The recent Washington State Supreme Court rejection of an appeal of the state’s 2006 anti-gambling legislation is forcing poker players to contemplate leaving home in search of less intolerant climes. With first PokerStars and then Full Tilt announcing they would no longer accept cash players from Washington, players looking to get in on the action at the world’s two largest poker sites have some serious thinking to do. And with other pure poker sites finding their eCom systems under attack by different branches of government, poker fans across the US may find their options growing ever more limited.
Those lucky few Washington players with deeper pockets might consider setting up a second residence outside the state line, but the overwhelming majority of recreational players don’t have the readies to make that a reality. Adding insult to injury, the driving force behind the 2006 legislation, State Sen. Margarita Prentice, couldn’t be less sympathetic to their plight. As she told ESPN.com, she found the notion of someone leaving the state to play poker on Stars or Tilt “utter nonsense” and that she wasn’t going to devote any more time to thinking about it. “Let them go pump gas.”
While failing to note the similarity of that remark to Marie Antoinette’s fabled ‘let them eat cake’ quote that helped bring on the French Revolution, US Rep. Barney Frank nevertheless called Prentice’s words “appalling” and that it was in keeping with someone who feels they “have the right to dictate other people’s lives to them.” Poker Players Alliance chairman Alfonse D’Amato echoed Frank’s view, citing Prentice’s conviction that she knew what was best as “why people are angry” at government these days.
However, Washington native/poker pro Phil Gordon believes the 2006 law was never designed to legislate morality, but was passed to protect the state’s Indian casinos from having to compete with online sites. Lee Rousso, the poker player who brought the appeal to the Washington Supreme Court, also doesn’t see it as a morals issue. Rousso actually thinks the judges were on his side, but hesitated to strike down a ‘stupid’ law lest they be accused of legislating from the bench. Rousso has until Dec. 22 to decide whether to appeal to the US Supreme Court.
In the meantime, local pros like Gordon, Dan Martin and Matt Affleck may yet join the exodus led by Lee Watkinson, Brandon Cantu, Lee Markholt and others. As Martin observed: “This law has forced me to change my life… It’s almost like getting fired from your job.” Or, ahem, voted out of political office?