The Poker Players Alliance’s legal team met with the DOJ earlier today in Washington DC for a status update on player repayments, and perhaps do a little lobbying on behalf of Full Tilt player points that could and should maybe someday count for something. Overall, it wasn’t very good news for players … particularly those who might be banking on the repatriation of online bankrolls at some point in 2012.
So how long will it be?
Considering that the DOJ hasn’t even set a deadline yet for when to hire an administrator to handle the Full Tilt repayment process … well, you can understand the harsh reality players face working with the government.
Read below for a report from PPA Executive Director John Pappas about what the DOJ had to say.
We showed you the 52-page criminal complaint — 9 charges against 11 individuals facing between 5 and 30 years in prison. Now here’s the 80-page civil complaint in the DOJ vs. PokerStars, FullTilt, AP/UB, et al:
The Feds’ allegations tell a rather compelling narrative of illegal gambling, bank fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to circumvent US law — that if proven calls for the forfeiture of not just domain names, but also:
$1.5 billion from PokerStars
$1 billion from Full Tilt
$500 million from UB/AP
The court documents also spell out the details on the 76 bank accounts money allegedly passed through … in multiple countries and currencies, making USA vs. PokerStars+ not just a federal case but also an international one. And with the US Feds seeking to freeze these accounts, industry types get a hint of which Stars- and Tilt-funded paychecks may soon be in jeopardy … if they aren’t already.
With the criminal indictment and civil complaint together, federal prosecutors Arlo Devlin Brown and crew, seem unafraid to telgraph their intent: People have to go to prison and we take their money, but if that’s not gonna work, we’re at least gonna get $3 billion guaranteed … and we now have two tries to take it down!
(I use the term we because these cases are technically “the people of United States of America vs.” … thus it really is you and I and my dad and grandma and her priest and the electrician and Bristol Palin and Justin Bieber … claiming that all those online poker spoils are rightfully ours.)
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The regulated online poker-only “Reid bill”, if you recall, promised to generate $1 to $4 billion a year for the US government. So you gotta figure $3 billion in forfeitures buys another year for the forces who do wanna see fully legal licensed and regulated online poker — and other casino games — to craft a bill to their liking.
With Internet gaming, a lot of legislative maneuverings seem to come down to the wire – to a fleeting few moments of activity before deadlines. That may be because of the subject- matter; gambling is a net vote loser and, accordingly, politicians want to deal with it at the end of a schedule if they want to deal with it at all. This was one such day in New Jersey.
Today was Governor Christie’s deadline for taking some action (or inaction) on the Internet gaming measure approved by the New Jersey legislature earlier this year. First came word that Governor Christie was holding a press conference this morning. Would Internet gaming be discussed? Maybe! That’s all the poker cognoscenti needed to hear! Then, as Scarlet Robinson ably reported (here), nothing seemed to come of that. More waiting.
Later came word that the Governor vetoed the measure, which is clear from his letter to the State Senate. One person that I know called this; most others I canvassed was expecting a conditional veto, with Christie sending the measure back to the legislature and specifically objecting to the horseracing subsidy. (Interestingly, earlier today the New Jersey legislative website recorded the send-back from the Governor as a conditional veto. Now, they’ve changed it to reflect that it’s an absolute veto.)
I’ll leave it to others to discuss the politics and machinations of the Governor’s interaction with legislators and lobbyists over this measure. I suspect it will be a good story when it comes out.
Now what? The legislature can override the veto if it has the votes or it can take the Governor’s letter to heart and seek to put together a referendum on the matter in New Jersey. Or it could treat this as a conditional veto in all but name and try again and address some (horseracing subsidies) but not all (a referendum) of the Governor’s concerns.
This may be a setback for Internet gaming in the United States, but it’s really too soon to tell. Will other states take their cue from a veto in New Jersey? Maybe. Perhaps other states will distinguish New Jersey’s measure, which legalized an Internet version of any game currently offered in Atlantic City casinos, from an intrastate poker-only bill. On one level, the kind of focus and wrangling that’s happened in New Jersey gives traction to the people who assert that this really should be restricted to poker and regulated by Congress at a national level.
