Washington poker players were disappointed this week to learn that the latest bill aiming to legalize and regulate online poker has died in committee. The announcement came from the bill’s sponsor, Washington State Representative Paul Harris on Thursday, February 21, 2013 that the bill is officially dead for the duration of the year. He added, however, that he has been assured the bill will get a second hearing come the next session of the state congress.
The House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee held a hearing on the bill that lasted nearly an hour before the decision was made to kill the bill for this year’s session due to too many questions raised during the hearing.
The new legislation would soften the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) to turn recreational at-home online poker from a felongy into merely a class 3 civil infraction, the penalty for which, according to Washington law, is a maximum fine of $50 and something called “statutory assessments”.
When asked why they should take the trouble of changing the current law if no one in the state has yet been arrested for playing online poker, Harris told the committee that his ultimate aim is to legalize online poker in the state but that he thought decriminalization was a reasonable first step to take toward that larger goal.
Harris, who made a statement in his hearing that online poker could generate for state as much as $400 million, is still optimistic about this bill’s passage.
The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) is watching the developments on this story closely.