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Playing Online Poker in the State of Washington

Washington State
Washington State Flag

Washington is a very interesting state when it comes to talking about online poker.  While they have laws on the books that can make playing poker up to a class C felony, the state has NEVER enforced this law. Thus no one has ever been prosecuted, arrested, or indicted for playing online poker. We should also note that it is not just WA state, but no state, territory, or commonwealth of the United States has ever arrested, indicted, or prosecuted a citizen for online gambling. 

It is commonly thought among those in the legal community that the reason this hasn't been done, besides there being no political will to go after private citizens for gambling in their living rooms, is that the law would not stand up to scrutiny in a court of law and would be subsequently struck down. Online poker is legal on a Federal level as well. The US Department of Justice reversed its stance on The Wire Act of 1961 in late 2012, and poker is no longer considered covered by this law. That was a strange, but welcome decision, considering that The Wire Act was the basis for the cases brought forth on the infamous Black Friday of 2011 in which PokerStars was removed from American Markets.

Furthermore, the World Trade Organization, an entity created and controled by the United States and tasked to deal with matters of International trade, has ruled that offshore poker sites can freely offer poker games to American citizens. Considering all of this, when we suggest sites to play on from inside of the borders of the state of Washington, we do so with mild caution but also optimism that everything will be fine because there has never been an issue in the past. The laws appear to be in place to keep online gambling operators from creating their company nexus within the United States, probably to shield the powerful US casino corporations and lobbying groups from competition, not to chastise and harm law-abiding citizens.

Ultimately, if you were to ask, "Can I play online poker in Washington state?" our answer would be "yes."  Out of extreme cautiousness, a couple of sites have decided to not offer their services to those within Washington, but plenty of sites still have games that players can take advantage of.  These games have great value, and since some of them are at smaller sites, the player base is a bit worse than normal (equating to warm, buttery-soft games).  Also, some of the sites that do service Washington have a sportsbook and/or casino attached to them, which can be rather fortuitous for poker players looking for extra action games. Below are our suggested sites to play online poker on from The Evergreen State!

 

What Online Poker Sites Can I Play in Washington?

While you do have only a small list of poker rooms to register for due to the harsh legal climate in the The Evergreen State, it wouldn't do to just sign up at the first one you stumble across. We've done the work of evaluating all of the sites that serve WA, and we've presented them below so that you won't have to take any risks with sites you don't trust. All of the organizations on our list are honest, dependable, and focused on creating an excellent playing experience. They're also renowned for their short payout waiting times, so if you happen to win a lot of money, you'll have it in your hands before you know it.

 

    Ignition Poker

Reasons to Play at Ignition

Ignition Poker, which is part of the PaiWangLuo Poker Network, is a great option for players from Washington.  New players can take advantage of a generous deposit bonus of up to $2,000 ($1,000 max for poker, $1,000 max for casino).  These deposit bonuses clear at the fastest rate of any US friendly poker site. Small depositors will note that their bonus clears at rates approaching an astounding 100% rakeback equivalent. For the high- rollers taking advantage of the full $1,000 bonus, it will clear at a 30% effective rate.

 Ignition Poker Play Now CTA

Ignition has some very easy tournaments and cash games, and boy do they have a lot of them. According to Pokerscout.com this poker room has the highest traffic for cash games of any site open to Americans. No Limit Texas Hold'em and Pot Limit Omaha (from $0.02/$0.05 - $10/$20) is where most of the action is at, but there's also some PLO/8, LHE, and LO8 fun to be had. Zone Poker represents a format of poker that you won't be able to play anywhere else. It allows you to fold your hand and be brought to a new table with new cards instantly, so the pace of the game is very rapid.

As part of its “recreational player model” philosophy, Ignition hides everyone's screennames while they're playing, so you'll see others at your tables displayed as "Player 1." Player 2," etc. This means that there's a fair environment for all participants because nobody can track your stats or analyze your play over the long term. Not coincidentally, this site has the easiest games of any U.S.-friendly poker operator that we've encountered in our research.

If tournaments are more your speed, then you'll see single-table contests up to $200 + $15, including Double-Up and Triple-Up SNGs. Moving over to the multi-table tourney lobby, the most interesting element is probably the $150 + $12 Sunday $100,000 Guaranteed. Besides this featured tournament, you'll also find many competitions throughout the week denominated at a range of prices, so you can play whether you want to just risk a few bucks or hundreds of them. Be on the lookout for the recurring tournament series, such as the Summer Millions Poker Open, which typically contain dozens of events and have prize pools that reach into seven figures!

