FBI shuts down poker sites in online gambling crackdown

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74 Responses to “FBI shuts down poker sites in online gambling crackdown”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The USGov does not support gambling unless the odds are horribly unfair, like with all the lotteries.
    This is just a cash grab by the feds before congress legalizes and regulates online poker which is the only proper thing to do.

  2. Antinous / Moderator says:

    either you respect US law or you don’t.

    So you believe in respecting laws whether they’re good or bad? Does that include tossing people in prison for marijuana use? Sodomy laws? Jim Crow laws? Would this philosophy also apply to Sharia if we were in Saudi Arabia?

    I think the point here is that some of us don’t respect laws that violate our ethics and possibly our rights.

  3. Anonymous says:

    HI all just wanted to say I feel bad for all the player who cannot get access to thier money. I was lucky and was not affected at absolute poker. still don;t know why I thought I was on a dot com site but it all still up and running

  4. Anonymous says:

    So US can shut down any .com site in the world with impunity. That’s interesting.
    And we yell bloody murder when china BLOCKS access to a foreign site to its citizens.
    That does not… seem right to me. Or is it just me?
    Imo Saudi Arabia should join forces with Iran and start shutting down any sites displaying female body.. or face, for that matter. Fair is fair, innit?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think the real issue here isn’t so much what the online gambling sites were doing, but the fact that the FBI could seize the domains, seemingly with impunity. Whats not clear is whether the domains were registered in the USA (which it seems they were). A .com could be registered anywhere (the actual TLD for the US is .us). It seems to me the Indian Reservations would be a perfect place for a gambling domain registrar office, or perhaps The Principality of Sealand, or even the PRC, where I expect it would be much harder to have the domains closed?

  6. Anonymous says:

    What’s funny/sad here is that the guy who actually committed the crime initially, in handling the accounts, is an Australian who is the star witness. He’s saying anything they want to hear, just to save his own skin. The Manx owners tipped off the FBI in the first place, cause they felt he owed them money.

    Honour among thieves is more common than businessmen, apparently.

  7. Anonymous says:

    That could make for a pretty interesting movie when Spielberg buys the rights.

  8. Emo Less says:

    Sí se puede. Sí se puede. Sí se puede. Sí se puede.

  9. Anonymous says:

    America the new China….

  10. BuzzCoastin says:

    This is outrageous! How can the Chinese government’s FBI shutdown internet sites at will. Why doesn’t the democratic US government do something about this cyber warfare coming from the Chinese. First the Chinese attack Google and Gmail and now online poker, somebody has got to stop these communist dictators.

    What the FBI is the US government!? Oh, never mind.

  11. Mister44 says:

    I guess I don’t understand the outrage. It seems people are upset that the FBI seized .com domains, seemingly with impunity.. I am not sure why the word ‘impunity’ keeps cropping up. It doesn’t seem appropriate. Anwyay…

    The FBI goes through the legal process, gets the appropriate warrants, and makes the busts. How is that different than anything else? As I understand it, they are busting them on fraud and money laundering. If this was some one from Goldman Sachs, you would be dancing in the street that another Wall Street Pig got busted. If this was a drug bust we wouldn’t bat an eye that the Ferraris and cigarette boats are being confiscated. The domains are assets just like anything else – why would they be immune?

    • foobar says:

      The FBI goes through the legal process, gets the appropriate warrants, and makes the busts. How is that different than anything else? As I understand it, they are busting them on fraud and money laundering. If this was some one from Goldman Sachs, you would be dancing in the street that another Wall Street Pig got busted. If this was a drug bust we wouldn’t bat an eye that the Ferraris and cigarette boats are being confiscated. The domains are assets just like anything else – why would they be immune?

      Because they aren’t prosecuting US citizens, or even people in the US. Nor is it even clear if there was any law broken and the ones being quoted do not apply to the people being charged.

