Posts Tagged ‘War-on-Poker’

PokerStars, Justice Department Reach Settlement

by , Aug 1, 2012 | 9:34 am

Internet gaming giant PokerStars will forfeit $731 million to the U.S. government over the next three years to settle a criminal complaint with the Department of Justice, although the company admits no wrongdoing as alleged in the April 2011 “Black Friday” indictments.

Some of the settlement will be used to refund money owed to U.S. and foreign customers of the now defunct Full Tilt Poker, which was also named in the original indictments.

PokerStars, which refunded money it owed to American gamblers more than a year ago, will acquire the assets of Full Tilt and relaunch the gaming website in legal markets as a separate brand.

The settlement, announced separately Tuesday by Isle of Man-based PokerStars and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, puts to rest many issues surrounding “Black Friday,” in which federal prosecutors cracked down on Internet poker in the United States, stopping three of the largest companies from taking wagers from gamblers in the United States.

PokerStars continues to operate legally in Europe and other markets where online gaming is regulated.

Under terms of the settlement, PokerStars can apply to offer Internet poker to U.S. customers if state or federal governments legalize the activity.

“We are delighted we have been able to put this matter behind us, and also secured our ability to operate in the United States of America whenever the regulations allow,” PokerStars Chairman Mark Scheinberg said in a statement. “The way we have operated our business since the U.S. Department of Justice brought its claim has underlined our credentials as a responsible online poker operator.”


Spencer Bachus Hit with Ethics Probe

by , Feb 11, 2012 | 6:07 pm

Online pokerers can get their schadenfreude on, as one of our game’s staunchest opponents, Spencer Bachus (R-AL) faces a Congressional ethics probe for insider trading violations.

The independent, non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics believes Bachus was “betting” the stock market with privileged information, the Washington Post reports.

OCE says they’ve been looking at the current Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee for more than a year to confirm suspicions that, essentially, Bachus, an active trader, was operating like a stock-options superuser! OK, maybe not exactly, because you gotta think Bachus woulda banked more than a few thousand bucks here and there if he were truly the Russ Hamilton of Wall Street politics. But still …

DC Power Broker? A leader in the cause of stifling online poker, seen here with his wife at an event honoring Rafe Furst and Phil Gordon, two Full Tilt Poker pros.

Regardless of whether or not this level of OCE censure might ultimately land Bachus in prison a la Martha Stewart (it’s often a fine line between unethical and illegal) Bachus’ woe is a big win for poker because such allegations alone effectively neutralize his power and influence on Capitol Hill. In the War on Poker, Bachus has been a General for the other side post-UIGEA, and twice before has shown the ability to stop online poker legalization efforts in their tracks by persuading other members to line up behind him on our issue. But not this go-round, it would seem …

Absolute Poker Owner Pleads Guilty, Expects Prison

by , Dec 21, 2011 | 3:01 am

My bad: Brent Beckley, guilty of online poker.

DOJ prosecutors keep moving up their ladder of bad guys in the unlawful internet gambling case against Isai Scheinberg et al. Brent Beckley, the 31-year-old father of two and a co-owner of Absolute Poker, told a Manhattan judge he did indeed lead a company that deceived US banks to circumvent US law, and acknowledged conspiring with others to commit bank and wire fraud. Beckley will likely serve 12-18 months in prison as part of a plea agreement, Reuters and the New York Times report.

This probably doesn’t bode well for other Black Friday defendants who face more severe charges and still haven’t stepped foot into US court. Though I haven’t seen actual documents on this one yet (readers please feel free to send a link or pdf), I’d be willing to bet (on this-here internet?) that the plea deal does not cut Beckley any slack because Absolute Poker patches said “dot net”.

Full Tilt Exit Strategy Begins to Emerge

by , Nov 3, 2011 | 9:19 pm

Rock Paper Scissors? The last time a rich French dude came to New York to bail out the Americans was Rochambeau in 1781 — fewer than eight WSOPs before George Washington established the DOJ office currently trying to put the hurt on various Tiltboys.

Still trying to wrap my teeth around the latest chapter in the saga of the Rise and Fall of Full Tilt Poker, with the Bernard Tapie Groupe in France saying the DOJ has given them a thumbs up on the purchase of certain Full Tilt assets … with which they’ll supposedly be able to make-good with Full Tilt’s non-American players and resume non-American operations.