Ignition Banner Link - Professional Rakeback

If you would like to start playing Ignition Poker from the comfort of your own home then you can click the banner above to get the best deposit bonus offer available! You can also look through our comprehensive Ignition Casino Poker review to get more information first.

 

        Chico Network

Chico Network's Advantages image

Chico Poker Network, which Sportsbetting.ag calls home, has seen a fairly meteoric rise in its traffic over the past couple of years. Once considered little more than an also-ran in the internet poker industry, it's now the third-largest U.S. poker room by player traffic volume. Upon becoming a customer of SB.ag, you'll be the recipient of a 100% up to $2,500 deposit bonus, which clears at a rate equal to 33% rakeback.

Chico Poker Play Now Banner

The Chico Network is a pretty decent place to dip your toe into the online waters because they spread games as low as $0.01/$0.02. Yet, if you should prove skilled enough to work your way up the ranks, you'll be able to take a seat at games as high as $5/$10. Heading to the sit-n-go lobby, we see that there are SNGs running between $0.05 and $525. All but the highest sit-and-goes offered tend to start fairly regularly. The largest weekly MTT is the $90 + $9 Main Event, which awards at least $50,000 to the winners, and this event is super-sized on the final Sunday of each month to $100 + $9 and $100,000 guaranteed.

Mac and PC users are equally welcome here becuase there are downloadable executibles for both types of computer. In addition, you can access the games from your mobile system via an app, which is compatible with both iOS and Android phones and tablets. Mobile interfaces vary wildly in quality across the online gambling industry, and this one is among the most useful we've seen yet.

If a welcome bonus isn't enough for you, then don't despair because there are many other ways to pad your account balance with the house's money. There are weekly leaderboards for ring games, sit n' gos, and multi-table tournaments that distribute $20,000 in total. Furthermore, the comp points you earn through normal play are valued at 5% back to you in the form of tourney entries. There are plenty more rewards that await you if you should wish to try out the sportsbook, casino, racebook, and the other parts of the Sportsbetting.ag gambling product suite.

ProfRB's SB.ag cta

If you think that Sportsbetting.ag is what you have been looking for in a comprehensive gambling site, then select the banner above to create your account today. We've prepared an in-depth Sportsbetting.ag review page in case you wish to find out more about this poker provider. You can also check out SBAG's sister site, BetOnline, with our meticulous BoL review.

 

        Grand Network

Grand/5Dimes positive features image

Grand Poker Network may be a new poker room, but their parent company has been around for a very long time.  5Dimes Group is one of the most trusted names in sports betting, and as such, their new poker room should be trusted without the fear that may come with newer, unproven sites. While the room is still growing, 50%+ rakeback and soft games are the hallmark of the room and it is a great opportunity for players to take advantage of. Developers have their eyes on cross-platform functionality here, so you can access the 5Dimes poker platform from a Mac, PC, web browser, or mobile device.

You'll also have access to the world-renowned sports book on 5Dimes. 5Dimes makes it exceptionally easy to move money from your poker account to sportsbook or casino depending on what you want most and where you feel your greatest edge is. You will still have access to the bitcoin deposits and withdrawals offered through Grand Poker network, so this means some of the quickest and easiest funding of accounts can be yours exceptionally easily, as outlined in our awesome guide on how to setup these deposits and withdrawals. Grand Poker Network offers one of the premiere sportsbooks and casinos available to US-based players.

Something especially advantageous about 5Dimes is its no-fee tournaments every day. They're not exactly the biggest or most prestigious events; in fact, none of them have buyins above $5.50. Nevertheless, they're a practical way to build a bankroll for a minimal investment because you won't suffer the continual drag on your profitability that regular tourney fees represent. Additionally, there's a $500 freeroll every Sunday with a small field.

5Dimes Banner cta

To become a member at 5Dimes and get access to their casino, sportbook and poker clients, follow the link provided above. Or read our extensive overview of the Grand Poker Network and familiarize yourself with what it has to offer.

