Making Lives Miserable in the Pacific Northwest

I used to reside in Kent, Washington. The Pacific Northwest is (during clear weather) one of the most beautiful places in the country. The combination of the Cascades, the ocean, Puget Sound, and Lake Washington makes the Seattle area a paradise. Unfortunately, paradises can be lost.

There are two threats to Washingtonians. First, on the November ballot is Initiative 1098. This measure would impose an income tax on Washingtonians who are “rich.” Of course, the reality is this measure would hit many in the middle class. It imposes a state income tax on individuals with an Adjusted Gross Income of $200,000 or more ($400,000 if married filing jointly). If this measure passes, Washington loses one of its most attractive features. Additionally, the state legislature could, in future years, increase either the scope of the tax or the rate. Needless to say, I think Washingtonians should reject this measure.

However, there’s another law that passed in 2006 that is now having a major impact on some of my clients. The Washington state legislature passed a law making online gambling a Class C felony. The measure passed without much discussion (it was supported by the Indian gambling interests in Washington state) and signed by the Democratic governor of the Evergreen State, Christine Gregoire.

The law was challenged in state court on grounds that it violated the dormant commerce clause of the US Constitution. The Washington Supreme Court recently upheld the law (though they questioned the idea of the law). Today, the largest online poker site, PokerStars, announced that they would no longer offer online gambling to Washingtonians.

Now, you and I may differ on our views on online gambling. However, most Americans would probably believe that to make online gamblers felons is ridiculous. It’s also ridiculous to consider online gambling equivalent to:

  • Possession of Stolen Property
  • Drug Crimes (Narcotics)
  • Theft
  • Witness Tampering
  • DUI
  • Felonious Driving

Washingtonians, welcome to the Nanny State.

There are several things that Washingtonians who are professional gamblers should do. First, call your state legislators. They may disagree with you, but let them know that your livelihood has just been stopped, and that you now must consider moving; that will directly impact Washington’s economy as the money you would spend locally (helping other businesses and adding to sales tax collections) will instead go elsewhere. Follow up with a letter; this forces legislators (well, their staff) to read and respond.

Second, there’s an election in one month. For the most part, your current legislators got you into this mess. Every two to six years (depending on the office) you have the right to retire those legislators. If you haven’t registered to vote, do so. Exercise your right to vote on November 2nd. There are several races in Washington state that are extremely close; your vote will matter.

For those of you who are gamblers and don’t reside in Washington state, don’t be complacent. What has happened in the Pacific Northwest can happen anywhere in the United States if your legislature doesn’t hear your voice. There is an organization for poker players; it also has a Political Action Committee.

If you are not a gambler and you reside in Washington state you may think this is irrelevant. It’s not. Your economy will be negatively impacted by these measures, to the detriment of all Washingtonians. Sure, it won’t be a huge hit–it’s not equivalent to, say, Microsoft moving from Redmond to Atlanta–but do you think that given how weak the economy is that the Evergreen State needs any hits to the economy?

When I went to school, I was taught that silence equals acquiescence. If you’re a Washingtonian, this isn’t the time to be silent.

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