      • ranomatic says:

        Because they aren’t prosecuting US citizens, or even people in the US. Nor is it even clear if there was any law broken and the ones being quoted do not apply to the people being charged.

        Being a non-citizen does not shield you from prosecution and neither does remaining outside of a country’s borders while committing a crime.

        The illegal online gambling law (UIGEA) is poorly worded and will be a problem for the prosecution since the activities may not meet the definition of “unlawful gambling” provided in the act. For the money laundering and bank fraud charges, I will wait for the evidence to talk. Clarity can only come with a trial.

        • foobar says:

          Being a non-citizen does not shield you from prosecution and neither does remaining outside of a country’s borders while committing a crime.

          Do you really need the concept of jurisdiction explained to you?

          Are you subject to China’s laws? If not, why would the Manx be subject to yours?

          • ranomatic says:

            It looks like you and I do not agree. My question for you is – If a law on one side of an international border is broken by a participant on the other side, do you think that anyone has jurisdiction? Is there any such thing as the rule of law in international matters?

            I have worked in several countries and have been careful to abide by the local laws. If I wanted to do business in China, I would absolutely expect to be subject to Chinese law. Avoiding going there makes it difficult, but not impossible, for them to prosecute me. If I were to send a bribe to the wrong state official and got caught at it, even though I have never set foot in China, I would expect them to indite me. Extradition is another problem. In the case of the Isle of Man, the US has a treaty in place that allows extradition for trial.

            With the online poker sites, if the charges are true, the defendants were aware that they could not legally transfer money to pay online gambling debts. They are charged with using illegal methods to transfer the funds.

  12. TheAntipodean says:

    Yeehaa! It can only be moments now before the FBI arrests the entire staff of the Federal Reserve Bank, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup and all the other bankstas who destroyed the world’s economy with their inflationary fiat money counterfeiting and fictional reserve lending!

    Any moment now…

    Can’t be much longer…

    • noen says:

      Good.

      “It can only be moments now before the FBI arrests the entire staff of… [fill in the blank]”

      They hold too much power to be dealt with directly. They way you deal with an entity that holds more power than you do is different than how you deal with someone who doesn’t.

      “…. who destroyed the world’s economy with their inflationary fiat money counterfeiting and fictional reserve lending!”

      We should return to the gold standard huh? Your fundamentalist economic theories are based on a false understanding of how economies actually work.

      • blackboar says:

        Strawman much? Those fuckers gambled and scammed most of the world, except for countries like mine so poor they weren’t let into that table. The parallelism is clear.

        • CaptObvious says:

          You’re probably one of those people who thinks those sites were rigged. With the exception of Ultimate Bet, none of the sites listed scammed anyone. It’s 10x more profitable to run a legit site than some scam: you’d never get any players otherwise. And Ultimate Bet was reviled by the poker community. I know plenty of people who made their livings in online poker. I’m not saying it’s smart to keep your whole bankroll online, but nobody was scamming players.

      • CaptObvious says:

        Looks like your sarcasm-ometer is broken today?

        • TheAntipodean says:

          Indeed. My apologies for failing to use the proper sarcasm punctuation.

          On-topic, I can’t say I’m sorry to see gambling activities being curtailed. In my homeland of ‘Straya, the “pokies” aka fruit machine/poker machine is the nemesis of gambling addicts and currently the focus of a bitter public battle. I was confronted with this issue personally whilst resuscitating an elderly lady who had taken a big overdose of sleeping tablets, after her family found out she had mortgaged her house and gambled the proceeds away. All lost at her friendly local seniors venue.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Fucking government, man. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to our overlords for ensuring I am not harmed by my desire to play poker on the Internet, but goddamn.

  14. Eric says:

    If these sites are involved in illegal activity, they should be shut down. I think this will be a clear incentive for companies to start poker sites offshore.

  15. Anonymous says:

    .net goes to a real site. Not sure if it’s the legit gambling site, but it’s not a place holder or take down screen.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I’m a little confused – the businesses are based in other countries where presumably online gambling is legal and the FBI can just seize domains at will?