One thing is certain: further delay in New Jersey (whether it’s short- or long-term) is a win for the offshore unregulated casino and poker industries currently servicing US customers. They’ll continue to function in a legal grey area that’s only extended by a failure by the federal and state governments to act.
Check it out … with so many individual states hungry for cash, California being the hungriest, that state will definitely be taking a look at the issue until they somehow figure out a way to collect the most duckets from all those poker geeks calling California home.
The arguments themselves are nothing new — for or against — but you will notice a slight shift on the “Gogogo online gambling FTW!” side that we’re all supposed to be a part of …
Here, Patrick Dorinson, spokesperson for the Coalition of California Card Clubs and Tribes, is clearly pushing for the intrastate model, with the California Gambling Control Commission setting the rules. He addresses that critical component so matter-of-factly that any new recruits to the online poker side would hardly know this is different from the federally regulated, interstate model pushed Barney Frank, the PPA, and others … you know, what we’ve all been supporting for a long time. That one, according to statements in Washington DC congressional debate, looks to rely on regulatory standards set by the Nevada Gaming Control Board … with maybe some input from New Jersey and the Indians.
Hello good people of Pokerati. Here’s what I hope to make a weekly digest of what I think are the most interesting and/or relevant stories (not necessarily the same thing) happening online and around the world:
PokerStars turns off Washington players – This is the first US state to be turned off by PokerStars. Major Stars competitors have not responded in-kind. This was not prompted by any change in state law in Washington (the ostensible reason was the result in the Rousso v. Washington judgment handed down on September 23rd). This may signal that Stars is not going to be as aggressive as others in maintaining a presence in all jurisdictions in the US. [Casino City Times]
HR 2267 – People continue to try to read the tea leaves to determine what’s going to happen with the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act. Every utterance from Reps. Frank or McDermott or from Senator Reid sends the online forums and poker press into overdrive. The House is now adjourned until after the November elections. If HR 2267 is to pass, it must be done during the lame-duck session starting after the mid-terms and ending before the start of the 112th Congress in early January. I continue to believe that it’s more likely than not that the current version (as amended) will not pass before the start of the next session, but remember that a lot can happen in a few days. [GovTrack.us]
Betfair IPO – This is one of the biggest public offerings in gaming in some time, so it’s no surprise that it’s getting quite a lot of attention. Betfair is apparently not raising new money on the float; shareholders are selling off approximately 10% of their holdings before over-allotment. Initial media reports had suggested a valuation of as high as £1.5B, but this appears to have been discounted. [Wall Street Journal]
Penn National coming to Vegas – Penn National Gaming purchased the outstanding debt of the M Resort in Las Vegas for $230.5M. This is seen as Penn’s way of eventually owning the asset, giving it its first Las Vegas property. The M was built at a cost of $1B, so most appear to be congratulating Penn for effectively purchasing a nice asset at a fraction of cost. [LVRJ]
PokerStars Licensure – Stars continues to build up gaming licences in various jurisdictions; it now has operating licences in France, Italy, and Estonia, as well as its ‘main’ international licence from the Isle of Man. This may be a sign of the kind of regulatory fragmentation that owners will face in future (especially in Europe) as different countries open up their markets to licensure and operations. [Gaming Zion]
Stuart Hoegner is quickly becoming something akin to the Joe Navarro of online-centric, international casino and gambling law. Though I’m sure @GamingCounsel on Twitter would never claim to be anything close to an @Kevmath for poker-related legal and legislative matters, this independent barrister and solicitor (they say things funny in Canadian) has in due process become a go-to voice of info about the latest legal and political shifts affecting 10s of millions of people in our multibillion-dollar industry.
While in town a few weeks ago, he sat for an episode of Jon Friedberg’s UTG, where they tackled some challenging questions for the Poker Industry as a whole in these undeniably tumultuous legal times — for anything connected to online gambling:
Ahh, remember how cute it was when Poker’s primary response to any insinuation of illegality was simply: “Whatever, game-a-skill.”
GamingCounsel has also become a regular guest on a podcast called CEM Audio Edge (Casino Enterprises Management), where he has broken down in great detail for CEMers matters of Canadian gaming code as well as effective use of Twitter:
Speaking of laws and Twitter, while we’re at it here are some quick story-worthy links — all ganked highlighted from @GamingCounsel’s feed: