Washington taken to court over Internet gambling ban

An American attorney is taking legal action against the western state of Washington claiming that its online wagering ban infringes the US Constitution’s protections of interstate trade.

Lawyer and poker aficionado Lee Rousso has filed suit in King County Superior Court in an effort to overturn the State’s ban on Internet gambling, a topic that also has the US mired in international trade disputes. “I think my chances are darn good,” said Rousso.

The State ban was passed by lawmakers with much support and went into effect in June of 2006. It extended an earlier embargo on gambling by telephones or telegraphs and increased the crime from a gross misdemeanour to a felony.

No one has yet been prosecuted under the ban but Rousso’s Seattle-based lawsuit argues that the law unfairly protects the in-State gambling industry, including card rooms and casinos. He stated that if unsuccessful, he would push for another change in State law to make Internet poker legal again. “Our backup plan is to get this done politically,” Rousso said.

Internet gambling also is prohibited under Federal law and this has sparked international trade squabbles with nations housing online gambling operations. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed in October and prohibits American banks and credit card companies from processing payments to online gambling businesses outside the country.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) subsequently ruled in December that UIGEA unfairly targets offshore casinos and told US officials that America could keep restrictions against sport betting in place if these were also applied to American businesses, such as operators of remote horse betting.