  17. Anonymous says:

    uhhh….you know, I think the 75 frozen bank accounts across the world, Interpol involvement for extraditions, and hundreds of thousands of poker players with no way to get their own money back is a little more important than a TLD redirection. Everyone knows ICANN is basically a branch of the US government.

  18. meatyveg says:

    Would be different if US companies were dominating the market, just smacks of the US beancounters looking at all the money leaving the country.

    Perhaps we should close down US sites in retaliation

  19. prentiz says:

    What amazes me is the impunity with which the FBI and the US courts shut down websites owned by foreign companies. I note that not only is Full Tilt’s .com site down, but also its .ie site, although their .co.uk site is still up and running. This is only going to accelerate calls for a reduction in the role of the US in administering the internet.

    • CaptObvious says:

      yeah, no. The Govt only shut down the .com domains which were US-registered. That is within their legal rights in this case.

      • foobar says:

        yeah, no. The Govt only shut down the .com domains which were US-registered. That is within their legal rights in this case.

        No. There wouldn’t be an issue if the US government were policing .us, but they’re seizing international domains in .com.

    • ranomatic says:

      What amazes me is the impunity with which the FBI and the US courts shut down websites owned by foreign companies. I note that not only is Full Tilt’s .com site down, but also its .ie site, although their .co.uk site is still up and running. This is only going to accelerate calls for a reduction in the role of the US in administering the internet.

      Oddly enough, fulltiltpoker.ie is not resolving at all. Maybe it was redirected to the .com site before the seizure? Who knows.

      I don’t understand your angst. Of course the US courts can shut these sites down, but not with impunity, with law. They are all doing business in the US, apparently to the tune of $3,000,000,000, with a US registered domain name.

      Look – I think the anti-online gambling law and its enforcement is a waste of effort. If, however, the companies broke other laws in an attempt the circumvent this one, the leadership will have trouble.

  20. sirkowski says:

    Will someone please think of the poor mafia?

  21. Victor Drath says:

    Thank goodness! These sites might have been run by terrorist! And it’s very important to impose your “moral” values on others, very important.

    USA – WORLD POLICE! USA – WORLD POLICE!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Can someone please explain why these sites are a threat to our well-being?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Amen brotha!!!

  24. Anonymous says:

    It seems they switched the main sites to http://www.fulltilpoker.co.uk and http://www.pokerstars.eu, the software also has been updated to block deposits from US players temporarily.

  25. foobar says:

    If a law on one side of an international border is broken by a participant on the other side, do you think that anyone has jurisdiction? Is there any such thing as the rule of law in international matters?

    Sure – the state in which the act takes place has jurisdiction.

    If you want to do business in China, yes, you have to follow Chinese law. If you do business on the Isle of Man you’re only subject to Manx law, whether you’re an internet company or a butcher.

    Also, extradition law requires something to be a crime in both jurisdictions.

    • Eugene says:

      ‘Also, extradition law requires something to be a crime in both jurisdictions.’

      yeah – for sure. There will never be an extradition from Manx, Ireland, or the UK for the gambling violation. As for money laundering, sounds like a stitch up. If the original money wasnt criminally taken – which it wouldn’t be in UK or Irish law the the money wasn’t dirty, and therefore not laundered. Moved.

      Apparently the UK and Ireland are not going to close down US porn sites and extradite american citizens because they dont feel they are running an empire where they can control the internet.

  26. Anonymous says:

    They didn’t shut them down. They just took the domain. It’s the same thing they are doing to piracy sites.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Whether I’m innocent of any wrongdoing or not, things like this ensures that I keep most of my money out of accounts that can be easily seized. Too bad I rent otherwise I’d be digging holes in the backyard right about now.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Maybe someone higher up in the US government owns a stake in competing online gambling and is maybe trying to steer some traffic their way? Conspiracies are fun!

