Acting with an abundance of caution, PokerStars is blocking Washington State residents from accessing its free-to-play poker products. The move comes just days after a US Federal Appeals Court ruled that social casinos do, in fact, constitute real gambling.

PokerStars made the announcement last week after Big Fish Social Casino was informed that its virtual chips had “monetary value” in the eyes of the law. That decision allowed a 2015 case, in which an aggrieved player argued that free chips weren’t really free and that Big Fish was a real casino not a social casino, to proceed.

In their announcement, PokerStars said:

…The Stars Group is immediately taking actions to block play related to social gaming from Washington State. We are reviewing the rulings and ensuring that our activities are in line with state regulations. We are hopeful the law will be clarified and that when it is, we will be able to reinstate all Washington players at their current status.

While PokerStars’ action seemed to be the right play to the layman, the Commissioners of the Washington State Gambling disagreed a bit with the company saying on Twitter:

We are not a party to the civil court case, we did not testify in the case, and we did not order these sites to discontinue free online play for Washington residents.

In short, PokerStars’ decision was made with the kind of caution one would expect from a company that’s working very hard to rebuild and maintain a good reputation in a country where it was once seized by federal law enforcement. Don’t be surprised if they return to the free-to-play model for Washington State residents once the Big Fish case is settled.


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