Full Tilt Poker Under Attack

Despite the fact that several states have been working to develop intrastate online poker legislation, online poker in the U.S. was dealt a shocking blow today in the form of a widespread attack on some of the industry’s largest and most popular poker sites. While several states have used the UIGEAto seize online poker funds being sent to and from resident players, this crackdown – initiated by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (per the same previously referenced message) – will likely end up being the biggest online poker bust in the history of the game.

The first poker room to be hit was Full Tilt Poker. The home page of the site was replaced with an FBI warning reading, “This domain name has been seized by the FBI pursuant to an arrest warrant.” The same was done to FTP’s biggest competitors – PokerStars and the two CEREUS Network sites – shortly thereafter. While we attend to provide more in-depth details on all of the parties involved in this earth-shattering case, let’s start where the FBI started – at Full Tilt.

What, exactly, is the FBI accusing Full Tilt and its CEO Raymond Bitar of? “Conducting, financing, managing, supervising, directing, or owning all or part of an illegal gambling business” as well as “to knowingly accept, in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful Internet gambling, credit, electronic fund transfers, or checks.” To put it more simply, Bitar is being accused of laundering billions of dollars in illegal poker funds.

Each charge leveled against Full Tilt Poker will carry criminal penalties of up to five years in jail and fines of up to $250,000. By the time this case has been fully fleshed out you can bet that Full Tilt will be facing several charges, and by extension several million dollars in fines. Furthermore, the New York Attorney’s Office plans to confiscate any property they can prove was involved in the above alleged illegal activities.

This isn’t the first time that New York has seized poker funds, and many had predicted that another seizure was imminent, what with the full legalization of the game so close at hand in several parts of the country. It certainly seemed like Full Tilt was prepared, as they issued a very poignant press release stating their position in the case only hours after their site was shut down.

In that press release, Full Tilt Poker maintained their belief not only that poker is not gambling but “a game of skill,” but that “online poker is legal.” Unfortunately, despite their firm defense of their previous real money offerings in the United States, Full Tilt concluded their statement by announcing that for the time being they will no longer be offering real-money games to U.S. members.

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