So if this is correct — and we can talk later why we presume more truth in this story than others before it — Preet Bharara and his top-ranked American prosecution office wouldn’t have to worry about the Euros … which would be good for the DOJ, I presume, because who needs to mess with the foreigners and the incredibly complex international litigation and trade wars they potentially bring … especially when the real prize Preet seeks is closer to $1 billion.

For a better understanding, be sure to check out Wendeen Eolis’s latest piece in Poker Player Newspaper — Decoding Full Tilt Poker – DOJ – Tapie Plans — which provides a much needed sobriety check and skillful reading between the lines. Even though she may not be on the frontlines like Subject:Poker, as a Manhattan legal consultant in her non-poker life, Eolis has been down to the battlefield a time or two … and seems to understand ways the Southern District of New York more intimately than most.

The Tapie deal does offer the first glimmers of light at the end of a long tunnel, but it seems American players might wanna hold off on calls for “ONE TIME!” lest they become self-fulfilling prophesies of disappointment and despair. Because for any justifiable exuberance over the likelihood that European and “rest of world” players might see PokerStars-style payouts before the end of 2011 … American players with online poker (bank?) accounts in limbo now know only that the DOJ will be looking at them separately in determining who’s a “victim” and who is Isildur1 who’s potentially a less deserving accomplice.

Collateral Damage in the War on Poker

by , Aug 12, 2011 | 1:02 pm

For whatever reason, don’t ask me to explain, I’ve started looking back through some of the 300-or-so unpublished posts in Pokerati’s drafts folder. LOL. I found the one pasted below, from early ’07 as I got caught up in the Neteller money grab. No clue why I never pressed publish … I think it was because I wanted to do more research to support a theory about CIA interest in the Muslim-world’s gold-backed e-dinar and/or find a picture of a cartoon terrorist.

But really, takes you back, doesn’t it? I would, of course, get my $520 before year-end — no interest though from the Feds for holding it. And the return of Neteller money back in ’07 is a reason many give for their confidence in some day getting repaid by Full Tilt. But when I look back at that case — though Neteller was in many ways the opening salvo in the US fight to shut down the online poker industry — I frankly see why the current round of money seizures are very different, and thus why repayment via Full Tilt is far less likely than the government’s eventual release of Neteller funds.

Looking back at this post, and the original article it was gonna link to, does remind me about issues of virtual currency that the world is still trying to resolve. We couldn’t know it at the time, but what we’re seeing now started out with poker players getting caught up in something that was about way more than poker:


The Jon & Harry Show

by , Jul 18, 2011 | 12:25 pm

By letter to federal Attorney General Eric Holder dated July 14th of this year, US Senators Jon Kyl and Harry Reid have made known their views on Internet gaming. Or rather: they’ve let the AG know what they want the Department of Justice to do without exactly saying what their position is. (Thanks to Chris Krafcik for circulating the letter.)

This letter, from two senators coming from very different camps on the Internet gaming issue, is a very interesting document both for what it says and for what it doesn’t say.

What it says is that the Department of Justice has been lax in pursuing foreign private Internet gaming operators and that this has “led to a signficant and growing perception … that the Department of Justice thought that the case [against operating Internet poker and other Internet gambling websites] was uncertain enough that it chose not to pursue enforcement actions.” The senators state that it’s important for the DOJ to pursue “illegal Internet gambling” in the United States “aggressively and consistently.” Most notably in this paragraph, Senators Kyl and Reid assert that Internet poker websites have been offering online play to Americans for many years “with apparently no repercussions.”


PPA Calls Players to Washington for Sunday-Millions March

by , May 11, 2011 | 5:18 am

washington dc capitol poker

Poker player and industry interests are preparing to hit Congress with selective aggression in DC later this month.

The surge actually goes down on a Monday and Tuesday, but do days even matter any more when Americans can’t compete against the rest of the developed world on Sunday?

The Poker Players Alliance moved up plans for a Washington DC member fly-in scheduled for September to later this month, May 23-24 … where the official call to action is supposedly to hit Congress hard to legalize online poker and do it quickly … if not before the WSOP then at least some time in 2011, maybe, please? Click here for details on the fly-in, and here for what you can do from afar to support what should be poker’s biggest political assault on Washington DC ever.

