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Washington State Loses Online Gambling Fight

Written by:
Guest
Published on:
Feb/17/2009

An appellate court in Washington has ruled that the site Betcha.com did not violate state gambling laws because users were allowed to back out of bets without paying.

"Because Betcha.com customers agreed in advance that participants were not required to pay their losses, Betcha.com was not engaged in 'gambling,'" the court wrote.

The site offered a platform for users to bet with each other about matters like the outcome of political elections and sports games. The terms of service spelled out that Betcha.com worked on the "honor system" and that "bettors are not obliged to pay when they lose." But the site also allowed users to give each other "honor ratings" based on whether they made good on their bets.

The site was only online for a few weeks in 2007 when authorities from the Washington State Gambling Commission demanded that founder Nicholas Jenkins shut it down. Jenkins filed a complaint asking a state court to rule that the site was lawful. A trial judge ruled against him, but the appellate court cleared the site last week.

A spokesperson for the state gambling commission said it intends to appeal the decision to the Washington Supreme Court.

While this case was pending, Jenkins was extradited to Louisiana to face criminal computer gambling charges stemming from Betcha.com. That case was dismissed in October, according to Jenkins' lawyer, Lee Rousso. He added that Jenkins is considering whether to revive Betcha.com. "He's contemplating that as we speak," Rousso said Friday.

Betcha.com is not only online gambling site to come to a court's attention. Kentucky authorities recently attempted to seize domain names of 141 out-of-state sites. The appellate court in that state recently ruled in favor of the Web sites, holding that the state's anti-gambling laws only provided for the forfeiture of physical devices like slot machines and not domain names.

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