Optional Online Bookmaking Operation Still Illegal, WA Court Rules
Online bookmaking operations are illegal, even if they make it optional for losing betters to pay off wagers, the Washington Supreme Court has held.
The court, in a unanimous ruling (PDF) Thursday, said Betcha.com, a Seattle-based online bookmaker, qualifies as an illegal bookie because it arranged bets and took a percentage of the action as a fee, the Associated Press reported.
Betcha.com had tried to skirt the state’s anti-gambling laws by making it optional for losing betters to pay off wagers.
But the court said it didn’t have to decide whether the option of paying would allow Betcha.com to skirt the state’s anti-gambling laws because under the statute it is immaterial whether the site’s users are engaged in gambling.
In a blog post cited by the wire service, Betcha.com founder Nicholas Jenkins said the court’s reasoning “didn’t pass the giggle test.”
“Never in a million years did I expect an opinion like this one,” he wrote. “The court’s error is so obvious that I wonder if a single justice even cracked our brief, let alone the Revised Code of Washington.”
Washington allows some forms of non-tribal gambling, such as cardrooms that offer poker, blackjack and other games with relatively low stakes. Online gambling and bookmaking fees, however, are specifically outlawed under state statute. Internet gambling is also illegal on the federal level.
Betcha.com allowed users to wager on just about anything, as long as the individual bets didn’t exceed $1,000. Betters would submit claims after the event in question, but the losing better had 72 hours to opt out of paying the debt.