back to article Feds indict poker sites, seize domains

The founders of three of the internet's largest gambling sites have been indicted and charged with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling offenses by US authorities. Eleven individuals have been charged in total by the US Department of Justice with running operations that violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling …

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  1. Big Al
    Joke

    Art imitating life

    So... fraud, money laundering, illegal gambling...

    Bit like Vegas on a bad day then?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Question

    I am visiting the US, connect to my machine in the UK via RDC, deposit funds and bet using the host machine in the UK.

    Does this break US law?

  3. Nathan 13
    Flame

    The USA are a bunch of wankers

    Businesses should have absolutely nothing to do with then, and have no sites there.

    As a side note Absolute Poker were caught cheating a few years back so I am glad they have been fucked.

    http://www.casinomeister.com/rogue/absolute_poker.php

  4. Somerset John
    Unhappy

    Puritain rule.

    This poisonous piece of legislation was, if I remember correctly, a rider added to some piece of legislation to do with harbours. The puritanical god-botherers knew they had no chance of slipping it through on its own merit, even with WB backing it in god's name. Now they want to extend their grasp to the rest of the world, imposing their ridiculous law on every country.

    Get working Obama, this needs taking down.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Wow, idiots.

    WTF is the point of being based in IoM, Ireland or Costa Rica, and thereby having a really strong defense that you're doing business solely in those countries and the US has no right to apply its laws extraterritorially, and then going and flushing it all away by not only doing your banking transactions in the US at a US bank, but also abandoning all pretence at innocence with blatant and easily-detected laundering measures which bring you under the jurisdiction of international law and treaties when the anti-gambling law itself is US-only?

  6. Chris Hatfield

    Wait, just the DNS?

    So, the sites are still active, it's just the DNS? If so, the sites are still there... right?

  7. Chris Hatfield

    Great Job, Feds

    Now _all_ illegal internet gambling has been solved. You can all give yourselves:

    1. a pat on the back

    2. pay rise

    </sarcasm>

  8. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Vegas

    its Ironic the the country with the largest casino's in the world in Las Vegas make such a fuss about online gambling.

    In the US, wanna buy a gun? well sure thats ok

    Wanna buy hardcore porn? well go ahead, we wouldn't want to infringe on your free speech.

    Wanna have a bet on a sports game or play online poker? GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR WITH YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD!!! (unless your in Vegas or on Native American grounds)

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Would these be the same sites that in the UK

    Have access to people's bank account details so they can verify you're old enough to gamble?

    But the question is have they committed fraud *against* their users or simply fallen foul of the merkins nonsensical attitudes to gambling?

    In Europe the off course or off track gambling industry is a *legal* business turning over billions in whatever currency you choose to work in. Entry to it is much like joining any large scale retail business.

    In America it's a branch of organized crime.

    So are these *real* crimes or just ones due to US schizophrenia on the subject?

    I'd like a "Question mark" icon as I'm puzzled.

  10. Chris Harrison
    Unhappy

    Money grabbing bastards (the american govt that is)

    Gotta love the american government. Why don't they just make it illegal for any of their 'free' citizens to buy foreign products or spend any money abroad while they're at it. Can't have any of those dollars going overseas can we? Oh sorry I forgot, this law was brought in to protect the us citizens wasn;t it?

  11. Bryce Prewitt
    Thumb Down

    Too easy.

    Good God. I'm almost never above making an obvious comment about the United States and how it is either this (pre-fascist corporatocracy) or that (a wholly corrupt state plagued by nepot- and crony-ism) but this is just too easy. I mean, really, this is just so unapologetically obvious that I'm not even sure it is worth commenting on. Oh, but I will anyway.

    A decidedly anti-poker and pro-horse racing online gambling ban that violates international trade agreements was tacked on to a port security act by a bunch of religious nutjobs with a vested interest in horse racing in their own states. Law is then protected by powerful Democratic Senator who is guaranteed to be in the Vegas casinos' pockets and enforced by an administration that completely ignored banks acting as money launderers for drug cartels. Yeah, OK, that about sums it up, I'd say.

    They don't even bother hiding their true allegiances anymore, now do they?

