PokerStars will no longer offer Washington State residents free online poker. It is a precautionary change. Wednesday, April 4, 2018, the Washington State Gambling Commission announced that social gaming websites, like PokerStars, have proactively made new business decisions regarding online gaming. The online sites were available to Washington State residents, but that has stopped.
The reason for the change is from the US federal appeals court decision, which stated social casino games are illegal under the current Washington State laws.
Discussions are full with news about PokerStars and Washington State. People weigh in on the decision and what it means. They are also looking for an explanation and discussing whether it was ever right for online poker rooms to offer “free” poker in the way that it was provided.
Lawsuit with Big Fish Casino
Big Fish Casino was in a fight with the Federal Court regarding video game activity. The federal appeals court says the video games are illegal activity in Washington State. In particular, Big Fish Games had a lawsuit filed against it in 2015.
At the time the company was owned by Churchill Downs Inc. The ruling occurred after a long battle between the person who spent $1,000 on virtual chips and was unable to claim any value on those chips when she decided to take her money back. Big Fish Casino provided free chips, and when those chips ran out a person would need to pay for more or wait until the game would provide more free chips.
According to the state law, if there is something of value risked, then the agreement is that something of value must be returned. Based on the definition, if chips have value, then it means someone is gambling online, which is illegal under the Washington State laws.
With the announcement and ruling, Washington State Gambling Commission pointed out they did not ask for the social gambling sites to block online players or stop offering free play. They did say the commission is not a party to the civil court case, they are not testifying, and they did not order the sites to stop.
PokerStars, which is under the Stars Group, said it is reviewing the ruling and they want to ensure their site is within the regulations allowed by state laws. When the laws are clarified, they will most likely reinstate free play to residents in Washington. However, they want to be sure they are within the laws.