, I might get some of money back then.)
Final thought: With all the hyperventilating over NSA wiretaps and data mining, you'd think this would raise a few more eyebrows, especially with privacy groups like the ACLU. But not a peep. At least not until the first arrest made and lawsuit is filed. Ironically enough the passage of this law and it's possible enforcement wasn't even covered by Seattle Times or Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
In the meantime, here's to live cards, big pots. I say go all in and play.