Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Poker News: Online Gambling / Identity Theft

Online Gaming Ban...If there's one state in the US serious about banning online gambling, it's Washington. I came across this article that appeared in several Washington newspapers and it gives a chill up the spine to those who are involved in the multi-billion-dollar online gambling business. Heck, they're even mixing it up with Identity Theft:


Internet poker is one of the more popular forms of online gambling, which is illegal in Washington state. The Seattle Seahawks set a Super Bowl record in its 2006 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unfortunately for ‘Hawks’ fans, it wasn’t on the field. The game drew a record $94.5 million in Nevada sports books bets, as reported by the USA Today. Last year’s Indianapolis Colts-Chicago Bears matchup fell $1.5 million short of the Seattle-Pittsburgh action.

Gambling experts believe next Sunday’s Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants may top $100 million in bets for the first time in history, but Washington State gamblers need to be aware of the rules.

Online betting is against the law.

As of 2006, Internet gambling is a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Other class C felonies include possession of child pornography and animal torture.

Gamblers and Web site administrators are at risk of conviction if caught engaging in illegal gambling. State officials are focusing on Web site operators and service providers in an attempt to reduce scandals and cheating, according to Washington State Gambling Commission spokesperson Susan Arland.

“If we hear of an operator, the procedure is to contact them and advise them to stop. Normally they will,” Arland said.

The commission recently shut down an illegal gambling site operated out of North Seattle called The site owners filed an appeal on Dec. 5.

Gambling has three requirements in order to be considered illegal in Washington. It must involve a paid fee, or a buy-in. It must involve chance. And a prize must be the ultimate goal.

Removing any of those three factors legalizes the activity. Fantasy sports played for money are considered illegal gambling, Arland said.

Internet gambling was changed to a felony in 2006 because offenders were not deterred by a misdemeanor, said Arland. The state’s goal is to encourage voluntary compliance.

But state officials say the threat of a $10,000 fine should be the least of an online gambler’s worries.

Identity theft and scams are a large factor in the state’s attempt to crack down on Internet gambling.

“You have no idea who’s behind that computer screen,” Arland said. “There’s no recourse if you’re not paid or if you’re cheated. It’s extremely risky.”

Internet gambling is a $1.5 billion industry involving more than 15 million players worldwide, according to the National Law Journal. Many experts believe the popularity of online gambling can be partly attributed to the emergence of Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments broadcast on major TV networks.

In 1995, the Journal of Gambling Issues reported 24 Internet gambling sites, according to the state gambling commission. In 2006, the number had increased to 2,500 sites.

Sports media like ESPN have had conversations centered on the odds of the upcoming Super Bowl on Feb. 3. Commentators have discussed oddsmakers in Las Vegas who continue to close the gap between the favored Patriots and underdog Giants and what affect that will have upon the betting industry.

About 80 percent of bets to this point have been placed on the Giants, according to USA Today, but most bets are usually placed 72 hours or less before kickoff. The state’s enforcement of Internet gambling laws has come under scrutiny since the law was passed in 2006.

A Bellingham man was reprimanded by the state for writing about gambling on a Web site. He posted reviews of online casinos, links and listed casinos that were known to cheat people out of their money.

State officials called it “aiding and abetting” online gambling, according to a Seattle Times column. The paper itself drew fire for posting a poker how-to column on its Web site with a link to a poker site where people can discuss the game.

Although Washington is one of the nation’s strictest states on gambling, according to Arland, certain methods are allowed. Businesses can conduct a sports board where players bet $1 on each numbered square. The winning number is the square with the combined score of both teams in the Super Bowl. All winnings must be returned to the players, businesses cannot make any money on sports boards.