Manufactured criminality
June 10, 2006 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Is online gambling legal in Oregon?

One of my favorite (and profitable) pastimes, playing poker online, became a felony in Washington State last Wednesday. Does anyone know whether online gambling is legal in Oregon? I live near the Oregon border, and I just may move across if my hobby isn't a crime there.
posted by Marla Singer to Law & Government (22 answers total)
 
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Although the head of the state Gambling Commission says it is unlikely that individual online gamblers will be targeted for arrest, the new law carries stiff penalties: as much as five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
....
In fact, no one has ever been prosecuted in Washington -- or anywhere nationally, according to gambling publications -- strictly for gambling online.

Day said his priorities are to go after national and international promoters or operators based in Washington state -- and increasingly, to warn gamblers about the risks and illegality of the activity.


Are you worried enough to move?
posted by Pacheco at 5:56 PM on June 10, 2006


OK, so I felt bad that my post was not really an answer so I did some research and found this statute:

Oregon Revised Statute s. 167.109:

(1) A person engaged in an Internet gambling business may not knowingly accept, in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful gambling using the Internet:


(a) Credit, or the proceeds of credit, extended to or on behalf of such other person, including credit extended through the use of a credit card;

(b) An electronic funds transfer or funds transmitted by or through a money transmission business, or the proceeds of an electronic funds transfer or money transmission service, from or on behalf of the other person;

(c) Any check, draft or similar instrument that is drawn by or on behalf of the other person and is drawn on or payable at or through any financial institution; or

(d) The proceeds of any other form of financial transaction that involves a financial institution as a payor or financial intermediary on behalf of or for the benefit of the other person.


(2) Violation of subsection (1) of this section is a Class C felony.


This doesn't appear to apply to you as long as you're just at your house paying someone else. Someone from Oregon might be able to tell you different, but this is the only reference I could find in the Revised Statutes dealing with Internet gambling. I'll post if I can find more.
posted by Pacheco at 6:18 PM on June 10, 2006


I'm aware that the chances of being prosecuted are slim. It's a matter of principle, for me. I can't brag about my winnings or tournament finals to my (ridiculously worried) parents/grandparents anymore -- or anyone, if I want to be safe. I mean, a felony, for crying out loud? The Washington State legislature actually thinks I should be disenfranchised from the voting process? Screw 'em! And screw their ever-climbing sales tax, too. (No sales tax in Oregon.) I'm a single, apartment-dwelling individual. Moving wouldn't be that big of a deal. I just wanna know what the law is in Oregon.
posted by Marla Singer at 6:24 PM on June 10, 2006


But Oregon Revised Statute section 167.122 looks pretty broad:

(1) A person commits the crime of unlawful gambling in the second degree if the person knowingly:


(a) Places a bet with a bookmaker; or

(b) Participates or engages in unlawful gambling as a player.


(2) Unlawful gambling in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor.


So the only difference between Washington and Oregon may be the felony/misdemeanor distinction. Play at your own risk.
posted by Pacheco at 6:26 PM on June 10, 2006


Ah -- thank you for the info. My Google-fu wasn't up to it. It looks like I can gamble online in Oregon, as long as I never withdraw my winnings via electonic transfer to a bank there. That's not much better. This sucks.
posted by Marla Singer at 6:27 PM on June 10, 2006


Well, now there's some question in my mind about the legality of withdrawing your winnings versus just paying & playing. Maybe I'll just have to go pro & move to Vegas (yeah, baby!).
posted by Marla Singer at 6:33 PM on June 10, 2006


Actually, the way I read it its illegal to gamble...period. Here's what 167.117 says:

(7) "Gambling" means that a person stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under the control or influence of the person, upon an agreement or understanding that the person or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome. "Gambling" does not include:


(a) Bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts for the purchase or sale at a future date of securities or commodities, and agreements to compensate for loss caused by the happening of chance, including but not limited to contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health or accident insurance.

(b) Engaging in contests of chance under the following conditions:

(A) The contest is played for some token other than money;

(B) An individual contestant may not purchase more than $100 worth of tokens for use in the contest during any 24-hour period;

(C) The tokens may be exchanged only for property other than money;

(D) Except when the tokens are exchanged for a beverage or merchandise to be consumed on the premises, the tokens are not redeemable on the premises where the contest is conducted or within 50 miles thereof; and

(E) Except for charitable, fraternal or religious organizations, no person who conducts the contest as owner, agent or employee profits in any manner from operation of the contest.

(c) Social games.
(d) Bingo, lotto or raffle games or Monte Carlo events operated in compliance with ORS 167.118, by a charitable, fraternal or religious organization licensed pursuant to ORS 167.118, 464.250 to 464.380 and 464.420 to 464.530 to operate such games.


So if this does not define what you are doing on the internet then that's "unlawful gambling" and 167.122 makes that a misdemeanor.