 

Nitrogen Poker

Nitrogen Sports has earned a name as one of the leading Bitcoin-only bookmakers currently operating. It has deployed a poker room to round out its product selection, and so you can bet, call, and raise using this coveted digital cryptocurrency. The way it works is that all gameplay uses chips of 0.001 BTC each, so 1,000 of them are equal to 1 bitcoin. This web-based poker locale lets you play from a desktop, phone, tablet, or really any device.

There isn't really terribly much action here, and the games that do run tend to be at microstakes. On the plus side, there's a generous rewards program, called Nitro, that will issue you with free chips and sports bets when you exchange your points. On top of this, there are daily and weekly freerolls that you can gain entry for by playing a certain number of hands within a specified timeframe. Top it all off with blazing-fast withdrawals (under two hours in some cases), and you have a poker room that doesn't mess around in terms of treating its customers right.

Nitrogen sports Play Now!

Try out the loose games at Nitrogen by clicking above on our banner. We've compiled a lot more data about this BTC-only poker site in a review of the Nitrogen Poker games and Nitro rewards system.

 

SwCPoker

SWC's positive attributes image

The old Seals With Clubs (original Bitcoin poker site) has shut down, but SwCPoker appeared to replace it, and it's run by some of the same people. Each SwC chip is the equivalent of 1/1000 of a bitcoin, and you can move your BTC onto and off of the poker room with amazing speed.

SwC is undoubedly the online poker site open to Americans that has the widest variety of game types. NLHE and PLO are present, just as you'd expect, but so are Stud, Omaha/8, Limit Holdem and even mixed games, like HORSE and 8-Game. It can be tough to get tables running, but if you sit at an empty game, it probably won't be too long before someone else joins you. There are plenty of freeroll and value-added tournaments, and the Krill rakeback program refunds you a portion of your rake back based upon your lifetime account history. To incentivize shorthanded play, there's a special 50% table starter RB deal that's automatically applied to all your two- and three-handed play.

SWC Poker play now CTA

If you're searching for something different in the poker world, then click on our SwC link above to go to this site. You might want to increase your knowledge first by perusing our SwCPoker thorough review page.

 


 

Poker Site Selection Assistance

When trying to decide where to play, many elements merit your close attention: size, the presence of the games you like, promotional deals, etc. All the rooms aren't identical in these respects, and they each do things a bit differently from their competitors, so you'll have to think carefully before committing to any single site. We can't make this decision for you, but we can help you out with a few general bits of advice.

◈ If you want to play where there's the most traffic, then it's Ignition hands down.


◈ If bonus value is your primary consideration, the Chico Network and its $2,500 match should leave you happy.


◈ If it's rakeback you're after, then signing up at 5Dimes will hook you up with a 50% deal.


◈ If frequent cash back to your account appeals to you, then Nitrogen's Nitro levels ought to be just what you're looking for.


◈ If playing from your mobile platform works best for you, then check out Chico, Ignition, and 5Dimes.


◈ If you're tired of Texas Hold'em all day, every day, then it's worth your while to glace at the multi-game lobby at SwC.

 

Payout Report

Cash Money

Players can expect no real difference in the payout times from Washington than the rest of the states chronicled in our report.  Winning Poker Network, Grand Poker Network and Chico Poker Network all have Bitcoin withdrawal options that make payouts exceptionally fast, and Nitrogen and SwC conduct all banking in this virtual currency. Other methods are also rather fast but do take longer than the bitcoin option, hence our rather strong recommendation that you utilize crypto-currency. This may be easier for some players as there is less middle-man work when dealing in BTC.  No matter your choice, these sites provide hassle-free and safe options for payouts.

 

Quick Facts about Washington Online Poker and Gambling Laws

 

Individual Online Gamblers

Man Pushing Ball

This is one of the more frustrating sections to write for any of the states because Washington has, at least legislatively, gone after poker players. Before we go any further though, it is very important to note that these poker-unfriendly actions have only been legislative in nature, and no player has actually been charged with playing online poker. So having issued that preamble, remember that Washington has made it a felony to play online poker within the state borders.

First things first, lets find out how the state defines gambling. This we can discover by reading RWC 9.46.0237:

"Gambling."
"Gambling," as used in this chapter, 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.

