Gambling Laws in Washington

Washington State Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in Washington State?

The state of Washington has a large gambling industry led by over 100 Native American casinos. Washington state has a horse racing industry and a state lottery, so you'll find many gambling laws and three distinct arms of the Washington government which regulate gaming activities or administer gambling sales themselves. The governmental agencies involved in the Washington gambling industry are the Washington Horse Racing Commission, the Washington State Lottery Board, and the Washington State Gambling Commission.

Washington has altogether some 134 gambling venues in the state. In the entire United States, only Nevada (381), California (182), Florida (146), and Montana (145) have more locations a person can legally gamble--and Washington is awfully close to Florida and Montana in that competition. Washington is therefore one of the most pro-gambling states in the USA. Washingtonians have a wide range of gaming options, so let's cover every way a gambler can make wagers in the state of Washington.

Washington State Poker Laws

Of all American states, Washington State offers one of the broadest arrays of ways to play legal poker for real money. State law in Washington does strongly suggest that poker is considered a form of gambling (refer to Section 9.46); gambling involves "contests of chance," and contests of chance occur when an outcome is predicated to "a material degree" on luck, fortune, chance - whatever you want to call it.

There's a strong argument that poker doesn't rely that heavily on chance, but the question is still being fought over in various courts. For now, the working law of the land is that poker does involve such a degree of chance, and is therefore considered gambling for the purposes of the law in Washington State.
The bright side of all of this for Washington poker players is that a numerous amount of ways to legally gamble - and to legally play poker - are provided by the law in Washington. So even though poker is technically gambling, and gambling is largely prohibited by Washington State law, poker players will still have no shortage of legal ways to play thanks to these numerous exceptions.

One such exception: Tribal and commercial casinos and card rooms. There are literally dozens of live poker rooms spread across Washington, ranging from the Lucky Bridge Casino in Eastern Washington to the Muckleshoot Casino in Seattle.

Another: Charitable gambling. As laid out in Section 9.46.0209, a variety of gambling activity - including poker tournaments - are legal in Washington State. Such activity is overseen by the Washington State Gambling Commission.

The last exception relevant to poker players: social gambling. Washington uses the standard definition of social gambling also employed by states like New Jersey and New York. Basically: If there's 1) no "house" or anyone acting as a "bank" with an advantage over other players and 2) no charge for taking part in the game, it appears (per Section 9.46.0265) to render an activity exempt from the general anti-gambling laws of Washington State.

Are Horse Tracks Legal in Washington?

Washington has four horse tracks where parimutuel wagering takes place. Given the large number of brick-and-mortar casinos in the state of Washington, it should be no surprise that these race tracks are not racinos (which might take customers away from the casinos). No gaming machines are found at these various race tracks, though off-track betting and simulcasting do take place at these racing venues. Even on days when live horse races don't take place, gamblers can go to these tracks and enjoy horse betting on races around the country and around the globe.

The Washington Horse Racing Commission oversees horse racing, pari-mutuel betting, and simulcasts. The commission not only sees to the betting regulations, but also to licensing of horses, trainers, and jockeys.

Washington State Lottery

The Washington State Lottery offers games like Hit 5 and Lotto, which has $1,000,000 payouts. Washington also has contracts with the Powerball Multistate Lottery and the Mega Millions Multi State Lottery, so Washington citizens can enjoy playing the lotto for tens of millions, perhaps even hundreds of millions, of dollars.

Gambling Laws in Washington

Few states have gambling laws as favorable for gamblers and gaming interests as Washington. In Washington state, several factors come into play. The western states in the USA tend to be more libertarian in their social attitudes, believing the government should be less active in the moral decisions its citizens make. At the same time, Washington tends to have a more liberal outlook on moral issues, so concerns about gambling corrupting the citizenry are less tangible. Finally, Washington is home to many traditional Native American tribes. Because Washington state was about as far away from the federal government centers of power in Washington DC in the latter stages of American expansion all the way to the Pacific Ocean, the local Indian tribes faced fewer attempts by the US federal government and its Army to harm the Native population or move them out to somewhere else.

All these factors come together to make Washington a haven for gambling interests. I suppose if Washington state lawmakers tried to put a stop to legal gambling in the state, the US Supreme Court's former ruling and the subsequent Gaming Compacts with the Native American tribes would limit the state government's ability to do so. Whatever the case, people in Washington should find plenty of gambling action.

Washington Gambling Cities

Seventy-five different Washington cities house casinos. Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, and Walla Walla all have their own Indian casinos. Cities with two or more Native American casinos include Spokane, East Wenatachee, Kennewick, Shoreline, Renton, Auburn, Tulalip, Tukwila, Aberdeen, La Center, Mountlake Terrace, Lakewood, and Yakima, Washington. Places like Coulee Dam, Pullman, and Suquamish all have their own casino operation.

Learn About Other State Laws

Washington Casino Cruise Ships

As if Washington didn't have enough gambling opportunities, 18 different cruise ships which are classified as "casino cruises" depart from the port of Seattle. Three of these cruise ships are owned by Ambassadors International, while 15 of the ships are owned and operated by the Holland America Line. The Ambassadors International cruise ships are the Wind Spirit, the Wind Star, and the Wind Surf. The Holland American Line features ships christened Amsterdam, Eurodam, Maasdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam, Oosterdam, Prinsendam, Rotterdam VI, Ryndam, Statendam, Veendam, Volendam, Westerdam, Zaandam, and Zuiderdam.

Like the Native American casino in Washington, oversight is provided by the Washington State Gambling Commission. Of course, these ships are traveling through international waters, so no US or national laws are enforced on the gambling which takes place on the cruise ships, though the cruise lines want to please customers and officials in the state from which they depart.