CFSEU shuts down Platinum Sports Book
Last Sunday evening, police in York Region, north of Toronto, raided a Super Bowl party in Markham, Ontario. But not just any party: a 2,300 person, invite-only party that authorities allege was a common gaming house hosted and run by a criminal organization.
Six people were arrested and charged with bookmaking, participating in a criminal organization, keeping a common gaming house, and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence. Nine other search warrants were executed on Super Bowl Sunday throughout the Greater Toronto Area. At the Markham party, police seized $2.5 million in cash, computers, and motorcycles and Seadoos that were being raffled off. One of the warrants turned up a large safe that was removed on a flatbed truck. In a move familiar to many Americans and US observers, the website through which the sports betting business was apparently run, www.platinumsb.com, was also redirected to a notice from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stating that the site has been restrained by a Canadian court order granted to the Attorney General of Ontario.
The investigation and raid were overseen by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU), a multi-jurisdictional operation including the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Toronto Police Service, and local police from Peel, York, and Durham Regions.
Steven Stradbrooke at CalvinAyre.com wrote a great post on this a few days ago. In it, he goes into some detail about the court order ordering the redirection of the site and the Canadian authorities’ potential interactions with the registrar, the registry, and ICANN. The seizure or redirection of the website is what I think is the most intriguing part of this story.
There are a number of facts setting Platinum Sports Book apart from other Internet gaming and betting operations taking business from Canadian residents. Apparently, to be at the Super Bowl party and to place bets on the website, you had to be invited; the website wasn’t available for just anyone to register an account and place bets. The business is also, according to authorities, linked to organized crime and biker gangs here, which is a sure way to get on the radar of Canadian law enforcement. (CFSEU’s mandate is to target organized crime here in Ontario.) Furthermore, authorities allege that the Super Bowl party itself was a common gaming house (more likely a common betting house, if anything). Whether an Internet betting site can be a common betting house in this country may be open to debate. But taking bets at a physical location, with bettor and bookie physically present, and where the bookmaker is running the book as a business, is clearly offside. Finally, Platinum is alleged to have conducted the betting from within Canada; its purported mind and management was here. Most Internet gaming and betting sites I’m aware of do not have anywhere close to those physical links to Canada, at least outside of a native reserve on which online gaming is regulated and allowed.
But back to that website redirection. That’s something new for Canada. Stradbrooke rightly suggests that anyone taking bets from or offering gaming to Canadian residents in an interactive environment will do well to take care who she uses as a registrar and registry. I’ve written before about what I think is a still better approach: participating in ICANN’s gTLD expansion, which some operators appear to be doing. Stradbrooke may also be prescient in looking down the road a bit on this issue. If this is an enforcement mechanism that police in Canada now consider to be on the table, and as more Canadian provincial monopolies enter the online gaming space, will pressure mount on authorities to reach out beyond our borders to strike at non-provincially-licensed websites taking action from Canadian residents?
Stay tuned to find out.