Washington high court upholds state’s Internet gambling ban

Washington high court upholds state’s Internet gambling ban

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[JURIST] The Washington Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion text] Thursday that a state ban on online gambling [text] is constitutional. Washington resident Lee Rousso gambled online in the past and wanted to continue doing so, arguing that a new statewide ban on online gambling violates the Dormant Commerce Clause, an implication in the US Constitution’s Commerce Clause [text] that states cannot excessively burden interstate commerce. The court applied a two-prong test to determine whether the statewide online gambling ban was constitutional, ruling that there (1) was a legitimate state in purpose and (2) the burden imposed on interstate commerce is not “clearly excessive” in relation to the local benefit:

RCW 9.46.240 imposes a burden on interstate commerce by walling off the Washington market for Internet gambling from interstate commerce. The extent of this burden is mitigated somewhat. First, the ban does not prevent or hinder Internet gambling businesses from operating throughout the rest of the world. Second, those businesses can easily exclude Washingtonians. If an individual during registration marks his or her location as the state of Washington, the gambling web site can end the registration there.

The trial court had granted summary judgment for the state, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

While online gambling has always been illegal in Washington, the law, passed in 2006, clarified that the Internet was included in the state and federal ban on remote gambling and also increased the charge from a gross misdemeanor to a felony. Courts across the world have been upholding online gambling bans, most recently in Sweden and the Netherlands [JURIST reports]. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act [HR 4411 materials], a federal act that bans banks and financial institutions from intentionally accepting payments from credit cards, checks or electronic fund transfers related to unlawful Internet bets, came into affect earlier this year.