Named after the first president of the United States, George Washington, Washington was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889. It is often referred to as Washington State to avoid any confusion with the capital city of the United States, Washington D.C., which is situated in Maryland. As the 13th most populous state, Washington has an extremely well regulated offline gambling industry. However, it’s not so friendly when it comes to online gambling. In other words, residents can gamble at the numerous land-based gambling establishments without fear of violating any laws, but will need to be more circumspect when it comes to the world of online gambling. That’s because it’s explicitly illegal to play at any online gambling operation from within the state. The penalties are particularly steep if you’re an operator attempting to offer gambling inside Washington. There are, however, selected licensed and regulated offshore online casinos, poker and sports betting sites (obviously all based out of state) that do accept players from Washington State, but we’d still recommend you err on the side of caution here. Also, take note that when it comes to fun play casinos, mobile social casinos, Facebook casinos, social casino apps and free fun online slots, you can play with total peace of mind, as these involve no exchanging of money and are totally legal. Let’s take a closer look at the history of gambling in Washing State and, more importantly, what is legal and what is not.
A Brief History of Gambling in Washington State
As with many of the other states, the original statutes in Washington State were pervasively anti-gambling. This was partially because of the puritanical views of that time, and partially a response against the excessive vices (like gambling) of the initial settlers. The history of gambling laws in this state, since then, are therefore mostly made up of progressively exempting various types of gambling from the preliminary overall ban. Since the signing of the anti-gambling constitution back in 1890, several legal milestones have taken place…
- 1933: Pari-mutuel horse race betting is made legal for the first time.
- 1973: Charity games (including casino nights, raffles, pull-tabs and bingo) are allowed with the support of the Gambling Commission.
- 1982: The State Lottery is legalised – today, it includes an extensive assortment of games, like PowerBall.
- 1992: The original compact for a tribal land-based casino is signed with one of the native tribes, subsequent to the Federal Indian Gambling Regulation Act of 1988.
- 1997: Non-banked card games are allowed in rooms outside of tribal land – this includes games that are not played against the house.
- 2006: Online gambling becomes a felony through a statute that makes the transmission of data over the Internet illegal for operators, as well as players.
- 2010: An attempt to question the constitutional integrity of the Internet gambling ban fails – the state receives backing from the Supreme Court.
- 2013: A bill is put forward to regulate poker.
What Forms of Gambling are Legal in Washington State?
The Washing State Gambling Commission acts as the gambling regulatory body in the state and, according to state law, you must be 18-21 years of age in order to gamble: the limit is dependent on the casino. Here’s a quick rundown of what types of gambling are legal and what are not:
- Casino games: Yes, there are over 100 casinos in the state, the majority of which are on tribal land, offering slots, blackjack, video poker and poker. These were mostly created during the 1990s after Washington State negotiated deals with the tribes. In addition, there are casino cruises that operate out of Seattle – the boats sail the mandatory 3 miles to get into international waters, and players are free to gamble without any jurisdictional problems.
- Lottery betting: Yes, Washington has a State Lottery and also takes part in inter-state games like PowerBall.
- Free play online gaming: Yes, as no money is being exchanged when you play at mobile social casinos, Facebook casinos, fun play casinos or free play online casinos, this type of gambling entertainment is perfectly legal. If entertainment is what you’re after, and not money, we’d recommend you do a search for one of these, as well as how to play on Facebook casinos.
- Online casino games: No, but this explicitly applies to gambling online at a site that operates from within Washington State, or more seriously, being the actual operator of a gambling site. In other words, there are licensed and regulated offshore online casinos that accept players from Washington State: these include Lucky Red, ClubWorld, Bovada, Slots.LV, and Aladdin’s Gold. To date, no one has ever been arrested for gambling online at any of these casinos, but we’d still advise you to exercise caution when playing in this arena, as the penalties for gambling online can be incredibly steep.
- Offline poker: Yes. There are numerous legal card rooms that offer non-banked games, as well as smaller poker tournaments and cash games. You can also play poker at home – the stipulation is that nobody must profit, either by selling drinks or raking the pots.
- Online poker: No. Online poker may be regarded as a game of skill, but that does not exempt it from the anti-Internet gambling laws. Residents can try out licensed and regulated offshore sites like BetOnline, but as with online casino games, we’d strongly recommend you err on the side of caution.
- Charity gambling: Yes. This can include bingo games, private card games, casino nights and auctions for charity, for which the “house” is not taking a cut of the proceedings. In other words, social gambling must take place within the confines of a private abode and the only economic benefit to be had must go to the winner or the charity organisation.
- Sports betting: Yes, pari-mutuel betting is legal and can take place from four racetrack and off-track locations – this includes simulcast betting on races from out of state.
- Online sports betting: No, it is illegal to bet online, although there are selected online sports betting sites that will accept players from Washington State. Again, we’d exercise extreme caution here.
Washington State is an absolute dream when it comes to land-based gambling, as there are plenty of offline casinos, mostly on tribal land, that offer perfectly legal gambling facilities. However, the state is one of the stricter ones when it comes to online gambling – in fact, it’s explicitly illegal to operate or profit from an online gambling site based within the state’s borders. The laws are less clear about licensed and regulated offshore online casinos (there are quite a few that still accept players from Washington State, as discussed above), but we’d still err on the side of caution – after all, while no-one that we know of has ever been arrested for gambling online, it still carries incredibly strict penalties. If you’d prefer to play it safe, and if entertainment value is more important than winning money, try doing a search for fun play casinos, mobile social casinos, Facebook casinos, how to play on Facebook casinos, free play online casinos, free fun online slots or social casino apps – these are all perfectly legal as no money is being exchanged. While the laws can change at any moment, there is no real political or public will to change the statutes surrounding online gambling, so for now, Washington State is likely to remain as one of the friendliest states when it comes to land-based gambling, and one of the least friendly when it comes to online.