 

Now, this raises the question as to whether or not poker is properly considered a “game of chance“ as stipulated in the above statute or whether it's more accurate to say that it's a game of skill. This is a distinction that's decided one way or the other in varying manners by different states and other jurisdictions across the country. Unfortunately, RWC 9.46.0225 explains that any game in which the result “depends in a material degree upon an element of chance” is treated as a game of chance even if the particpants' level of skill is also a significant factor. This means that undoubtedly, poker is a game of chance in the eyes of Washington State. The text on gambling goes on to list several exceptions, including fishing derbies, authorized parimutuel betting and handicapping contests, and legitimate business transactions, but poker isn't exempted from being considered gambling.

With those preliminaries covered, we get to the heart of the prohibition on real-money online gaming and the criminalization of the pastime. The relevent section of the law is RCW 9.46.240:

Gambling information, transmitting or receiving.
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 subject to the penalty set forth in RCW 9A.20.021. However, this section shall not apply to such information transmitted or received or equipment installed or maintained relating to activities authorized by this chapter or to any act or acts in furtherance thereof when conducted in compliance with the provisions of this chapter and in accordance with the rules adopted under this chapter.

 

While it is of course a rather low-class felony, it is still a felony and is one of the most aggressive actions any state has taken against players themselves. No player has ever been charged, much less prosecuted, for playing online poker in Washington or anywhere else in the USA. Indeed, the Washington State Gambling Commission informs us that “Enforcement is focused on larger, higher level Internet gambling activities, such as gambling sites and service providers." However, the commission does go on to warn, “... players gambling on the Internet also run the risk of prosecution."

This law has drawn the ire of poker players who have attempted to have it overturned but without success. A case challenging the law even went all the way to the state's Supreme Court (Rousso v. State) in 2009, but that body upheld the validity of the legislation.

Interestingly, but perhaps not all together surprisingly, players from Washington don’t have to worry about home games getting invaded as long as what is happening can be proven as social gambling. This generally means that the house can’t be taking a cut of the action, but this is a rather generous law in regard to home games that many states don’t actually have. Overall Washington has a much friendlier view of live gambling than most states, and this sits in stark contrast to where WA sits with regard to online poker.

 

Online Poker Operators

Magnifying Glass

Operators in Washington are subject to many of the same laws that you would find in other states. Operators are not allowed to run an illegal gambling business within the state or provide services to those in the state. The definition for illegal gambling is fairly general in nature and covers most of the normal types of gambling and activities that players are used to. Corporations are given a fair number of loopholes though to provide gambling to those in the state of Washington at least when it comes to live games. We will discuss in more detail what kinds of live games are legal in the state of Washington.

Like we've discussed above, the penalties affecting individual players are mostly theoretical in nature and haven't ever been used in practice, but this isn't true on the operator side of the fence. In 2008, agents seized money and computers belonging to EZPay Financial Services, a payment processor located in Chehalis, Washington, that was affiliated with Sportsbook.com. In 2017, the former head of the company was even detained in Nicaragua and transfered to Florida to answer charges of illegal gambling. Video game maker Valve has been accused by the state of being involved in gambling because people were using its Steam open API platform for risking loot from the hit game “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive," also produced by Valve, on games of chance.

 

How do Offshore Gambling Sites view Washington?

Binoculars

When we consider how diligent Washington has been in pursuing entities that it believes are facilitating online gambling, it's no wonder that many of the leading poker firms have avoided serving Washingtonians. In addition to concerns about their own assets being seized and their personnel being subject to criminal prosecution, there's also the players to worry about. If any players suffer legal repercussions from partaking in the games, it would be a public relations disaster. There are still a few great sites available to players in the state of Washington though, and players will not want for a good game if they desire to play.

 

History of Gambling in Washington

Hourglass

Early ownership of the area now known as Washington involved the Spanish, British, Russian, and American governments. Perhaps these overlapping and conflicting claims contributed to keeping settlements small and sporadic for many centuries. Spain gave up its claims in 1819 as did Russia in 1825. In 1846, Britain and the United States achieved a resolution to long-simmering border issues between Canada and the U.S.A., paving the way for the Washington Territory to be created in 1853.

