Bank Freezes Raising Non-Poker Eyebrows

RE: Fed Crackdown on Online Poker Money Transfers (5)

by , Jun 10, 2009 | 2:07 pm

First Gambling 911 and Pokerati … then the Associated Press, and now MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times are following aware of the $33 million of online poker winnings that has been frozen at the behest of an Assistant US Attorney in New York’s Southern District, the court that has historically created the most headaches for all things online poker.

ALT HED: Neteller 2?

The banks are deflecting blame and criticism, saying they’re simply complying with a federal court’s direction. Not surprising, of course, considering they aren’t really in a position to defy their new dot-gov overseers. The non-poker media probably doesn’t even give a shit about poker players — they just care right now about the relationship between government and banks … but hey, good to know … because just like government officials found a villain in the form of online gamblers to justify fingering its way into the bigger world of cross-border internet commerce, now online poker has a potential villain in bad, old-school governmenting (relying on nearly 50-year-old laws) to justify its immediate need to revise the laws that affect our multimillion-UScitizen industry.

To understand the brass tacks of what just happened and is happening, be sure to read the NYT story here:

Web’s Poker Winners Face Delay in Collecting
(Thanks, Lana, for the link!)

In it we learn:

  • Four American banks were hit with court papers — Wells Fargo, Citibank, Alliance Bank of Arizona, and one other — telling them to freeze the funds.
  • In part because of the secretive nature of grand juries, it’s not yet clear whether all are court orders or just friendly requests. (Ha.) Wells Fargo’s was an order.
  • Four online sites affected — Full Tilt, PokerStars, and two others.
  • Southern District prosecutors told at least one bank the funds in question “constitute property involved in money laundering transactions and illegal gambling offenses.”
  • The accounts frozen belong to Allied Systems and Account Services, two payment processors (at least one of which seems to be based in Canada).

All fine and dandy (not), but what I found particularly interesting were the very last grafs:

The casinos and poker houses are based overseas, beyond the reach of prosecutors, who have sought to attack the businesses indirectly by going after American businesses that process transactions for offshore casinos or that advertise on their behalf.

Poker sites involved in this latest crackdown make money by taking a small part of each poker pot.

A. Jeff Ifrah, a lawyer representing Account Services, which has offices in San Diego and Canada, said that his client charged a small fee to issue checks to poker players.

Mr. Ifrah said that, to his knowledge, the government “has never seized an account that belongs to players who are engaged in what I would contend is a lawful act of playing peer-to-peer poker online.”

First, yikes if they go after companies that advertise online sites — but I guess that’s the whole dot-net thing. But beyond that, the non-poker world — just in time for Congress — is starting to understand how a rake works … and the relatively new phrase of “peer-to-peer poker online” is a step towards making the difficult distinguishment that online poker is indeed different than online gambling.

One Comment to “Bank Freezes Raising Non-Poker Eyebrows”

  1. DLewis

    As of 12:20a.m. 06-11-09 Full tilt has E-checks back up.