January 18, 2013 by mikemccalisterforsenate
Amid reinvigorated efforts to legalize online gambling in the United States, a crackdown of several online gambling sites has been launched by the authorities.
In 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act was passed, clearly banning banks to serve as intermediaries for the transfer of money from customer accounts to that of the online gambling firms. Last Friday, this was cited in the charges made by Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara as indictments went out for eleven online gambling site operators, and action to seize their U.S. domains was put into motion. They even secured the cooperation of the Interpol and other foreign governments in making the necessary arrests and seizure of assets.
The U.S. attorney is seeking the recover an estimated $3 billion worth of illegal gambling profits from those who were charged. The most prominent personalities (and domains) among those indicted were PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg, Full Tilt Poker founder Raymond Bitar, as well as the operators of Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. Utah’s SunFirst Bank vice-president John Campos was also among those who were indicted for “processing gambling revenues in exchange for a $10 million investment”.
These operators were charged with attempting to get around the anti-gaming law by disguising customers’ payments in the form of sale of flowers, golf balls and even jewelry. Bahrara declared these as acts of bank fraud and money laundering on a grand scale, involving billions of dollars.
Currently, the Isle of Man-based PokerStars is the world’s largest online poker cardroom, with around 50 million registered users as of December 2011. Full Tilt, on the other hand, has its headquarters in Ireland. Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker, both owned by the Cereus Poker Network is based in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake.
No arrests have been made yet by the federal authorities as both Bitar and Scheinberg are outside the U.S. territory.
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