David Swinson "Doc" Maynard
"Doc" Maynard
Founder of Seattle

Unlike in many western areas, the chief industry in these early days wasn't mining or ranching but rather logging. The workers in this trade, though, like their counterparts elsewhere, enjoyed taking calculated risks at the gaming tables. No less a worthy than David Swinson "Doc" Maynard, one of the founders of Seattle, approved of this habit – he held the then-unusual view that gambling (along with prostitution and liquor) were essential for the proper functioning of a frontier town. As Seattle grew as a city, and a port city at that, it developed a certain reputation as a place where “anything goes,” and there were plenty of gambling saloons to serve the needs of residents and visitors alike.

By the time Washington became the 42nd state in 1889, the authorities had had enough of this, and all types of wagering with real money were banned. Illicit bookmaking on horse races continued, leading the state to prohibit the racing of horses within Washington altogether. However, this must have been a much-demanded entertainment; for pari-mutuel racetrack betting was legalized in 1933. A few years later, slot machine gaming became OK for charitable groups, but the Washington Supreme Court struck down this provision in 1952.

Despite these decisions, all the evidence points to the fact that underground gambling was taking place on a massive scale. A 1971 raid arrested more than 50 people, including officers of the law and a former prosecutor, for accepting kickbacks from illegal gambling operators. In brighter news, bingo and raffles were allowed for the first time that same year, and in the following year, the state constitution was changed to remove the blanket prohibition on gambling. In 1973, the Washington State Gambling Commission was formed to oversee all authorized gaming activities.

Since then, more and more permitted types of games have been continuously added, such as fundraising “Reno Nights” in 1974 and the Washington Lottery in 1982. An abortive attempt at tribal gambling appeared in 1976 when the Puyallup Tribe opened up a casino, but it was shut down by the federal government a couple of years later. Fully legal tribal casinos began to appear in the early '90s and non-tribal, commercial card rooms in 1997. The law prohibiting online betting was enacted in 2006.

 

Regulation Chances for Online Poker

Book and Glasses

Washington should be very high on the list of states that would regulate online poker considering its stance on other controversial areas. The state is one of just a handful to have legalized pot use, even for non-medical purposes, and so the base for a more liberal acceptance of activities is definitely there. There have been attempts to decriminalize online poker for individuals playing in their own homes, and sporadic bills to establish a legalized regulatory framework for the game have popped up pretty regularly in the legislature. However, nothing was actually passed on either of the two fronts. HB1114, “Authorizing and regulating internet poker” was introduced in both the 2015 and 2016 sessions of the Washington State House of Representatives, but it failed to garner any traction. The fact that there is such a liberal base to draw from might make this state more likely to regulate online poker as opposed to many other states.

 

Land Based Gambling

Muckleshoot Casino Logo

If you want land based gambling in Washington you are in luck. There is basically every major form of gambling and even more generous laws with charitable organizations than most states have. Washington is home to tribal casinos, commercial casinos, card rooms, race tracks, state lotteries, charitable gambling and a bevy of laws to make those distinctions even more blurred than normal. Charitable organizations will at times need licenses and other times, they won’t. When they get these licenses they can allow all sorts of things, sometimes just poker or bingo and other times all out casino setups that are indistinguishable from a brick and mortar casino's offerings. Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn has the largest poker room in the state with 32 tables.

If there is legalized internet poker in the state of Washington, it is not clear who would lead the charge in creating a great online site. Many of the normal brick and mortar casinos are not present in the state of Washington, and there likely would need to be a fair number of changes for it to be a viable market. What these changes would be likely would depend on the legislation passed, so it’s pretty difficult to say what would happen in these markets without more information.

 

Parting Words

Although the laws on the books for online poker in Washington are among the strongest in the U.S.A, they're never targeted toward individual players. After you pick a real money Washington online poker site and make a deposit, you'll be able to play the card games you enjoy without fear or worry.

 

Do you have an address in a nearby state?

States Neighboring Washington State

If you are lucky enough to have another address in a nearby state, be it your business address, summer home, second apartment, family home, etc, you may have other online poker options available to you.  Here are a list of the states that border Washington and Professional Rakeback's review on each of them:  Alaska, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and California.  If you're the type that keeps another address far away from your native Washington, then our Online Poker USA Player's Guide will be helpful to you since it contains information on all 50 states.

Many people are ignorant of the legal status of online poker as well as their options to participate in the games.  Please consider sharing this information with your friends and family.  Sharing this info helps keep the games going and our favorite pastime from meeting an untimely demise!