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Emily D. Swoboda
 

Hostile Territory - Gambling Pubs Opt out of Circulation in Washington

11 July 2006

A resident of Washington State last week received a letter from the publisher of two magazines to which he subscribed saying all subscriptions held by state residents had been cancelled due to the new gambling laws.


"The federal Department of Justice in the past has said that advertising is aiding and abetting, making the advertiser guilty of violating the Wire Act. Advertising an illegal activity can make the advertiser an accomplice. But free speech issues become involved."
- I. Nelson Rose
Whittier Law School

The company, Casino Publishing Group, publishes Casino Player, a monthly review of U.S. casinos and hotels, and Strictly Slots, a guide to the best slots, video poker and other mechanized means of gambling.

The Seattle Times broke the story on Monday.

Columnist Danny Westneat attributed the publishing company's abrupt stoppage to a misinterpretation of SSB 6613, Washington's new anti-Internet gambling law, which went into effect June 7. The new law criminalizes online gambling, and residents who gamble online could be charged with a Class C felony punishable by a possible five-year sentence and/or a $10,000 fine.

The new law does not state that publishing information or writing about the gambling industry is illegal. To the contrary, the Washington State Gambling Commission stated in a news release issued June 21 that publishing "gambling information" is okay under the new law. Advertising for Internet gambling, on the other hand, is a gross misdemeanor in Washington, according to the professional gambling statute.

I. Nelson Rose, a professor of law at Whittier Law School, said that both magazines, as well as the Casino Player Web site, have taken ads for Internet gambling.

"The federal Department of Justice in the past has said that advertising is aiding and abetting, making the advertiser guilty of violating the Wire Act," he said. "Advertising an illegal activity can make the advertiser an accomplice. But free speech issues become involved."

Todd Boutte of Bellingham, Wash., has felt the pressure as well. Boutte ran a gambling affiliate site called IntegrityCasinoGuide.com for which he reviewed Internet casinos. The site was supported by ads for and links to Internet casinos, and because he was not an operator, he did not think the site was illegal.

His views changed, however, following an article published in June in the Seattle Times. The piece featured Boutte and his business, but also included quotes from state officials, who stated that what he was doing was illegal. He shut down the site shortly after the article was printed.


"Telling people how to gamble online, where to do it, giving a link to it . . . that's all obviously enabling something that is illegal."
- Rick Day
Washington Gambling Commission

According to the state, writing about online gambling in a way that seems promotional can earn a cease-and-desist order, and potentially, a criminal charge.

"It's what the feds would call 'aiding and abetting,'" the director of the state's gambling commission, Rick Day, explained. "Telling people how to gamble online, where to do it, giving a link to it . . . that's all obviously enabling something that is illegal."

Susan Arland, the commission's public information officer, said the commission had nothing to do with Casino Publishing Group's decision.

"Enforcement is not focused on this type of activity, but rather the Internet gambling sites themselves," she said.

Casino Publishing Group could not be reached for comment.

Hostile Territory - Gambling Pubs Opt out of Circulation in Washington is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda