It was announced that the Australian Federal Police and the FBI are investigating potentially illegal poker sites. This hot on the heels of the arrest of the man allegedly behind the massive “money laundering” scheme responsible for funding the poker sites. (He’s not become a government informant, according to this report.) And here I thought Australia was all good people and freedom to do whatever you want. There goes the last vestige of my Peter Plan complex. Sadness.
Tag: Full Tilt Poker
Remember that World Trade Organization case from not too long ago that Antigua brought against the U.S. (and, by the way, won, though it had no practical effect)? Well, it is rearing its head again and could be a boon to poker players around the world, and especially in the U.S. Absolute Poker is based in Antigua, a tiny Caribbean nation that gets a significant portion of its gross national product from online poker/gaming. It has long alleged that the U.S.’s anti-online poker stance when contrasted with it allowing online horse-betting and live poker is protectionist. In perhaps one of my favorite quotations of all time, the Antiguan government’s legal advisor said “It’s as if Antigua would put Americans in jail for selling pineapples.” How can anyone argue with that logic? Unfortunately, many Americans are not against pineapples for moral reasons. So here we are.
Anyway, all this is well and good, but the legal system pretty much played itself out with the original case and failure of the international community to stand up to the U.S. But, just maybe, if Antigua can make enough noise again, and, just maybe, if the U.S.’s current stance ends up having a significant effect on the pocket books of larger countries via reduced rake from decreased play (think Britain), just maybe enough pressure will be exerted on the U.S. that it will alter its stance. If you asked me whether I would bet on this happening my answer would be that you better be laying me some serious pot odds — more than it takes to draw to a one-outer on the river. But in the game of life, and with nothing for me to lose at this point, I’ll take those odds cause it’s all I’ve got. In the immortal words of Jim Carrey — “So you’re telling me there’s a chance… *YEAH!*”
Straight from the Government’s mouth: This “Office expects the companies to return the money that U.S. players entrusted to them.” Check out the “good” news here.
This may not be a popular opinion in these parts, but the more I think about it the more I support the government’s actions. Let me clarify. I am against criminalizing online poker, am against arresting players, and am against shuttering the sites. But I’m also against people that flaunt the laws of the U.S. by engaging in subterfuge and deceit. People that bribe bank officials and lie to regulators. People that break the law not to prove some moral principle but to make money. And that’s what the poker sites did (according to the government at least). They wanted to make as much money as possible despite laws designed to stop their activities. Rather than just lobby to change the laws, they covered up their activities by lying to banks (who are on the hook financially and legally for accepting banned payments) and, failing that, bribed some of them to ignore the law. I sympathize with the underlying cause — online poker — but cannot support anyone that openly breaks U.S. laws. As an American I cannot. Our legal system is just too important to the stability and prosperity of our society. It is a value I will not sacrifice, even if it means sacrificing poker played from the comfort of my couch, in boxer shorts.
Owners of three of the largest online poker sites — Full Tilt Poker, Pokerstars, and Absolute Poker — were charged with violating the UIGEA by defrauding banks into believing that the shell companies to which online poker money was funneled were legitimate entities. This obviously is a massive development. It signals the U.S.’s intent to crack down on online gambling (including poker), its willingness to enforce the UIGEA, and the banks’ opposition to gaming (rather than pushing to repeal the UIGEA). It also could be a foreshadowing of the closing of the major sites and the federal government’s willingness to oppose intrastate online sites (and certainly the District of Columbia’s recent efforts, since it is subject to federal law). We all need more time to digest this. I will be posting more thoughts in the near future. Stay tuned.
(Oh, one final thought. The department of justice does not rush indictments. This was a case that it had been developing for some time but keeping quiet. Wonder why they chose now to release the hounds. The D.C. law? Bank pressure? Random coincidence?)
PokerStars has hired Randall Sayre, a former Nevada Gaming Control Board member, as a gaming consultant. This as a shrew move. The man certainly has insight into the machinations of the gaming commission, connections that could help get legislation passed, and, perhaps most importantly, a good reputation that PokerStars can trade on should internet poker ever be legalized. Basically, this is a move to position PokerStars as the lead site (ahem, ahead of Full Tilt Poker) in the presumed race to be a licensed internet provider.
Party Gaming co-founder, Anurag Dikshit, pled guilty in NY federal court to a 2-year old charge of violating the 1961 Wire Act. Rather than risk two years in prison he took one year probation and agreed to pay a $300 million fine. The poker industry’s reactions are mixed: everything from merriment (because PartyPoker may return to the U.S. eventually) to disgust (because Dikshit’s plea gives legitimacy to a bogus law). Even the district judge on the matter expressed concern that the law is not being enforced equally because U.S.-based companies, such as FullTiltPoker, are not being prosecuted. (The half-glass full people read this as the law should not be enforced at all; the glass half-empty people read this as a federal judge suggesting the Department of Justice should prosecute FullTilt and other sites.) Whatever it is, I am sure Dikshit is happy. Two years in prison, even a white collar Hilton, is not fun. He now gets to move on with his life and spend the boatloads of money he has left. From his perspective, can’t argue with that logic. Sometimes folding on the turn is the best option.
Hot on the heels of PokerStars’ withdrawal from Washington after the state’s Supreme Court confirmed its ban on online poker, Full Tilt has announced that it too is considering prohibiting Washington residents from playing on its site. If FTP withdraws it will be yet another body blow to Washington residents and visitors, and online poker generally. Perhaps I should not say if, but when. Withdrawing is the prudent move for Full Tilt, and, frankly, one that could potentially safeguard the site at large for players from other locations.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear again has won a victory in the Kentucky courts in his quest to use an antiquated law that permits the recovery of gambling losses from illegal gambling. This notch in his belt requires the internet poker domain owners to appear personally in court, rather than through a representative, such as iMEGA. While this may appear to be a trivial issue, do not underestimate its importance. Jurisdiction is a necessary element in all litigations, and appearing personally is a step along the path to securing it.
As for the merits of Kentucky’s argument, which has been discussed on this blog before, somebody please explain to me how it is not hypocritical for a state known mostly for its horseracing (gambling!) to claim another form of gambling — and arguably one that is not pure luck — is not equally valid. It’s not even clear that internet poker is illegal in the U.S. At most, clarity on the issue extends only to the transfer of money via U.S. financial institutions. Not to the wagering itself. I get the Governor’s true motives, which obviously are to protect Kentucky’s horseracing industry and bolster his state’s coffers. Valid motives, but he needs to be called on it. Call a horse a horse and argue the issue on its merits. Admit the hypocrisy, and then argue the validity of relying on a century old statute to collect from internet-based operators on its own merits.
Harrah’s is engaging in a massive PR campaign to publicize its free poker site. But get this, the site is run by Dragonfish, which operates a real-money site in the UK. This move comes hot on the heels of the positive House Committee vote on Rep. Frank’s bill to legalize/regulate online poker, the momentum gained since with additional Congresspeople voicing their support of the bill, and rumors that any bill that legalizes online poker will explicitly outlaw any site that operated in violation of U.S. law (i.e., FullTilt, PokerStars, and even possibly PartyPoker — a great comment to an earlier post by me notes that Party admitted guilt a while back to avoid serious sanctions). Looks like Harrah’s is using the period before (crossing fingers) legalization to fine-tune its software and build a fan base. They even soon will offer prizes, such as main event entries. It may not be “gambling” — you are not putting up your on money — but it is mighty enticing. Anyway, if I’m FTP, PS, or Party, I would be getting a wee bit nervous. Harrah’s is a major casino player with a strong lobbying influence. This shot over the bow is one that should be heeded. How though, is an entirely different question.