Is Gambling Legal in Washington?
This State is home to a wide selection of brick and mortar gambling establishments ranging from tribal casinos to poker rooms and racetracks. However, despite its relatively developed land-based gambling scene, Washington is one of, if not the most anti-gambling state in regards to online gambling. We’ll talk more about this further down in the online gambling section.
Washington Gambling Laws
According to the State’s laws, “gambling” is defined as:
“ means staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under the person’s control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that the person or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome. ” (From RCW 9.46.0225)
As for the law that directly addresses online gambling, it says:
“Whoever knowingly transmits or receives gambling information by telephone, telegraph, radio, semaphore, the internet, a telecommunications transmission system, or similar means, or knowingly installs or maintains equipment for the transmission or receipt of gambling information shall be guilty of a class C felony…“ (From RCW 9.46.240)
This anti-online gambling act was enacted in 2006, and unlike most loosely worded laws relating to online gambling, this one is very specific in that it targets both the players and operators.
Options for Gambling in Washington
Casino Gaming: There are more than 100 casinos throughout the this state. Most of these are found on the tribal lands. There are some class II casinos, with the majority being class III, offering Las Vegas-like games.
Live Poker: There are many places you can play poker, including at the casinos, card rooms, and also home games, as long as no one is profiting from the games via rake or fees.
Pari-mutuel Betting: This applies to both live and off-track betting on horse racing.
State Lottery: Residents can buy tickets for the state-run Lottery, whose main beneficiaries are schools and government programs. Note, tickets cannot be purchased online.
Charitable Games: Bingo and raffles can be played as long as they are individually licensed.
Social Games: These are legal as long as there is no entrance fee and no rake is collected by the organiser.
Online Gambling in Washington
As we had already touched on earlier, Washington is the most anti-gambling state when it comes to online gambling, which is explicitly illegal, carrying a felony charge with up-to 5 year prison sentence. As strict as the anti-online gambling law is, and also as harsh as the punishment is, no one in the history of Washington gambling has been arrested for online gambling. The laws are in place to discourage people from doing so, but the likelihood of no one having done so is none. Someone somewhere is bound to be gambling online within the state borders of Washington.
Online Poker in Washington
Online poker is just as illegal as any other form of online gambling. If you’re in Washington, it’s probably best to stick to land based poker games.
The Future of Online Poker in Washington
Based on what we’ve seen so far, in terms of the length they have gone to explicitly outlaw online gambling, it’s unlikely this will happen. However, laws and regulations are forever changing, and that is especially true in the case of Washington. It all depends what other states do, and then Washington may choose to follow.