A number of Washington online gambling operators have been accused of breaking several Washington State laws. Four companies were faced with a series of lawsuits filed in the US District Court in Seattle in the past few weeks. They were accused of offering free-to-play casino games that are in violation of Washington State law. The games they offer include; blackjack, roulette, and slots.
The accused online gambling operators apparently used free virtual chips (which have no value) to attract players. However, players had to purchase chips when they ran out of the free ones. In this case, the chips actually have value but on their own, they do not represent any monetary value.
The Gambling Lawsuits
The lawsuits come just shortly after a federal appeals court ruled against a popular Casino and the argument is also similar. A lawsuit against the casino was filed by a player named Cheryl Kater. She claimed to have lost $1000 purchasing virtual chips despite the fact that the casino was supposed to be a free one. According to her, players were required to purchase virtual chips when they ran out of their free ones. Alternatively, they could wait for the game to end before they earned more free chips.
According to the state, gambling means staking anything that holds value upon the outcome of a contest or a future event that someone does not have any control over on the agreement that they will receive certain benefits in case of a certain outcome.
The state definition of gambling meant that the casino was indeed operating an illegal online gambling casino. In its defense, the casino argued that no player had to do anything. Purchasing virtual chips was a personal decision and that the casino offered hourly free chips to players. The decision by the federal appeals court has emboldened other players who may have been victims of online gambling casinos to file lawsuits in an attempt to recover their losses.
Many Washington residents prefer free-to-play games because they aren’t really considered as gambling since on-line gamers do not need to part with any deposits or money. However, the state government is starting to take a keener look at them. Many online gambling operators are operating against the law by placing some form of value to their chips. This backlash from the state government could have adverse effects on the online gaming industry which is pretty big business. Even though it is technically free, online gaming is a business worth millions of dollars. Some online gaming operators try to increase their profits by giving chips some value.
Online Gambling Legality in WA
Online gambling is illegal in Washington, with many strict regulations governing the practice. The law clearly prohibits all unregulated gambling activities. In fact, a law passed in 2011 specifically prohibits online gambling which is unlike most states which just generalize gambling. The only kind of sports betting allowed in Washington is a sports pool in land-based establishments and not online.
However, Washington legislators have had a really difficult time in their efforts to completely abolish online gambling. It is a bit of a gray area legally. The restrictive law applies to operators of online gambling and not to the players. This makes it legally possible for players to gamble on gambling websites that are not in Washington as long as they adhere to the legal requirements.
The legal age for gambling is 18 so it also applies to online gambling too. It is no surprise that many of Washington’s online gamblers look for sportsbooks, poker rooms and online casinos that will let them play. Even though a lot of them have withdrawn from the Washington market, some of them still allow Washington online gamblers to play.
Gambling in Washington can be a risky business. It is important for gamblers to know what is legal and what is not to avoid getting into trouble with the law. Washington State’s law is really harsh on gamblers. In fact, gambling is considered a class C felony, just like arson and possession of child pornography. However, the truth is that a lot of gamblers still choose to gamble on sites that will allow them anyway. Legally, residents of Washington should not shy away from online gambling sites that are not in Washington since there is no federal law that prohibits online gambling. They should just be sure to find online betting sites that are safe, legit, and outside of Washington.
Potential Benefits of Betting Legalization in WA
If Washington was to legalize betting, it would stand to get a lot of benefits both socially and economically. In 2007, the USA earned $92.27 billion from gaming activities alone. This shows just how much can be earned from it through taxation. Many people in the State of Washington enjoy online gambling and do it anyway on various sites. If the state legalized it, it would be able to get revenue from taxes.
Socially, it would provide an alternative form of entertainment. People could simply stay home and gamble or meet in social gatherings to gamble and discuss gambling activities. This would take away the notion that gambling is only for making money. It can be an exciting and entertaining activity even if a player is losing money.
As it is, many Washington residents log in to illegal gaming sites every single day. Legalizing online gambling would make the state able to regulate it better. This would make the market safer and make gambling a pleasant activity. It would also be a source of employment opportunities offering jobs as analysts, oddsmakers, and other related jobs. It would also increase the excitement of watching different leagues. If it is accompanied by close monitoring of sports, it could even help to reduce sports fixing.
Potential Problems Sports Betting Legalization Could Bring
On the flip side, legalizing sports betting could lead to unhealthy commercialization of sports. People may start to look at sports as more of a money opportunity than the game itself. It is also impossible to guarantee that legalizing gambling will stop people from gambling on illegal sites. Even in states where there are plenty of legal gambling sites, many people still choose the illegal ones. It also has adverse effects on players including gambling addiction, a buildup of debt, neglect of personal responsibilities, and income loss.
Online gambling, especially free-to-play games could be even more addictive than real-world gambling because it gives players a sense of having nothing to lose which may not always be the case. It could lead to an increase in social crimes as gamblers strive to recover lost money or pay debts accrued from gambling. Gambling is also seen as an unfair practice since the house always wins in the end.
In the future, Washington State may choose to maintain its hard stance on online gambling or join other states such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey in legalizing it. Whatever decision it takes will have some advantages and disadvantages.