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Department of Justice Indicts Owners of Major Online Poker Sites

Indictment Includes 11 Defendants and 76 Bank Accounts


The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Forbes and other financial media outlets are reporting that the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has indicted the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and UB and seized their websites in the latest attempt to crack down on online gaming.

Instead of the site’s usual homepage, visitors are given the message, “This domain name has been seized by the F.B.I. pursuant to an Arrest Warrant in Rem obtained by the United States Attorney’s Office.”

The U.S. Department of Justice released a press release about the indictment, naming 11 site representatives as defendants for allegedly violating the terms of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. The allegations state that the poker companies illegally coerced U.S. banks into processing payments after the UIGEA was passed.

In addition, restraining orders were issued against 76 different bank accounts and payment processors who were named in the Department of Justice’s recently unsealed indictment.

Full Tilt Poker issued a statement Friday night, explaining that while they do not agree with the actions taken by the Department of Justice, they have decided to suspend all U.S. players from their real money games.

Full Tilt’s CEO Raymond Bitar, who is one of the defendants named in the indictment along with colleague Nelson Burtnick, said in the press release, “I am surprised and disappointed by the government’s decision to bring these charges. I look forward to Mr. Burtnick’s and my exoneration.”

The PokerStars client greets players with a message assuring them that their account balances will remain intact. “As you may have heard, we have had to suspend real money poker services to people based in the U.S. due to legal developments there. The developments are confined to the U.S. and do not have any impact on your ability to continue using our services. Please be assured player balances are safe. There is no cause for concern. For all customers outside the U.S. it is business as usual.”

After hearing the news, Poker Players Alliance chairman Alfonse D’Amato released a statement. “On behalf of the millions of poker players across the country, we are shocked at the action taken by the U.S. Department of Justice today against online poker companies and will continue to fight for Americans’ right to participate in the game they enjoy. Online poker is not a crime and should not be treated as such. We are currently gathering all of the information around today’s announcement and will offer detailed analysis when the full facts become available.”

Some close to the case speculate that Daniel Tzvetkoff, an alleged former payment processor for online poker companies, has provided details to the U.S. government.

Card Player will update this story as more details continue to materialize.

UPDATE 12:30 PST — PokerStars has blocked U.S. players from all real money games.

UPDATE 6:45 PST — Full Tilt Poker has blocked U.S. players from all real money games.