The way I read it, "unlawful gambling" is doing exactly what you are doing. My first Internet-specific statute appears to apply to the proprietors of internet gambling services (you're probably paying someone in Cayman Islands or something).
posted by Pacheco at 6:36 PM on June 10, 2006


Yes, I agree that the statute above does NOT appear to apply to you. HOWEVER, Oregan Rev. Stat. 167.122 is Unlawful gambling in the second degree.

(1) A person commits the crime of unlawful gambling in the second degree if the person knowingly:

(a) Places a bet with a bookmaker; or

(b) Participates or engages in unlawful gambling as a player.

(2) Unlawful gambling in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor.

167.127 Unlawful gambling in the first degree.

(1) A person commits the crime of unlawful gambling in the first degree if the person knowingly promotes or profits from unlawful gambling.

(2) Unlawful gambling in the first degree is a Class C felony.

So, you can see that it is, at minimum a misdemeanor (under subpart (b)). However, currently I am aware of no prosecutions. That is, it appears that Oregan law enforcement has bigger fish to fry.
posted by GIRLesq at 6:46 PM on June 10, 2006


Sorry all, while I was cutting and pasting my answer more posts must have gone up that made my answer a little moot (and redundant). My aplogoies for all that mootness and redundancy. :-)
posted by GIRLesq at 6:52 PM on June 10, 2006


I certainly wouldn't suggest becoming a test case, but I'm not certain that any state has the power under the Constitution to ban internet gambling if the gambling server is in another state.

That would make it interstate commerce, and place full control over it with the Federal government, wouldn't it?

Even if such laws are on the books, I suspect they could be challenged constitutionally. But of course it wouldn't be easy -- or cheap -- to do so. And you never know for sure until after the fact, especially here in the Ninth Circuit.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:12 PM on June 10, 2006


Pacheco, the gambling wouldn't actually take place in Oregon, would it? It would take place on the server, whereever that's located. So what you posted said that it's illegal for an Oregonian to gamble in Oregon, but it isn't illegal for an Oregonian to gamble elsewhere. How, then, would that law apply to internet gambling?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:14 PM on June 10, 2006


I don't have time for a detailed answer right now, but the short answer is that no one is certain. The best source for detailed information about the status of the law is probably the fairly comprehensive page maintained by Nelson Rose.
posted by Lame_username at 7:39 PM on June 10, 2006


Screw 'em! And screw their ever-climbing sales tax, too. (No sales tax in Oregon.

Uh, base income tax of 9 percent on every penny you earn in Oregon, vs. base sales tax of 6.5 percent (plus jurisdictional taxes bringing it up to as much as 8 percent) on every penny you spend in Washington. Even if you spend every penny you earn, you're going to give more to the govt. in Oregon than in Washington.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:52 PM on June 10, 2006


The question wasn't whether Oregon SHOULD be able to make internet gambling a misdemeanor. Rather, it was whether it does already. Apparently the Washington law has been around for a while and the new change makes it a felony. Because there is no evidence that the Washington misdemeanor law has been successfully challenged, I could reasonably construe the Oregon in the manner in which I did.

I saw that there was an Interstate Commerce issue, but I haven't been cited any law that addresses this. If you have some, by all means, provide it. If its just a law professor's web site that would be a more interesting post in the blue.
posted by Pacheco at 8:43 PM on June 10, 2006


Also, Oregon's been talking about a sales tax. Our budget right now is, uh... going down the can. I think its only a matter of time until we get a sales tax (and then we're majorly screwed).
posted by devilsbrigade at 8:53 PM on June 10, 2006


Get your damn income tax off of my yacht!
posted by Pacheco at 9:00 PM on June 10, 2006


So the only difference between Washington and Oregon may be the felony/misdemeanor distinction. Play at your own risk

That's a pretty big distinction.
posted by delmoi at 9:33 PM on June 10, 2006


I agree, maybe Washington is ahead of the curve and this will be challenged.
posted by Pacheco at 9:42 PM on June 10, 2006


Isn't online gambling also a violation of federal law?
posted by raf at 10:48 PM on June 10, 2006


Could be wrong here, but wouldn't interstate gambling present concurrent jurisdiction, where both the state and federal courts would have power to rule? Also, it seems unlikely that the location of the gambling would only be in the state of the server; i bet the gambling could be considered to take place on both ends (just guessing, mind you...).
posted by herc at 6:39 AM on June 11, 2006


So the only difference between Washington and Oregon may be the felony/misdemeanor distinction. Play at your own risk

That's a pretty big distinction.

Yes.

Thank you for your answers, everyone.
posted by Marla Singer at 9:41 AM on June 11, 2006


IANAL, but I agree that as long as the server is in another state or country they can't touch you. That's solely under the purview of the federal government. Has anyone ever heard of casual online gamblers being thrown in the slammer or fined. Of course not, they are just all pissed because this revenue is moving out of state so they try to make it seem criminal. It's ridiculous. So play your online poker and brag of how well your doing all while making sure you report that income and tell the government to kiss your ass.
posted by crypticgeek at 6:45 PM on June 11, 2006


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