A Long Shot

16 January 2008

An outspoken Internet gambling proponent has a shot at becoming Washington state's new governor in 2008.

Renton, Wash.-based attorney Lee Rousso announced his candidacy for Washington's gubernatorial race this week on Newsradio KIRO710. Readers may recall that Rousso mounted a constitutional challenge in July 2007 against legislation that makes online gambling in the state a felony offense, punishable by hefty fines, prison time, or both.

Rousso, a Democrat, said he is looking to unseat incumbent Gov. Christine Gregoire in the Democratic primary on Aug. 19, 2008, after enduring several years' worth of what he considers questionable judgment and leadership on behalf of Gregoire.

"This is a candidacy born out of what must surely be a world record case of buyer’s remorse," Rousso's Web site reads. "I voted for Christine Gregoire in 2004 and did so without hesitation. Now, I feel so disappointed and betrayed by her leadership that I wouldn’t support her re-election with a loaded gun to my head."

Why is Rousso so fed up? Senate Bill 6613, the target of his constitutional challenge, received Gregoire's signature in March 2006. Gregoire also signed off on the extradition warrants which saw three of his clients from Betcha.com extradited to Louisiana in October 2007.

Rousso views these instances as exemplars of the governor "profoundly being out of touch with the governed."

In an interview with IGN, Rousso said he's hoping to raise campaign funds across a variety of mediums, including the Internet, newspapers and eventually television.

"The first step is that I've got to raise money from people I know, get enough money to run some newspaper adds," he said. "Hopefully that will create a higher profile where I can raise enough money to advertise on TV."

In the meantime, Rousso expects to be "very active" on the Internet and is looking to link up with well-known poker and political blogs in an effort to raise awareness of his campaign.

"You know, basically the way politics work is that at some point, you reach a critical mass where all of a sudden enough people know about you where you actually matter," he said. "I haven't reached that critical mass yet, but that will be the goal."

If elected, Rousso said his priorities lie with "restoring sanity to Washington's gambling laws" and selling the state lottery -- the proceeds of which would go toward funding a new bridge on SR 520, spanning Lake Washington, without dipping into the state's tax coffer.

As for his chances, Rousso was non-committal.

"I'd hate to put a number on it, but it's not as impossible as it seems at first blush," he said.

With regard to campaign financing, Rousso's ties to the Washington, D.C.-based Poker Players Alliance could help, as he's the group's director in Washington state.

"The PPA has 800,000 members, and they'll be carrying all of my campaign news," he said. "By one PPA estimate, there may be as many as 20 million poker players in this country. So I think that if I can get the word out, I think I can make a national appeal for funds.

"Basically, if every Internet poker player in the country gave me a dollar, I'd have plenty of money."

So far, though, Rousso does not seem to have registered on the governor's radar.

"I'm not sure who he is," a spokesperson at Gregoire's office told IGN, when asked whether her office had been made aware of Rousso's candidacy. "She (Gregoire) hasn't announced her candidacy, but everyone expects her to run for governor."

Chris Krafcik is the editor of IGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Mo.