Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Read this, go to jail, do not collect $200

Today, we've got two columns from the Seattle Times about the ludicrousness of Washington's new anti-online gambling law (which I'll refer to in the future as the Muckleshoot Protection Act).

The first column highlights a case where Bellingham-based IntegrityCasinoGuide.com is shut down: This column may be illegal (June 15):

The first casualty in the state's war on Internet gambling is a local Web site where nobody was actually doing any gambling.

[A] former Wal-Mart worker in Bellingham ... started a casino review called IntegrityCasinoGuide.com. He worried about the new law but figured he'd be OK because his site has no actual gambling.

Not so, said the state. Writing about online gambling in a way that seems promotional can earn a cease-and-desist order, and potentially, a criminal charge. Boutte learned this when a Bellingham Herald article featured state officials saying his site was illegal.

[Even the] Seattle Times may be afoul of the law because we print a poker how-to column, "Card Shark," by gambler Daniel Negreanu.
"My suggestion to you is to remove from your paper any advice about online gambling and any links to illegal sites," [says Rick Day, director of the state gambling commission].

So even this column could be illegal?

The state's gone from trying to control gambling, which is legit, to trying to control people speaking about gambling.

It's hard to take coming from a state that bombards us with pitches for the biggest sucker's bet of all. You know, the one they call the lottery.

And from last Sunday, your subscription to Card Player may be in jeopardy. Are ESPN blackouts of the WSOP next? Read this while it's still legal:

On July 3, Harvill, an affable operations manager for Sprint PCS near Spokane, got the following letter from the publisher of two magazines he has subscribed to for years. "It is with deep regret that we must inform you ... " it read, "we must cancel all subscriptions to Washington State."

The magazines are "Casino Player" — a monthly review of U.S. casinos and hotels — and "Strictly Slots" — a guide to one-armed bandits, video poker and other mechanized means of gambling.

Hardly classic literature. But Harvill liked them. And now he can no longer read them, thanks to a twisted reading of the state's new law against Internet gambling.

The state says placing bets online is against the law. Fine. But the state goes on to say that even writing about Internet gambling in a way that's promotional is "aiding and abetting" an illegal industry.

So now two print magazines consider themselves banned in this state. It's not clear whether the publisher pulled them on his own or was asked to by the state. The letter vaguely cites "new state laws regarding the legality of online gaming."


(Thanks to the Card Club at Lord Admiral Radio podcast for pointing out the June column.)

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