  29. Anonymous says:

    Ultimate Bet is down too. But while Pokerstars.com is down, Pokerstars.net and pokerstars.eu are working fine. Perhaps these FBI people haven’t learned their lesson about how quickly sites can set up safe mirrors. Didn’t Rojadirecta, ChannelSurfing, and ATDHEnet teach them anything?

  30. Anonymous says:

    That’s too bad guess we have to go to the casino now.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Poker is a game of skill, where players wager against one another and the house takes a tiny rental fee from each winners pot.
    All other casino games are played against the house, where the house has a mathematical advantage over the player.
    This distinction is central to why poker clubs are legal in California, and partly explains why poker sites exist (as opposed to online casinos that offer all games).
    The distinction between “games of chance” and poker (a zero sum game, skills based) could be very important to how all this washes out in the end.

  32. PathogenAntifreeze says:

    Looks like another use for MAFIAAFire already presents itself.
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/mafiaafire-redirector/

  33. ranomatic says:

    The first law quoted in the seizure notice was poorly worded when written and has not been updated. It did not actually outlaw online poker sites, but instead barred businesses from taking payments for “unlawful” online gambling. It will be interesting to see if those charges can stick. If the money path is clean, the defendant may be fine.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Gamble all you want just don’t you dare come begging for medical help or whine about not being able to pay for housing once you’ve burned through all your money. I’m sick of reading about embezzlers paying for a gambling habit or people bitching about their taxes yet they always have plenty of money to waste on gambling.

    I’d think gamblers would support the government cracking down on unregulated gambling sites. They are the ones most likely to be crooked or riddled with scammers. People are so used to the honest Vegas type places that they don’t expect to be ripped off.

  35. DrDick says:

    Poker Stars is operated where I live in the Isle of Man. They are a massive player in our economy, which is currently expanding in the online gambling world. So this is going to be really big news for us. I fail to see how they can be charged for unlawful gambling charges when they are licensed under manx law.

    On top of that the founder and director are both Manx residents, so further issues to come.

    http://www.manxradio.com/newsread.aspx?id=51456

  36. Ceronomus says:

    Well, the 3 billion dollar civil suit, if won, would put more money into the US coffers that the “$38 Billion” dollar tax cuts that actually saved us $264 million.

    Of course, if they can WIN the suit…and then collect. Good luck on that.

  37. Anonymous says:

    People seems to forget that any “.com” domain are in fact equivalent to “com.us”, and thus can be shut down by a US Court order, regardless if the actual site is hosted or not in the US territory. Of course, if you know the old IP address and the site is hosted outside US, chances are you still able to access it.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, what with many, many states operating their own casinos and lotteries, we can’t have private entrepreneurs competing with the government now, can we?

    Long live the “FREE” market! Free, my ass.

  39. Nanners says:

    I might be being an idiot, but I’m not sure I understand how the law works in this situation. It was a US law they were breaking, right? But… they were operating overseas. As far as I can tell, the crimes they committed have to do with using a US-registered domain name for illegal purposes and running illegal money through US banks. If they had used only foreign domains (such as .co.uk) and foreign banks, would they be breaking any sort of US law?

    • ranomatic says:

      They could not operate without involving US banks. The money HAS to be collected from the US-based clients somehow. This seems to be the real basis for the charges, now that I look at it more carefully. Payments for gambling debts were disguised as payments for legal goods, that (of course) never actually existed. Some banks were allegedly bribed.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Maybe this will stop the mysterious disappearance of my brother’s more-than-sufficient-for-his-lifestyle salary and motivate him to pay back his parents for the thousands of dollars in back-pay for rent he owes them, back-pay for the car they kindly fronted their credit card for, and thousand (or so) dollars he owes me for saving his ass on rent and bills for a number of years while I was making far less money than he is now. But, that remains to be seen. Casinos and gambling sites are as bad as cigarette companies in my eyes.

