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WAR ON POKER: PROTECTION OR POLITICAL

by Bill Burton

Bill Burton is the author of 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets available at www.billburton.com, and Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em available at www.bjinsider.com. He is an instructor for Golden Touch Craps: www.thecrapsclub.com

 

I had originally planned to continue my poker A-Z series this month but I am delaying my latest article to write about some news that has affected the online poker world a few weeks ago that some of you may have not heard about.

Friday April15th is being called "Black Friday" for the online poker community in the United States. On that day, the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) seized the domain names of Poker Stars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker, who are owned by the same company, Cereus. If you try to visit any of these websites, you will see the notice that the domains have been seized.

The FBI has charged the owners of Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute with crimes, including wire fraud and money laundering. The FBI has also shut down over 75 payment processors that Full Tilt employed to filter money from the poker site to American banks to circumvent the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. The FBI was able to seize the domains as part of the investigation leading to these charges.

Eleven defendants are named in an indictment handed out by the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. The defendants are charged with counts of running an illegal gambling operation, violating the UIGEA, money laundering, and bank/wire fraud. The most severe charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

This action has shut down all of the poker sites that players from the United States could play. It also locked up all of the funds in the playerís accounts. The day that the announcement was made, I tried to withdraw my funds from Full Tilt Poker only to receive an e-mail that read:

Unfortunately, due to recent actions by the U.S. government, Full Tilt Poker is currently unable to facilitate 'real money' play, deposits, or withdrawals by players based in the United States.


Please rest assured that player accounts remain safe and secure and our technical and legal teams are working to have your money returned to you as soon as possible.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused and will keep you up to date with additional information as it becomes available.

Thank you for your understanding,

Full Tilt Poker

 

What you can do.

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), of which I am member, has set up a web page that makes it easy to contact your elected officials to voice your displeasure over the actions. http://theppa.org/takeaction/.

Since April 15th, when the action was initiated against the online poker sites, there has been about 100,000 PPA members who sent more than 100,000 emails and letters since the action against the poker websites was initiated, and made thousands of phone calls to the DoJ, the Administration, and Congress, demanding access to the money in their online accounts as well as condemning the DOJís declaration of war on poker. 

The DOJ responded and said that it will allow the players to be able to withdraw their money from the poker websites. PokerStars has set up an FAQ concerning this issue: http://www.pokerstars.com/usaplayers/faq/#cash.

Full Tilt Poker has also set up an update page for US Players concerning withdrawals:

http://www.fulltiltpoker.com/us-player-faq.

How I see it.

I find the Department of Justice "War on Poker" very suspicious and feel that it is one hundred percent politically motivated.

Online Poker is a billion dollar industry and we know that there have been ongoing proposals to legalize and regulate it. Several bills have come close to being passed, and many believe it is only a matter of time before it is legalized since the major casino corporations are all for it because they want a piece of the action. It is a fact that they donated millions of dollars to the re-election campaign of Nevada Senator Harry Reed with the express understanding that he would support the efforts to legalize online poker. However, the casino corporations donít just want a piece of the online poker revenue, the want it all.

Harry Reed introduced a bill last November to legalize online poker with the stipulation that would allow only existing casinos, horse tracks, and slot-machine makers to operate online poker websites for the first two years after the bill passes, which could limit the ability of other companies to enter the market. Read complete proposal here: http://tinyurl.com/2cr6woc

Reedís proposed bill, with an exclusive for the U S casino corporations, did not pass last November but the efforts to legalize online poker is still growing and you can be sure that the efforts to legalize online poker will continue. Now, if the Department of Justice wins criminal action against the likes of Full Tilt, PokerStars, and the other offshore poker sites, these convictions will make it impossible for them to be licensed to operate online poker rooms in the United States. Do you really think the motives for the DOJ action was to protect the online players? I think not.

If you havenít contacted you elected officials yet to protest the DOJ actions and to let them know you want the right to play poker online, please do so immediately.

Next month Iíll be back with Poker A to Z.

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