It seems Lady Gaga’s new single cold not have come at a more appropriate time for the online poker community. Many fans of the felt were shocked last night when news began furiously circulating the web that the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute poker were under arrest. According to reports, one was arrested in his Las Vegas home, while another was willing to hand himself in. The remaining eight are currently outside the U.S. at present, but the States is soon thought to be sending out a plea for their extradition.
They are charged with bank fraud, money laundering, unlawful gambling and a string of other offences, and could face up to 30 years in prison as well as fines amounting to billions of dollars.
For years, the poker industry had utilised a series of methods in order to bring the game to US citizens, where it was in high demand. However, reports have come through which indicate the US government cut a deal with a convicted criminal in order to trap the poker sites and throw them at the mercy of U.S. jurasdiction. Daniel Tzvetkoff was arrested in April last year after he was charged with money laundering, bank fraud and conspiracy due to to possessing $543 million in illegal internet gambling earnings through his British Virgin Islands corporation.
Tzverkoff was bailed last August without explanation, and it is believed the U.S. authorities used his extraordinary insider knowledge of the online gambling industry to go after PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker. He is currently living in luxury in a secret New York location. As well as the arrests of the 11 founders, 76 bank accounts in 14 countries have been frozen, under suspicion that they contain proceeds from the alleged offences.
“As charged, these defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme” stated Preet Bharara, US Attorney in Manhattan. She claimed that these online poker rooms were “alternately tricking some US banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits…Moreover, as we allege, in their zeal to circumvent the gambling laws, the defendants also engaged in massive money laundering and bank fraud.”
Blogs and websites have exploded with controversy, horror-stories and speculation. Some are calling it “the death of online gambling”, while others maintain the actions actually leave the U.S. no other choice but to consider federal legalisation for online poker. Last night, players around the world were unable to withdraw funds from their accounts and, in light of the recent actions, PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker have fully barred U.S. players for the time being. These patrons can only hope they are given their money back eventually, but have been warned they could be in for a wait. The whole incident has become referred to as the “Black Friday of online poker.”
Thanks to her newly-crowned, freshly deep-stacked Judas, the FBI now holds Online Poker by the throat.