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Despite the best efforts of a Renton attorney, playing online poker is still a felony in Washington state.

Though pros still find a way to

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Washington's Online Poker Players Remain Felons

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Despite the best efforts of a Renton attorney, playing online poker is still a felony in Washington state.

Though pros still find a way to make their lucre, Washington is one of a handful of states that expressly prohibits online gambling--and the only that goes so far as to make it a felony. (To repeat: Though you're unlikely to be prosecuted, you could do time in a state pen and lose your right to vote for playing a $5 hand of poker online.)

Enter Renton attorney Lee H. Rousso, a poker enthusiast who took issue with the law and, representing himself, argued that it infringed on Congress' regulation of insterstate commerce (per the Commerce Clause, an obscure, flexibly interpreted piece of the Constitution that the Supreme Court has ruled is broad enough to allow congress to ban medical marijuana but not broad enough to allow it to ban guns in schools.)

The trial court ruled against Rousso, as did the Division I Court of Appeals today. The state's interest in regulating gambling outweighs the burdens on interstate commerce, it said.

Rousso says he intends to appeal to the state Supreme Court. "Given the constitutional issues, I think there's a good chance they'll take a look at it." He's also looking to the federal government--particularly House Finance Committee chair Barney Frank--to ease restrictions on online poker. Frank has long been an outspoken opponent of the UIGEA, the federal law prohibiting internet companies from accepting bank payments for gambling.

"Under the Bush Administration, there wasn't a lot he could do," says Rousso. But poker aficionados believe Obama will be more receptive. "Barack Obama is a poker player. He's made statements that we think are favorable towards internet poker. My understanding is that Barney Frank is going to introduce a bill this month to repeal the UIGEA."

Until then, local poker pros and dabblers can pin their hopes on Rousso's appeal, hit the casinos, knock on wood, and, if they're feeling salty, boast of their outlaw ways.

 
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