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June 15, 2006

Online gambling ban was easy sell with lawmakers

Posted by David Postman at 8:12 AM

Danny Westneat has a column this morning about the real effects of a bill passed by this year's Legislature to clarify the state ban on internet gambling. In brief, the law is being used to crack down on people who don't just operate online gambling sites, but who write about them.

I didn't pay much attention to this year's legislative session and wondered what sort of debate took place about legislation that would have the state gambling commission threatening poker columnists.

In a House Commerce and Labor Committee hearing Feb. 22, Rick Day, director of the state gambling commission, told committee chairman Rep. Steve Conway that the bill was drafted to allow the commission to crack down on "what we're really pursuing here, which is the larger Internet providers and those third parties that are deliberately facilitating the activity."

Committee staff explained the bill was "reaffirming and clarifying" laws about gambling. This reminds me of something a lobbyist told me in Alaska many years ago: Beware the clarifications and watch out for the house-keeping and the "good little bill." In committee and in floor debate, this bill was explained as updating a law that banned gambling by telephone, telegraph, radio or semaphore.

Here's the entire Senate debate, held Feb. 14.

Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Seattle, prime sponsor of Senate Bill 6613:

"This bill clarifies that using the Internet to place wagers on activities regulated by the gambling commission or to play the state lottery are prohibited; requires a 60 percent majority vote of the state Legislature to authorize the state lottery to offer games played through any device, including electronic scratch tickets machines that electronically replicate any game of chance. New communication technologies and variations of electronic gambling have come into existence since gambling by electronic media was prohibited by the Gambling Act of 1973. This also clarifies exactly what it is that people can do. The state has to be extremely careful in legitimizing these games. Please vote yes."

That was it. The Senate voted unanimously for the bill. The House voted 93-5 two weeks later.

UPDATE: This is in the comments, but if you're looking for more on this check out Washington Votes.

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