Washington State Players Pursue Poker Liberalization

Players in Washington State aim to get poker on the ballot in 2014

Washington State poker player Curtis Woodard has announced the creation of two preliminary ballot initiatives to improve the legal landscape for players, including a proposed measure called the Washington State Internet Poker Act (WSIPA) of 2014.

Woodard and his fellow players have also proposed a second initiative, the Internet Poker Player Decriminalization Act (IPPDA) of 2014, which seeks to reverse a controversial 2006 Washington law which makes the playing of online poker a felony. Washington is the only US state with a felony statute on the books, targeting players. A recent WA legislative proposal attempting the same failed recently for lack of political support.

The language for both of the proposals, according to Woodard, is currently under review by the state’s Code Reviser’s office, with the initiative’s final language expected to be approved and resubmitted in April.

Woodard and his fellow Washington State players then hope to build up a groundswell of public support, leading to the securing of roughly 300,000 signatures and placement of the initiatives on the November, 2014 general election ballot.

According to Woodard, “If we are successful in getting enough signatures, the measure(s) go before the next legislative session. They can do one of three things. They can adopt the measure, in which case it will become law. Or they can take no action, in which case it will go to the ballot in Nov. ’14. Or, they can pass an alternative, in which case the voters will be given a choice between the two measures.”

“As we spend the year gathering signatures, we will also be meeting with legislators to gather support in advance. I will also be meeting with leaders of the big Tribal interests, as I am working hard to get their support,” Woodward assured. “It is my goal to have generated enough support so that even if we don’t meet our signature goal, the legislature will take up the issue anyway.”

The new initiative seeks to create an exemption for online poker by amending existing statutes and identifying poker as an allowed activity, charging the Washington State Gambling Commission with overseeing the licensing and regulation of operators, who must be physically present in the state.

The initiative would also legalize the playing of online poker by inserting the following language into the existing statutes: “The legislature further declares that the conducting of, and participation in, internet poker games, when conducted pursuant to the provisions of this chapter and any rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto, are hereby authorized.” Additional language amendments and a declaration that the measure supersedes previous laws regarding online poker are also specified.

The next step for Woodard will be the momentous task of recruiting volunteers and obtaining petitioners’ signatures. Woodard has announced a website to debut shortly at waipokernow.com, with a Twitter account already up at @OlympiaChange, as well as a Facebook presence.