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No Garden of Evergreens

The title of today’s post is a play on words to make reference to the two U.S. states most separated by their stances on the legality of online poker.

Tomorrow, Monday, January 10, 2011, the New Jersey Assembly is scheduled to vote on a bill that would legalize internet gambling.  You can view a summary of the most recent version of the bill here.  The impact this law would have on the online poker community is unclear.

On the player side, notice the bill summary states New Jersey “residents” would be able to place wagers.  Does this term not include the individual from New York who attends college in New Jersey?  What about NJ residents who are located outside of New Jersey?  More to come on the “resident” issue after the bill passes.

On the provider side, it’s possible Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars would cease service to NJ “residents.”  How they define their prohibitions is anybody’s guess.  They could simply prohibit service to anyone with a NJ address, or prohibit service to anyone physically located in the state.  Or, they could do nothing.

Not all states are trending towards the legalization of online poker.  Some, actually, call it a crime.

It is a felony in Washington to play online poker for money. The law was originally passed in 2006, and upheld in Washington’s highest state court in September of 2010.  And federal prosecutors have not been hesitant to enforce the law:

Federal prosecutors in the state of Washington have in recent months quietly moved to seize nearly $8 million from financial outfits that were processing transactions for big online poker companies like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker.

According to the complaints filed in federal court, payment processor firms distributed payout checks of online poker winnings to recipients in the State of Washington; these payments allegedly violate the federal wire act “because online gambling is illegal in Washington state.”

Federal prosecutors have focused their efforts on the payment processor firms, rather than the overseas host sites such as PokerStars, which seems to indicate that the facilitation of for-money online poker is not a violation of U.S. law.  PokerStars, however, stopped servicing players in Washington state in 2010.

Ultimately, it appears that 2011 will prove to be a climate changing year for the online poker community.

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