In recent times, PokerStars has been providing free poker access for residents living in the State of Washington. However, now, those free poker games have been stopped as a precautionary measure.
On Wednesday, the Gambling Commission of the state made the announcement that several different social gaming platforms had chosen to proactively “deny Washington residents access to their sites”. But what would spark such a move by such high-profile platforms as PokerStars?
Well, it all comes on the heels of a decision of the US Federal Appeals Court. Last week, this body ruled that social casino games are deemed illegal under existing gambling laws within Washington State. At the same time, the Ninth Circuit of the Court of Appeals overturned a court ruling that junked a certain 2015 case against software developer Big Fish Games’ parent company at the time, Churchill Downs Inc.
That lawsuit looked to recover $1,000 in value of virtual chips from Big Fish Casino, which the complainant explained were “something of value” under Washington’s Gambling Law. Virtual chips do not have any kind of monetary value, but they are needed should a player wish to access the suite of casino games at the Big Fish platform, including slots, roulette and blackjack.
How Does This Affect Poker?
Based on the definition of Washington state law regarding gambling, Big Fish Casino is said to have constituted illegal gambling online. At least, according to the appeals court.
However, despite this ruling, the Gambling Commission in Washington did swiftly note that they were not the ones to insist that social gaming platforms halt their free play offerings there. Tweeting out a message to its followers, the Commission stated that they are not a party to the civil court case and they did not testify in the case either. Nor did they order the sites to discontinue free online play from Washington residents.
The parent company of PokerStars, The Stars Group did release a statement of its own relating to the move though. It said that at the moment, it is continuing to review the rulings that have been made in order to ensure that its own activities fall in line with all state regulations relating to gambling.
The statement went on to say that The Stars Group is hopeful that the law in Washington will be clarified for all and that once it is, usual operations will be able to resume. The company said that once it re-opens its free poker play there, all Washington players will return at the status level they were competing at prior to the halt of such offerings.
Residents of the state were quick to comment on the move from PokerStars, claiming that other free poker sites were still open for business there, such as World Series of Poker, so why shouldn’t PokerStars exist in the same way? Another spoke of being able to go to a card room 10 minutes away from his house and play poker with real money, but when it comes to playing with “play money” online at PokerStars, he’s currently restricted. This led the player to question the sense of it all.