Rousso gives update on online gambling case

Empire Casino, London

Along with announcing his run for governor in order to take the right to play poker online to the next level in Washington, Lee Rousso recently provided an update on the progress of his lawsuit against the state's online gambling ban.

Rousso filed the lawsuit on the first day of the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event. He alleges that the state's online gambling ban fails to comply with the Wire Act passed by the federal government, which has never extended criminal liability to the players, whereas the Washington law makes it a felony to gamble online.

He's also accusing the state of attempting to protect its own gambling industry by imposing a ban on online gambling, which puts Washington in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause forbidding individual states from passing protectionist laws against other states' business.

The case hit a snag late last year when the state demanded information, as part of discovery, that Rousso believes is confidential and implicates his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. The King County Superior Court denied his request for a protective order or other relief from producing the information, and Rousso took the decision to the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals recently returned the case to the lower court for more litigation over the discovery issues.

"The State wants me to produce massive amounts of information related to Internet poker," Rousso said in his PPA update. "I think it would be sufficient to show that I was playing when the ban went into effect. This time around, I expect the court to give a much clearer answer as to what information is actually relevant to the suit."

Rousso said the Court of Appeals seemed fairly sympathetic to his case, noting that it raises interesting and potentially troubling questions.

"Somewhere, sometime, a court is going to have to decide if states can regulate Internet gambling," Rousso said. "It's inevitable, so it may as well be this case."

The Court of Appeals also called the scope of the state's discovery requests "troubling," and at oral argument the state even acknowledged that some of the interrogatories and requests for production may go beyond what is necessary to determine standing in the case.

According to Rousso, in the end, the Court of Appeals sent the case back down to the lower court because it didn't think enough litigating was done before it was submitted to it.

"This has been, in essence, a four-month detour," Rousso said. "We have a new judge now, and I have renewed optimism about getting my day in court, hopefully by around May."

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