  41. bfarn says:

    I don’t get it – isn’t poker considered a game of skill? We have card clubs here in Los Angeles – or is it that the law only allows it if you’re willing to drive to some smarmy casino in Chatsworth and eat bad food while you play…

    • Victor Drath says:

      That’s just it. It’s fine and dandy if government and officials are making profit off it. It’s only a crime when they’re not.

  42. EH says:

    “Arrest Warrant in Rem” …The FBI doesn’t even care if people know what they’re talking about.

    • ranomatic says:

      “Arrest Warrant in Rem” …The FBI doesn’t even care if people know what they’re talking about.

      Not sure what you mean.

      “Arrest Warrant In Rem” in this context means a warrant to seize a thing, which is exactly what they did.

  43. werve says:

    Just eliminating the competition, nothing personal, it’s just business…

    From today’s Las Vegas Sun:

    “In fact, they’re quietly gearing up to push for a federal overhaul of the online gaming industry, and they’re banking on new momentum from two sources — proactive states and Republican legislators — to get it done.

    “The industry feels that in the next 18 months, they’ll be able to bring this issue up again,” said Peter Ernaut, president of R&R Partners, which lobbies for the casino industry.

    Local Internet poker legislation is on the agenda in several states, including Nevada, and was just approved in the District of Columbia, making the nation’s capital the first local jurisdiction to test online gaming.

    There’s a sense that these intrastate endeavors are baby steps toward a national resolution on Internet poker.”

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/apr/15/nevada-pols-key-us-push-internet-gaming/

  44. Anonymous says:

    To those who claim that .net sites are still accessible – those are usually reserved for “play money” poker. I.e. http://www.filltiltpoker.net will be “play money” only website, and fulltiltpoker.com will be fully commercial website with access to real money.

  45. Anonymous says:

    Really? Do you think the Fed actually needs a reason?

    Serves them right. Anyone that sat on the sidelines and watched Wikileaks thinking they wouldn’t be next was fooling themselves. I just hope the next headline will be, “PokerStars has moved to Bahnhof hosting.” It would be deliciously sweet to see more and more businesses running to host with the provider that is harboring pirates and whistleblowers. Long live liberty!…. in Sweden.

  46. slgalt says:

    There’s also a motive for the guy who turned them in:
    http://www.businessinsider.com/boy-genius-online-poker-scandal-2011-4

    But if these guys did lie to the banks then it’s fraud, and if the bankers knew then they should be arrested as well.

    Poker is a game of skill and should be regulated and taxed, hopefully these cases will overturn the stupid law that was ridiculously put into the port security bill.

    • Ceronomus says:

      @slgalt

      Poker is regulated and taxed in the US. This matter stems from a violation of those US regulations. Whether or not charges stick? That’s for the courts.

      I do taxes for two (small-time) professional gamblers. I can assure you that gambling winnings, when properly reported are taxed (of course, if someone is not reporting gambling winnings they are committing tax fraud and can face prison so that is a whole other issue…)

      LEGAL Casinos in the US most certainly pay taxes…so it is taxed and regulated on that end as well.

    • ranomatic says:

      slgalt – Thank you for that link. The quote at the end makes the whole thing worth reading. Talking about Daniel Tzvetkoff, who may have given the FBI the information needed to make the case:

      And as the Courier Mail put it, if this were still the old days, he’d be buried in the Las Vegas desert right now.

  47. karl_jones says:

    Thank God we’ve taken action against online gambling.

    Now we can turn our attention to the real problem:

    dogs playing poker.

  48. Rindan says:

    Good to see federal money hard at work. Yeah, there are real crimes going on, but look at the upshot of this. We get to boost local economies by killing competition and the federal government might actually make a profit if they froze and seized the bank accounts fast enough. Hell, with the money extort from these companies we probably don’t even need to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the uber-wealthy.

    What crap.

