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Is The US Government Using Mafia Tactics Against Online Poker Sites?

By Rick Blumenthal

Last week the owners of the three largest online poker sites were charged with bank fraud, illegal gambling offenses and laundering billions in illegal gambling proceeds. The indictment came as a devastating blow since these online poker sites are used by millions of players across the globe. Even if you yourself only play poker in real life you will recognize the companies by the names of Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker. They seemed so legitimate! So were these companies really in the wrong or is there more behind this recent bust?

Over the past few months we have heard in the news that a few states were toying with the idea of legalizing online poker within its own jurisdiction. The idea was to let players who lived in those states play, but to keep outsiders out. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently vetoed such a bill that would have made New Jersey the first state to legalize it.

Between April 7th and April 12th, Washington DC became the first US state to pass a law allowing people to wager on online poker. Furthermore there was no objection to this law from Congress. This new bill is known as the Lottery Modernization Act of 2010. There are a few amendments that include a change in the definition of the term "lotteries" The new bill stipulates that it only includes games of chance and the skill-based game of poker. This new bill will allow lottery provider, Intralot, which has its headquarters in Athens, Greece, to offer poker over the web to players within the district. The new bill also allows fantasy sport sites to operate. Nevada might become the 2nd state as their legislative panel approved amendments to a bill that is now waiting to get Justice Department approval.

So how does this have anything to do with the indictments that came down yesterday against PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker? I believe the Feds are trying to muscle out the stiff competition that these well established sites would create. And when I use a term like “muscle out”, I do mean it. The government seems to be using a tactic straight from the Mafia handbook by taking out the competition and claiming the racket they left behind.

Think about it, how many of us would leave to go play on government backed sites? Not many. The accusations in the indictment have been going on for years, but only now the Feds are doing something about it? It makes no sense. If the Feds were really worried about the alleged fraud and money laundering, don't you think they would have acted sooner? They have the power to freeze bank accounts and other interests when a big investigation is underway. Yet they failed to use it in this case? They will use the excuse that because these companies were based in foreign countries they couldn't exercise this right, but they can against political leaders? Yesterday they were able to seize domain names and somewhat force the sites to stop letting US players play for real money, but why couldn't they have done this a long time ago? There are way too many things that make no sense about this.

The lawmakers will argue that they are looking out in the best interest of the citizens of the US, but can we really believe them? Did they really care about us during the financial meltdown? Not one of those responsible during that debacle has been charged in the court of law. Yet these same law makers are going after the owners of these sites? I'm not saying that the sites are not guilty of any wrong doing, but how are they any different than those CEOs of AIG, and the other big banks that failed?

I wouldn't be surprised if they are currently working with the various U.S. gaming commissions and land based U.S. casinos getting these new websites set up. I would think they will use the same standards to monitor the online games as well as the same standards for tax purposes that both the casinos and players must adhere to in live settings. The landscape of internet poker has just been turned upside down as we know it.


Author Rick Blumenthal runs poker events for charity.

You can visit his site at:

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