Washington, the only US state that has made the act of playing poker online punishable with a prison term, may actually contemplate legalizing the game in 2015. At the end of last week, Representative Sherry Appleton introduced House Bill 1114.

Currently, poker players in Washington can play poker legally in licensed card rooms and tribe-operated casinos that have a state permit to offer poker games. PokerAtlas says that Washington has 74 live poker rooms. In spite of this, Washington behaves in a harsh manner towards card rooms. Last year, regulators shut down a low-stakes pinochle game that was being played at a senior center in Snohomish for the past 25 years.

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However, HB 1114 has the power to change Washington’s attitude towards card games as it will legalize only real money online poker.

The bill says that the legislature has realized that the Internet forms a very important part of the lives of Washington residents, widely used for communication, commerce, and entertainment, among other things. It states: “Poker has long been an authorized activity in Washington State, and with the Internet as a technological aid, poker can be conducted in a virtual environment and played from the privacy of one’s own computer or mobile device.”

Although Washington has criminalized the act of playing poker online, residents still enjoy playing poker at offshore online poker rooms. The bill points out that the Internet poker continues to remain popular among Washington poker players in spite of the ban on it. It states: “To better protect the people of Washington from potential danger from, and to maintain oversight of the systems used to carry out Internet poker, the legislature finds it to be in the interest of the people to establish a regulatory framework by which entities, as authorized by the Washington state gambling commission or a tribal regulator, may offer poker games to players within Washington state over the internet.”

Currently, Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada are the only three US states that have legalized online poker, but they haven’t been able to generate the expected revenues from the industry. All the states are now realizing the importance of liquidity-sharing compacts. Washington’s new poker bill provides for the signing of interstate liquidity-sharing deals.

California is also planning to legalize the game, but it has too many internal conflicts to resolve before it can actually happen. Other US states aiming to legalize online poker are New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

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