Online gamblers in Washington will only face a $50 civil penalty if legislation proposed by Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, is approved. Currently, anyone caught gambling online faces up to $10,000 in fines and prison time.
The proposal would change the penalty for recreational Internet gambling from a class C felony to a class 3 civil infraction. However, the reduction in penalties would only apply if the person caught gambling were doing so in their primary residence, and only for “recreational purposes.”
House Bill 1824 is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Committee on Government Accountability & Oversight Feb. 19 at 1:30 p.m.
A bit of history:
The state’s crackdown on Internet gambling started the year after the 2004 poker boom. That was the year the aptly named accountant from Nashville, Chris Moneymaker, turned a $40 online poker tournament win into a $2.5 million payday at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
The online gambling boom that followed is often credited as “the Moneymaker effect.” People who might have never played a hand of poker in a casino flocked to the Internet to gamble in an unprecedented way. Accordingly, online poker sites took off in popularity. In response, the federal government and many states started looking for a way to crackdown on Internet gambling before it gained too big of a foothold.
By 2006, Washington State had passed an Internet gambling ban aimed at shutting down gambling sites and keeping people from gambling online. Many poker enthusiasts in the state, national organizations like the Poker Player’s Alliance, and some libertarian-minded activists, cried foul. The groups took the law to the Supreme Court, ultimately losing in 2010.