PokerStars, the largest online poker room in the world, announced it will no longer provide real money games for citizens residing in Washington State. Citing a decision made by Washington’s Supreme Court, PokerStars announced their withdrawal on Thursday. Several online poker sites pulled out of Washington in 2006 when legislators decided placing a wager at online poker constituted a Class C felony. There is speculation that Full Tilt Poker, who came under fire recently for changes in their rakeback policy, will follow PokerStars out of Washington.
The decision by Washington Supreme Court to uphold the 2006 law is yet another blow against internet poker in the United States. Online poker and its legality have been dubious since the passage of the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006. The act was surreptitiously attached to the Safe Port Act which passed in the eleventh hour.
The road to legalizing internet gambling is further impeded by lobbyists representing brick and mortar casinos. Tom Malkasian, a representative of Commerce Casino, found himself in hot water after opposing federal legislation to license and regulate online poker. Malkasian feared high taxes levied against brick and mortar casinos would give internet gaming businesses the upper hand. He went on to say the proposed legislation encouraged casinos to shut down their physical venues, fire workers, and set up shop overseas to take advantage of tax laws.
Washington residents who play at Full Tilt Poker, the internet’s second largest poker room, wonder if they are next. A switch from Dealt Rakeback to Contributed Rakeback has left a sour taste in the mouths of Full Tilt grinders. The change in calculating rake has had an adverse effect on the rakeback check of tighter players. Broadway Tables, part of the Cake Poker Network, is one of the few US poker rooms still using the Dealt method.
The legalization of online poker is looming. A delicate balance must be struck between players, online operators, brick and mortar casinos, and the government before what once was a pipe dream, becomes reality.