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Jan 29, 2017

Felony Math Teacher Cries for Online Poker Legalization in Washington

By RTR Dennis

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In 2006, the state of Washington revised a law to make online poker a Class C felony. The state’s Supreme Court upheld this law when it was challenged in 2010.

Now, high school math teacher David Shick has admitted to committing a felony by playing online poker – all in an effort to change this law and get online poker legalized.

Let’s discuss Shick’s story below along with the counter argument to internet poker, past legal efforts, and how many Washington natives are playing at underground poker sites.

“I Realized the State Law was an Absolute Joke”

Shick was called to testify in front of the Washington Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee about online poker. He had no problem admitting that he played the game, even with the max penalty being five years in prison and up to a $10,000 million fine.

According to Shick, he first played internet poker from 2003 to 2006, stopping after the Class C felony revision was enacted. But then he started playing again in 2009 after becoming fed up with the law.

“I realized that the state law was just an absolute joke,” he told the committee. “Nobody was being arrested. And so here I am admitting that I’m a Class C felon. If that means I’m going to be arrested, I guess I could be the first one.”

Shick Uses His Math Skills to Beat Online Poker

Schick pointed out that no Washington resident has ever been targeted legally, despite severe punishments in place. And as GeekWire reports, this encouraged him to pursue the game that he’s done very well with.

“I’m here to tell you, first of all, this is absolutely a game of skill,” he testified.

Shick also presented a handout detailing his winnings from 214,000 poker hands played in the summer of 2009, adding that the sites were “absolutely secure, and it was safe.”

Describing himself as a math stud to his students, Shick told the Senate Committee about how he’s able to make profits through online poker.

“I have a talent that I can do math very quickly in my head,” Shick explained. “I can keep my emotions in check, and I made money doing it.”

While Shick loves his job and the students he teaches, he’d also like the chance to continue making money through poker.

“I can’t believe that I get paid as much as I do to go have as much fun as I do as a teacher,” he said. “From a purely selfish impact, why am I here? I miss my second job. I would like to be able to play and use my talent – my skill – in order to profit from it.”

The Counter Argument to Legal Online Poker in Washington

Currently, there are no online poker bills on the table in Washington. And Ernie Stebbins, director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association, thinks it should stay this way.

“The committee should consider looking at the benefits of the gaming that’s going on in the state of Washington today,” said Stebbins, “as opposed to looking at new forms of gaming that’s currently illegal.”

To support his argument, Stebbins pointed out that Native-American casinos generated $255 million in 2016 tax money for the state of Washington.

Past Legal Action with Washington and U.S. Online Poker

As of now, only three states – Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada – have legalized and regulated online poker.

The Washington House introduced bills in 2015 and ’16 to legalize the game and lift the ban, but they quickly died out.

In 2007, attorney Lee Rousso sued the state on grounds that the felony poker law was unconstitutional. As mentioned before, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled against Rousso and upheld the law.

U.S. online poker was dealt a big blow in 2011, when the Department of Justice cracked down on PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, UltimateBet, and Absolute Poker for money laundering. Of these sites, only PokerStars is still in operation.

Washington Residents are Playing at Unregulated Poker Sites

John Pappas, director of the Poker Players Alliance lobbying group, also spoke at the Senate committee meeting. And he explained that there are thousands of Washington residents who are playing at black-market online poker sites.

“There are already thousands of Washingtonians gambling online without oversight or protection,” said Pappas.

Despite the biggest sites like PokerStars pulling out of Washington long ago, there are still many unregulated options for the Evergreen State.

Less Rake at Online Poker Rooms

One more benefit to internet poker is that sites take less rake than what land-based casinos do. Shick pointed this out by saying that he made around $2,000 in profits during the summer. But if he’d instead been playing in Washington’s land-based card rooms, he would’ve lost $1,000 due to the higher rake.

“The only ability to play so many hands at once made it profitable for me,” he explained. “I’m not going to play if it’s not profitable. I really miss my second income.”

It’s still too early to tell if Shick and Pappas’ arguments will sway the Washington Senate Committee on iPoker. But at the very least, they could force the state to reconsider their ridiculous law that makes online poker a felony.