  12. The Unexpected Bill
    Flame

    I see they're still using the same bozotic web designer...

    I wonder, other than a case of "look at how big and mighty *we* are", why it is that the sites being taken down are replaced with these ridiculous flashy banners? Is it supposed to scare people? Violate accessiblity guidelines? Smear an individual's good name before or regardless whether they are proven guilty in a court of law?

    There are some very interesting (and by interesting, I mean "troubling") things going on here.

    1. JohnG

      Foreigners

      They only have a problem with online gambling when they aren't getting a slice of the action i.e. foreign companies.

    2. Andus McCoatover
      Paris Hilton

      I'd like a "Question mark" icon as I'm puzzled.

      Paris is there, always ready to puzzle.

    3. Hud Dunlap
      Big Brother

      Obama has to finish his vacation first

      You also forget the most powerful supporter of this bill, Harry Reid, is one of the people Obama relies on to get things through the Senate. He wouldn't challenge Reid on this even if he wasn't busy playing golf somewhere.

    4. John Lilburne

      It gets better ...

      ... they grassed up the person responsible (some ozzie) for setting up the system for them (because he scammed a bit extra off their profits), and then informed the FBI when he'd be in the US. Now he in turn has handed them all over, with all the details and evidence of how it was done.

      http://www.businessinsider.com/boy-genius-online-poker-scandal-2011-4

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The USA are a bunch of wankers

      "As a side note Absolute Poker were caught cheating a few years back so I am glad they have been fucked."

      I still wonder how anyone trusts online poker at all. "You lose again: your opponent had a better hand!" Is any kind of independent auditing done at all, or do all the players have the attitude that "the computer they're using must be completely honest and really shuffle and deal the cards completely fairly"?

      Personally, I'll be happy to not have wall-to-wall slow-motion "poker players are the new Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman" bullshit advert breaks on television if all these sites stay down, US corruption and general trade agreement violations notwithstanding.

    6. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      As the law stands now - yes

      You're in the US, using the internet to communicate instructions to perform an act that would be illegal if done in the US (assuming that you're not in Vegas).

    7. tomservo

      Please!!

      "Why don't they just make it illegal for any of their 'free' citizens to buy foreign products or spend any money abroad while they're at it."

      Please please please dont give them any ideas.....

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Sounds like a good idea to me

        Given that most of US manufacturing appears to happen in China. It'd be worth it to never see another iPhone.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I ahve to agree...

      I have to agree, I suspect there will be the usual over the top anti-US comments here, but really the online gabling companies were oeprating financially in the US and they were effectively laundering money there, what did they expect?

      NB: I personally hate gambling, I realise I'm in the minority, but the US just can't ignore international law when it suits it.

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Nathan 13

      "...The USA are a bunch of wankers..."

      Seriously, that's totally unacceptable - replace "USA" with any other group and see if it still sounds so good.

      1. The BigYin

        @AC

        OK

        "The onanists are a bunch of wankers"

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Grenade

        ok

        Scientologists are a bunch of wankers.

        Still reads ok to me - do try and calm down dear......

  13. Stratman

    title

    "So... fraud, money laundering, illegal gambling...

    Bit like Vegas then?"

    Fixed.

    1. Asgard
      Big Brother

      So much for freedom, in the land of the free

      "So... fraud, money laundering, illegal gambling...

      Bit like the *banks* then?"

      Oh but the law won't fix the banks. Too many corrupt back handers (envelopes filled with notes, holidays etc...) to stop the people in power really taking action against the real people in power, like the banks. Ironically probably these same kind of (envelopes filled with notes) back handers are behind why the US government allows some of the biggest gambling sites in the world, yet they don't want US people to be free to gamble online. Can't have non-US companies earning money.

      Which means so much for the two faced hypocrisy of the US Government and how they have so often talked of the need for global free trade, (in situations where they win from the free trade) which means situations where their US companies profit from non-US people. But as soon as its the other way around, they don't like it, when it means US money could be going to non-US companies. They do this a lot with gambling, so have to wonder how many corrupt officials in the US government are on the side of the US gambling companies?

