On Friday, the FBI closed the three largest online poker sites in the United States. On Saturday, all three sites were showing official FBI warnings when accessed.
Authorities are pursuing charges of bank fraud and illegal gambling against the sites owners, accusing them of tricking banks into processing billions of dollars in illegal gambling revenue.
Fed’s issued restraining orders against more than 75 bank accounts in 14 different countries used by the poker companies to hide money.
The companies involved were identified as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Ultimate Bet, and Absolute Poker. The indictment seeks $3 billion in money laundering fines and forfeiture from the defendants.
Full Tilt Poker released a statement defending its executives named in the indictment, including Nelson Burtnick and its CEO, Raymond Bitar.
“We are surprised and disappointed by the government’s decision to bring these charges. We look forward to Mr. Burtnick’s and my exoneration.”
The indictment said the defendants turned to illegal methods to trick financial institutions into processing credit card payments on their behalf after a law was passed to make it illegal.
It said they sometimes arranged for money from U.S. gamblers to be disguised as payments to hundreds of non-existent online merchants purporting to sell merchandise such as shoes and sporting equipment.
This does bring up an interesting issue. What about the millions of dollars in players “Banks”? Is it safe? Will the casual player ever see their money again?
All three companies have assured their players that all money is safe and will be distributed once these lawsuits are resolved.
That sounds like it could be a very very long time.