Over the weekend, three of the most popular online poker sites in the US were shut down to US players due to a federal investigation. The details are right here.
In what is considered to be one of the largest federal investigations launched towards online gambling, three of the biggest poker sites in the US were hit with indictment orders over the weekend.
Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker and Pokerstars were all part of a nine count indictment revealed by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York on Friday. As a result, all three sites were immediately banned from being used by US based players. The federal authorities also seized the famous sites domain names. So PokerStars.com, Fulltilitpoker.com and absolutpoker.com currently cannot be used by the indicted operators and players in and outside the US.
It is believed that the charges against the sites involve deceiving banks over the transfer of funds and accounts. Charges against the sites and their payment processors include fraud and money laundering.
The defendants for the charges consist of Brent Beckley and Scott Tom for Absolute, Raymond Bitar and Nelson Burtnik of Full Tilt and Isai Scheinberg and Paul Tate of Pokerstars. The indictment uses the UIGEA law passed in 2006 as its basis for argument and states that the restrictions imposed in the law were avoided by the three sites using these illegal methods.
The actual owners of the three sites still remain at large. Absolute is a Canadian based firm whilst Full Tilt is based in the Channel Islands and Pokerstars is situated in the Isle of Man.
The indictment has seen negative repercussions spread throughout the poker world. Millions of innocent US based players are unable to access these sites due to the investigation. This means millions of dollars is being lost. Money which could be helping the poker community grow in strength. It was also recently announced that ESPN were withdrawing all programming and adverts related to the game in order to preserve their reputation. They will still be covering the WSOP but all other programmes and adverts have been scrapped.
Currently players outside the US can access PokerStars site through the domain PokerStars.eu and FullTilt site through the domain FullTilPoker.co.uk.
There is also the question about the long term effects of this investigation. Absolute, Full Tilt and Pokerstars are still open to players based outside the US but if further discoveries are made regarding fraudulent activities then there is a strong case that all three sites might soon cease to exist.
At the end of the day, the real victims are not the US authorities who might have missed out on millions of dollars or those caught up in the investigation. It is those millions of innocent players who enjoy the daily involvement of playing online. This isn’t just an investigation that has affected three of the biggest sites in the world. This is an investigation against the poker community and it remains to be seen if the game can recover from this massive blow.