      Also so much for freedom of choice for the American people. So much for the "Land of the Free", because they are proving once again its a lie. Being told what choices you are allowed to make isn't freedom, because your master has already chosen what they don't want you to do. When I earn money, I like to be free to choose how I spend my money and its my choice, no one else's choice, to be forced onto me. So much for freedom, because they show even freedom is another US government lie.

      It shows the American people are just puppets to the wishes of the rich and powerful in America, as are the US government. Just more puppets & pawns for the rich and powerful to exploit for their gain and we are next as they seek to extend their control over the Internet and you better not even think of running a non-US company that doesn't do what the US government wants, because then they show they are willing to throw your business offline. So much for freedom from the land of the free.

      1. RocketBook

        re:Freedom

        ummmm, not just the Americans.........

      2. Nick G

        You are Free..

        "Also so much for freedom of choice for the American people. So much for the "Land of the Free", because they are proving once again its a lie. Being told what choices you are allowed to make isn't freedom, because your master has already chosen what they don't want you to do."

        As Bill Hicks said: " You are free to do what we tell you... Go back to bed America..."

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    @AC - Question

    I think you probably broke the law by saying you were going to America!

  15. Kevin Fields

    It's not as bad as it looks

    Keep in mind that these overseas operators are being charged with a) bribing at least one bank officer to illegally process payments and cover up their activities, b) used three other individuals to illegally process payments through their own bank accounts and lie to banking officials about the nature of their cash flow.

    Yes, it's absolutely stupid that the US has a screwed-up perspective on online gambling, and yes it was absolutely stupid how those laws were put into effect. It should be turned around. Whether or not you think these laws are right or wrong, it is absolutely clear that bribing bank officials and lying to bank officials is not only illegal, but wrong.

    Aside from that, a small change in domain names and moving your registrations to entities outside of the United States will fix this issue.

  16. Peter74447
    FAIL

    Well done.

    Congratulations, you have taken down a website that was outside the US flexing your muscle where you don't really have any right.

    So you can shut down gambling sites but you still claim that you cant find and prosecute people distributing child porn?

    The only reason you want these sites shut down is because you are not getting your share. poor government. Stop having wars with everyone and you may have a little more money and not have to worry about suing people trying to make their own living.

    Yay capitalism

    1. Kevin Fields

      Incorrect

      It isn't that the federal government isn't getting their share, because they could if those chose to. Part of the issue is that the government doesn't want any share, nor does it want any of its citizens to have any share, either.

      1. Jon Green
        Alert

        @Kevin: if that were the case...

        ...it would have shut the casinos or poker rooms in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and West Virginia, not to mention those on Native American reserves.

        But of course, when US citizens gamble at offshore sites, that's cash flowing out of the US economy. Expect actions against PartyPoker, 888.com and pkr.com in due course, as soon as a suitable case can be worked up.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      re: it is absolutely clear

      "that bribing bank officials and lying to bank officials is not only illegal, but wrong"

      Absolutely - U.S. banks are supposed to be bribing U.S. politicians, foreigners shouldn't get involved.

  17. danielwh
    Coat

    Back in business

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

  18. Xenobyte
    FAIL

    Stupid

    Let me get this straight... It is legal for a US citizen to go to an indian reservation, Las Vegas or similar and gamble as much as he/she likes, but it is illegal to log on to an online casino and do the same thing?

    Why?

    The only thing that makes sense is that lawgivers don't make enough money from the online version and thus to protect their interests got it banned.

    It is clearly not about gambling addiction and similar because if it was the law would require EVERYBODY taking money from US citizens, online or IRL, to pay a percentage to organizations helping people that got addicted to gambling. We have something similar here in Denmark. But no. It's about preventing people living far from the physical casinos from gambling.

    Oh, and they only targeted poker sites, which is kind of stupid, as it clearly is a game of skill, as opposed to roulette and similar which are much more chance-related. I mean, if poker was a game of chance you should be able to walk up to a poker table and be lucky enough to win your first hand ever against a table full of seasoned poker players. But it never happens because you can't. Chance is a factor but a small one. It only sets the scene but what you do from there is pure skill.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Point out the obvious

      "The only thing that makes sense is that lawgivers don't make enough money from the online version and thus to protect their interests got it banned."

