Online Poker: What happened?

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Pokerstars, Absolute Poker, and FullTilt

The 3 biggest US Online Poker websites have been shut down by the FBI via the US Attorney for New York.   The indictment charges 11 defendants – including the founders – with bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses.  Two of the defendants were under arrest by Friday morning, the arrests took place in Nevada and Utah.  Raymond Bitar, chief executive of FullTilt, is outside the country but also released this statement, “I am surprised and disappointed by the government’s decision to bring these charges. I look forward to Mr. Burtnick’s and my exoneration.”  Nelson Burtnick is an employee of Fulltilt.

The domains of these online poker giants have been seized, and replaced with these warm greetings (RIGHT) from the US Department of Justice.  Have you seen the Online Poker Indictment?  Prosecutors have already shut down the websites.  Next they seek to recover $3 billion and sentence the executives to jail.

Why is the US government so hell bent on shutting down online poker? There are 60 million poker players worldwide, and at least 15 million reside in the United States.  Poker players consentually wager money in online card rooms, the only crime is not regulating and taxing this billion dollar industry.  Radley Balko of Reason writes, “I predict this is going to be a politically foolish move.  Poker players are young, wealthy, and tend to be progressive on social issues.”

Poker is a game of skill, right? Fulltilt released a statement that they remain committed to preserving the rights of poker fans.  But this battle is not about the legality of poker.  The indictment charges the poker companies with defrauding banks about the nature of their business and by targeting struggling banks that could not turn down the money. Dashiell Bennett of www.businessinsider.com, reports that the FBI has already frozen 75 accounts and seized five websites.

Why is this happening?  Besides the government not placing its full attention on the war or budget deficits – because of Daniel Tzvetkoff.  This young man used to be in the employ of our favorite online poker companies.  Daniel Tzvetkoff was 13 when he started working his financial magic for these fiscal giants.  BusinessInsider.com stated that Daniel made as much $150,000 each day for himself.  This ended when Mr. Tzvetkoff was accussed with money laundering, bank fraud, and conspiracy (sound familiar?) to the tune of $543 million.

PokerStars and Fulltilt not only accused Daniel of these crimes, they sought $100 million in restitution, and informed the FBI of Mr. Tzvetkoff’s misbehavior.  However, the tides have turned, and after his arrest in April 2010, Daniel was abruptly released on bail in August 2010.  Daniel Tzvetkoff is playing a key role in helping the US Attorney dismantle the online gaming world with his insider knowledge.  Read more from CourierMail.com about The Web King behind FBI Raids.

More Information

F Train, a NYC blogger, shares his feelings about this US only tragedy.

Press Release from Poker Players Alliance Comments-on-Federal-Action-Against-Online-Poker-Companies-04-15-2011

I also recommend reading this article from the LA Times.

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