Congress has seen the numbers — millions of voting-age American players, a $6 billion US industry, $10-40 billion in tax revenue (over 10 years), thousands of jobs — and most members know they won’t face much backlash at the polls for opposing internet prohibitions and allowing online poker the same protections as other forms of legal recreation. But what they may not realize is why it may not be so cool to wait a few years to fix things, nor how many non-criminals have been hurt by recent DOJ actions, which are rather unprecedented in that the case against online poker operators ultimately hinges on a thusfar unsettled matter of what legally defines gambling and/or games of skill.

I think for the PPA, beyond reinforcing sensible-government arguments, they plan to get their members on message — because as more and more sign on with positions the PPA first advocated after the UIGEA, the game of legitimizing online poker has evolved — while getting Congress to realize the need for more immediate action because:


DonkDown Radio

by , May 7, 2011 | 10:20 am

live poker radio donkdownWe cover the many big and small stories of the week:  UB collapsing, cheating in the LockPoker/BLUFF Challenge, the new WSOP almost-live coverage, Bellagio losing high limit action, Joy Miller’s vengeful plan to make people think we’re @AsianSpa, Mason Malmuth’s battle against PPA communists, and even jakz101’s missing portion of his finger.  We talk to talonchick, and Druff tries to squash a nonexistent beef.  BoDogAri and reggiman join us at points, and Pokerati does another informative online poker legality segment.  AsianSpa joins us along with Jeff Madsen, as we try to prove to Madsen that we’re separate entities.


The War on Poker?

Video message from the PPA

by , Apr 16, 2011 | 3:52 pm

Poker players (who tend to bitch the most?) love to hate on the Poker Players Alliance, the most vocal of DC advocacy groups for poker-related matters, and, obv disclosure, an advertiser of ours here at Pokerati. Discern for yourself my own possible bias, but they are merely a small player in the DC poli-poker game. The AGA, for example, also wants to see legalized online poker (and other casino games) … but they are not voicing any protest.

Strategic decisions notwithstanding, the PPA sees the federal indictment of close associates to some of their board members as an attack on poker, and are positioning themselves as a rebel poker alliance.

That’s my take, not theirs, on the video statement put out by their Executive Director John Pappas. And below is additional statement from the PPA that many players have been clamoring for.


This Day in Historyish: July 2006

DOJ discovers poker blogs

by , Aug 18, 2010 | 12:18 pm

I’m sure this has absolutely nothing to do with anything, obv … but was going through some old pics and came across this screen-grab from July 2006 (some two months before the UIGEA)… when I hadn’t yet discovered the purpose of labeling images more descriptively than just wsop28.jpg, and the Feds apparently hadn’t yet figured out how to hide an IP address when emailing a link to a small-time poker blogger’s suggestive tag.

At the time, Phil Hellmuth had just won his 10th bracelet, no one thought twice about playing on Ultimate Bet, everyone in poker still had money, and Jamie Gold (of all people) seemed to represent the very worst poker had to offer. Ahh, the good ole days … even Russ Hamilton was presumed innocent then.

Though I hardly recall why specifically, something about this visitor seemed peculiar enough for me to wanna preserve the moment. With the benefit of hindsight, I’m sure I was just kidding.

Markup of HR 2267 Tuesday

Vote appears too close to call

by , Jul 26, 2010 | 8:04 am

Watch the markup hearing here

The attempt to regulate and license Internet gambling tries to move another step forward on Tuesday with the markup of HR 2267 in the House Financial Services Subcommittee. The markup is scheduled to start at 10am ET, with HR 2267 currently listed third on the list of seven bills.

The last time a bill regarding Internet gambling made it to a markup vote in the Committee (2008), it “lost” by a vote of 32-32. Doing a little bit of research by using the PPA Congressional Ratings website, the 2008 markup vote, and previous hearings, there are currently 34 Yeas, 21 Nays, and 16 Undecided on the bill.