      I think you'll find that the US Gaming laws not only pre-date the Internet, but pretty much pre-date the invention of the telephone. Many were brought in as the telegraph proliferated, hence WIRE FRAUD.

      Bribing banks to process funds illegally is wrong. Nobody can deny that. Yes, the US laws are crazy, and no, they shouldn't extend beyond US soil. But money laundering is illegal in most countries and the gambling sites knew the risk they were taking.

      (I use Pokerstars in the UK. I'm so glad we have some freedoms here)

  19. The main man

    Isn't this put of their jurisdiction?

    I mean Ireland and Jersey? aren't the FBI going a bit too far?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    Federal jurisdiction ..

    > According to New York's US Attorney's Office, the companies operated in contravention of the 2006 act on unlawful gaming ..

    I guess that's put paid to the delusion that we are an independent nation ..

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    Stupid 'Merikans...

    you can still a of 1055 GMT get to the sites from outside the USA.

    So you gambling addicted terminal weasels, learn to Gargle "local IP address portal" to do it to your hearts' desire.

  22. Nexox Enigma

    JPEG fail?

    Apparently the feds haven't heard of PNG? Or at least JPEG at a bit less compression? The artifacting on the text in that takedown notice aught to be a crime.

  23. The BigYin

    Haven't we been here before?

    Didn't the WTC find against the US-of-A when they blocked some Antiguan gambling sites?

    Any way, if bank fraud etc is to be investigated I hope the Yanks don't expect help from the imbeciles at HRMC or the FSA. Settle for fractions of a penny in the pound those idiots will.

  24. Christopher E. Stith
    Thumb Up

    it is well within US jurisdiction

    When a US citizen in the US uses a US bank to do business in the US with a company doing business with US citizens within the US using a US bank to transfer funds, how the hell could any of you think that's outside US jurisdiction?

    The FBI isn't saying they'll come shut down overseas poker sites for what they do overseas. They also are find with non-gambling sites in the US that really are only play money (even Yahoo has this).

    What they don't want is online sites to pop up, go away, cheat people, and launder money with none of the regulations and inspections of the state-licensed casinos. I think they should reconsider licensing, regulating, and inspecting online casinos myself, but these sites that are trying to run outside the law are illegal for a reason.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      (untitled)

      "What they don't want is online sites to pop up, go away, cheat people, and launder money with none of the regulations and inspections of the state-licensed casinos. "

      And of course they don't trust any other countries to license and regulate such activities either. Other countries that they're more than willing to sell nuclear weapons to. Like the UK?

    2. Jedit
      FAIL

      Online sites that pop up and go away...

      ... like Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars? Those sites have both been in operation for better than five years if memory serves. Curse these shady fly-by-night operations.

    3. XMAN
      Thumb Down

      Block, not take

      In that case, the feds should have blocked access to pokerstars.com within the US, not taken over the domain.

      FYI, .com isn't purely for america

  25. James Woods

    got a lobbyist?

    This is only because of the casino lobby.

    We have casinos that pay no taxes; others who run off tax breaks; and they have powerful lobbys.

    Just think how much more money you'd have if didn't have to pay taxes.

    Corporate casino america and the mobsters in government have something in common.

    Neither like competition.

  26. ps2os2
    Megaphone

    Online Gambling

    Several others have written about the hypocrisy of ONLINE gambling.

    As has been reported several sites have perpertrated fraud on its players. Not sure of the names but one or two were up in Canada (if memory serves me).

    i generally do not gamble so I can't have an independent opinion. The only time I gamble is if the lotto jack ot goes above $100 Million (US). That being siad I sure would not trust any only web site at least with Vegas you are reasonably assured you are gambling with a unrigged system.

  27. Herby Silver badge

    And as I pass the time...

    I'm watching "High Stakes Poker" on TV. The irony!

    1. Oninoshiko
      FAIL

      Unrigged?

      unrigged? If you believe that one, I have a bridge for sale... every game is rigged, normally it's built into the rules.

      There are exactly two bets in all of vegas that dont have a house advantage:

      Pass/Don't Pass in craps generally are paid out inline with the actual odds (assuming fair dice).

