Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Best of Aaron Todd
Matt Affleck's latest bad beat: PokerStars cuts off Washington residents30 September 2010
By Aaron Todd
The world's largest online poker room has banned Affleck and the rest of the 6.66 million people who live in the state of Washington from playing real-money games. The decision comes a week after the state's Supreme Court ruled that a statewide ban on Internet gambling is not unconstitutional.
"In light of this decision, following extensive consultation with our legal advisors, we believe that the right course of action is to now block real money play by Washington residents on the PokerStars.com site," reads an announcement on the site. "This policy will remain in effect until the law changes or subsequent legal challenges succeed."
"It's always a good thing when people try to comply with laws," said Susan Arland, Public Information Officer for the Washington State Gambling Commission. "I think they're obviously trying to protect themselves, but I think it's the right thing to do."
Affleck, one of the most well-known players affected, posted the news on his Facebook page via a Blackberry update from London, where he is playing in the first day of the European Poker Tour's Main Event. According to OfficialPokerRankings.com, Affleck, who plays under the username "mcmatto," won nearly $800,000 in multi-table tournaments on the site with more than $585,000 in profit in 2009, thanks in large part to a $550,000 score in a Spring Championship of Online Poker event. To make matters worse, according to his Facebook page, Affleck recently bought a condo in Seattle, with the down payment most likely coming from the $500,000 consolation prize he won for his 15th-place finish at the World Series of Poker Main Event, making the logistics of moving to live in another state much more complex and costly.
"In all of the jurisdictions where we operate, we are committed to making responsible decisions that are based on a full and considered understanding of the most up-to-date legal advice," reads the PokerStars statement. "PokerStars remains supportive of passing sensible Internet poker regulation in the United States that will provide much-needed tax revenues and formalize consumer protections."
The law makes it a Class C felony for a player to gamble or play poker on the Internet. And while the law has been on the books for more than four years, no player in Washington has ever being prosecuted or charged with the crime of gambling or playing poker on the Internet.
"We are focusing on the people who are providing the service," said Amy Hunter, Communications and Legal Division Administrator for the Washington State Gambling Commission. "If we came across one of those people's names as we were doing those investigations, our first step would generally be to send them a letter that says, 'Your name came up in records as someone who is placing these bets, and just in case you didn't know, it's a felony in this state.'"
Neither Hunter nor Arland was aware of any letters being sent to online gamblers to inform them that they were breaking the law.
The story in Washington is most certainly not over. As of Thursday afternoon, Full Tilt Poker, the second-largest Internet poker room on the planet, was still accepting play from Washington residents, and customer support has not yet responded to a request for their plans for the future. And Lee Rousso, the lawyer who lost the case against the state in the Washington State Supreme Court, has said he would like to take his complaint all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, that could take years, and the court may not even decide to hear such a case. If Affleck can take any consolation from the day, it's that most of his online success this year has come at Full Tilt, where he's posted a profit of more than $163,000 this year, while he's down a bit on the year at PokerStars.
NOTES: Players who live in Washington will be able to cash out their PokerStars balances, and pending tournament tickets and T$ will be converted to cash available for withdrawal. Players will retain their VIP status and can play at that level if/when they move to a new state, or if the law changes, and players will be able to purchase VIP cash bonuses with their Frequent Player Points with no play-through requirements.