Democratic Yeas – Frank, Kanjorski, Gutierrez, Velazquez, Watt, Ackerman, Sherman, Moore (KS), Capuono, Hinojosa, Clay, McCarthy, Lynch, Green, Cleaver, Bean, Moore (WI), Hodes, Ellison, Klein, Wilson, Perlmutter, Donnelly, Foster, Carson, Childers, Minnick, Adler, Dreihaus, Himes, Maffei

Republican Yeas – King, Paul, Lance, Campbell, Lee

Democratic Nays – Meeks, Baca, Miller, Scott

Republican Nays – Bachus, Castle, Royce, Lucas, Manzullo, Jones, Miller, Capito, Hensarling, Garrett, Barrett, Neugebauer, Price, McHenry, Putnam, Bachmann, Marchant

Those listed as undecided include those who voted against the bill in 2008, but have either signed on as a co-sponsor to HR 2267 or sent a letter in support of Internet poker.

Democratic Undecided – Waters, Maloney, Speier, Kilroy, Kosmas, Grayson, Peters

Republican Undecided – Biggert, Gerlach, Campbell, McCotter, McCarthy, Posey, Jenkins, Paulsen

To add your voice of support of online poker, check out and call, write or Tweet your local member of Congress.

FBI, County Sheriff, Local Police Raid Houston Underground Game

by , Jul 21, 2010 | 10:19 am

With limited factcheck, we do have a little more poker-minded info to go on beyond the hedline and the TV news report:

14 arrested — “at least,” authorities say — presumably to be charged with traffic-ticket offenses. Though you never know with Harris County … they’d be up for Class A capital punishment there, I suspect, if that dang constitution didn’t get in the dern way.

Not clear on what the FBI’s involvement was here. The Feds generally haven’t gotten involved in these sorts of local raids throughout Texas. And in general this raid seems a bit peculiar as there supposedly hasn’t been any sort of crackdown for a few years, a Houston player tells us.

Some basic info about what was known as the I-45 South game:

It’s a very large game that’s been running for many years. They have $2,000 freerolls every night. Games running from 1/3 NL up to 5/10 on a regular basis.

Also a bit odd/lame … commentors in this news report seem intent on naming names and tattling on other games that may or may not be involved in the Houston poker underground but have yet to be raided. Cool raw video footage though, if you want a closer glimpse of handcuffed players.

Israel Police Order ISPs to Block Access to Gambling Websites

by , Jul 15, 2010 | 5:48 am

This is an odd one … never before heard much out of Israel against online gambling, despite there being no brick and mortar casinos there (I’m pretty sure) … in fact, Israel is something of a haven — if not a headquarters — for all sorts of online gambling related businesses. Yet supposedly, Israeli police just ordered all its ISPs to block access to IP addresses associated with overseas online gambling websites.

Don’t know many details, other than that the ISPs were given a list of banned sites, supposedly including some biggies … but the only known name so far has been Victor Chandler.

Sounds taxy. Anyone have Isai Scheinberg’s number so I can give him a call and say, yo, Mr. Moneymaker, what’s up? Surely he’s gotta know, or maybe live down the street from someone who does …

The ISPs were given 48 hours to respond, and several reportedly have already asked for an extension to a week.

ALT HED: Israel is the New Kentucky?

John Stossel Takes Up Poker / Online Gambling Fight

Conservative media weighing our issues

by , May 16, 2010 | 4:02 am

I’ve been a fan of John Stossel, and his willingness to call bullshit on conventional wisdom, since the days I started noticing the difference between good journalism and bad. He has since moved from ABC News to Fox, where his libertarian shtick is a tea-party-friendly line of fiscal conservatism that challenges the moral contingent who want to impose on personal freedoms. Thus, the newest cause he’s taken up (at least for a week) is gambling … specifically online gambling.

Stossel outs himself as a recreational poker player in an episode of his namesake show on Fox Business that aired Thursday: Bans on Betting.

The show re-aired throughout the weekend, and will be on one more time tonight, Sunday, at 10 PM ET.

His efforts to bring the online gambling issue to the fore last week extended far beyond his own show. Here he is on The O’Reilly Factor:


Forbes Calling Out Online Poker Woes

by , May 13, 2010 | 9:45 am

Check it out … from Forbes magazine:

Online Poker War Heats Up
The Department of Justice bags a Canadian payment processor in its fight against online poker. Are the big online firms next?

Interesting … these biz-media guys may not really get poker, but they do listen to The Poker Beat presumably understand a thing or two about multi-national finance and how putting rich white guys behind bars can be good for traffic circulation.

Generally, the poker world has always celebrated when the big online companies always got some mainstream media attention. But who knew there could even be a story without a press release from Full Tilt or PokerStars?