      The only other reasonable bet is if you're counting in Blackjack which, while (contrary to popular belief) is perfectly legal (when done without any form of aid), will lead to you being asked to kindly take your winnings and depart.

      Betting the banker in baccarat has a vary small advantage to the house (less then 2%), assuming the commission is low.

  28. XMAN
    WTF?

    Domain

    i hope Stars and co fight back to get their domains.

    The U.S could have quite easily have forced their ISPs to block access to the domains within the U.S. They didn't need to take domains which are being used worldwide. Absolutely overstepping their jurisdiction.

    I'm certainly not going to be using a .com for anything important from here on. I'll stick with .co.uk thank you very much.

    1. TakeTheSkyRoad

      Re : Domain

      Might not help you much.... it's the location of the DNS company that matters.

      For example I have a .co.uk address that's actually managed through a Canadian provider so a US (or even UK) authority would have to contact the canadian company to change the DNS and take the address down.

      Not likely an issue though since I just use it for email these days :)

      1. XMAN

        Feds took the domain, not hosting

        I think you might have misunderstood what happened here. The feds didn't go through the DNS company to take control of the site. They literally took over the domain and changed the DNS servers assigned to it.

        If I had a .co.uk which was using US DNS servers then yes, you're right, the feds could mess with those servers since they're based in the US. But then I could easily login to my nominet account and point the domain at different DNS servers. But that's not the case here. They literally took the domain over completely.

        So right now, I'm staying well aware from .com. How long before the U.S decides there's something else they don't like and then take away all those domains as well?

        1. TakeTheSkyRoad
          Thumb Up

          Ok, fair point !!

          As title

  29. flibbertigibbet
    Pirate

    There is an app for that

    Well a firefox plugin actually. http://mafiaafire.com/

    Which only goes to prove the internet routes around damage, although not always in the ways you would expect.

  30. Wang N Staines
    Happy

    "US is also seeking at least $3bn"

    hmmm...

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

  32. Steve Babb
    WTF?

    It's not about the gambling

    I'm more than happy to raise my hand and point out how utterly moronic it was to pass the bill that banned the online gambling, particularly by attaching it to a port authority security bill as a means of blackmailing the Senate to pass it into law.

    But this is about money laundering, fraud and bribes, NOT online gambling per se.

    They got greedy, set up dummy corporations and bribed financial officals to rubberstamp the transactions. OK, so the law should be changed to allow the online gambling, no question. But the end did not justify the means in this case.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Troll

    I don't gamble other than a few friendly games w/ friends but....

    I think the reasons they let us gamble at Vegas, Atlantic City, "Indian" Casinos and "Riverboats" all over the US is:

    1) The municipal / tribal, state, federal authorities (not to mention "the mob", thus the anon) all get their cut, as has been amply noted here.

    2) As has also been noted, but much less vociferously:

    <quote>

    "As a side note Absolute Poker were caught cheating a few years back so I am glad they have been fucked."

    I still wonder how anyone trusts online poker at all. "You lose again: your opponent had a better hand!" Is any kind of independent auditing done at all, or do all the players have the attitude that "the computer they're using must be completely honest and really shuffle and deal the cards completely fairly"?

    </quote>

    I was once the guest of a wealthy client at a show in Reno, NV. "Can you believe these idiots?", he asked, waving toward a bank of slot machines. "They think they can beat a computer!". And those were the ones theoretically inspected by the Nevada Gaming Mafia, er, uh, Commission.

    3) Many US States are themselves heavily involved in gambling via lotteries, off-track betting parlors, and [as mentioned] horse / dog racing tracks.

    I get that this looks like another heavy handed, extra-judicial, unilateral show of US force, but the commentarati here seem a lot more worked about this than say, Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya or Guantanamo or.... Some of you must really miss losing your sterling to poker-bots....

  34. Martin Usher
    Flame

    Our tax dollars at work....

    You'd think they'd find a more productive use for gambling sites. Taxing them, maybe?

    But we all know that gambling is evidence of moral turpitude.

    Seriously, though, I think the Federal government is stuck in a 1920's time warp. I wish it would just go away.

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