    The only thing positive I can say about this is that at least they were not using the resources they used in this case to bust hippie skulls for smoking pot or 14 year old kids for downloading music, pr something equally inane. Better for the government to whack a few rich poker websites than go kick in the teeth of more helpless citizens I suppose. Of course, if I had a preference, I would prefer they hunt down you know, real criminals… for actual crimes committed against other people.

    • Anonymous says:

      So money laundering, fraud and bribing bank officials aren’t “real crimes” to you? Or did you, (and it seems most of the commenters) not read farther than the headline?

  49. petsounds says:

    I don’t get it – isn’t poker considered a game of skill? We have card clubs here in Los Angeles – or is it that the law only allows it if you’re willing to drive to some smarmy casino in Chatsworth and eat bad food while you play…

    Those card clubs are probably violating the law, if money is exchanging hands. The casino is on Native American land, as are all casinos in California. They operate outside the jurisdiction of US gambling laws.

    As for the article…well boo f’in hoo. These online poker sites knew online gambling in the US was prohibited, so they tried to move the banking offshore and do weird schemes to move the money around. Hence why the FBI took them down on bank fraud. If you don’t like the US law on gambling, then petition your representative to change the law. But to come to the defense of guys trying to skirt US law; well either you respect US law or you don’t. I don’t see why this is even on BB. It seems like Xeni is trying to make this into some sort of rights violation crusade, but it’s just some business guys thought they were smarter than they were.

    • dballing says:

      Card clubs are legal in Cali, under certain conditions (and in the poster’s case, they’re almost certainly legal).

      I know I go to Bay101 in San Jose all the time when I visit there on business, and it’s all highly regulated.

  50. Sniffles says:

    I think the U.S. is over-reaching (again) in their attempts to control cyberspace. While they may have legal standing to outlaw online gambling, their seizure of domain names is probably just as troubling.

    Back to the gambling issue, and political partisanship being blissfully ignored for the moment, why is online poker illegal? What greater good is served by preventing adults from gambling in this– or any other — format? For most players, it is a form of recreation. Like sharing a bottle of fine wine, playing a round of golf, or spending an evening at the theatre, it usually costs money. But some (not all) people who play online poker enjoy it. It isn’t a requirement that people take part. No one is being forced to play against their will. For those who do choose to take part, the rules are (usually) understood, and (online) poker can be an acquired skill that can improve with study and practice.

    Granted, some people play poorly and lose most of their money. (Most players of average skill will lose more than they win after the house takes a rake of each pot). Some players will gamble more than they can afford to lose. Does that justify criminalization of the activity for everyone?

    It’s very possible that players will collude and cheat other unsuspecting players. This is clearly unacceptable. But the majority of players don’t do this. So why criminalize all players?

    So the majority of players will lose money over time. And time will be sacrificed that could have been used more productively. But why not let responsible individuals make these decisions for themselves? Why is this type of behavior illegal? For what purpose does this law exist except to make an additional cohort of otherwise ordinary citizens into criminals? And even if they’re don’t consider themselves to be criminals, they’re still probably living in fear that at any time they can be charged with a crime by some manner of law enforcement entity. So where does it serve the public interest to make people feel that they have to fear the law enforcement community?

    How is it that our legislators can make any consensual adult activity a crime?

  51. Anonymous says:

    The theory within the industry is that the indictment for fraud is not for current behaviour, but for their methods of taking deposits from players in the past. Supposedly they used to take credit card deposits using a different merchant type id, as the one they are meant to use (7995 gambling) was of course blocked.

  52. Anonymous says:

    God Speed. Pokerstars are a bunch of crooks. Justice prevails this time. YES!

  53. Anonymous says:

    This was only done because they made online gambling legal in dc/ nevada the other day. Gambling isnt illegal, just competition. Always pay ur protection money kiddies.
    Speaking of mafia… Err I mean government, is the MAFIAAfire firefox addon routing around this damage.. I mean censorship, yet?

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