Monday, April 25, 2011

FBI Shuts Down Three Largest Poker Websites

More than four years after Congress passed legislation to criminalize Internet gambling in the U.S., the three largest poker websites have been shut down by the FBI.

Eleven executives at PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, along with others, were charged Apr. 15 with bank fraud and money laundering. Visitors to their sites are greeted with a message that reads: “This domain name has been seized by the FBI.”

The 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) -- which finally took effect last summer -- bans online gambling and prohibits U.S. financial institutions from processing transactions related to it.

“These defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme, alternately tricking some U.S. banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.

Chad Hills, analyst for gambling research and policy at CitizenLink, said the indictments were long overdue. “Foreign gambling operations are not supposed to be soliciting U.S. gamblers,” he said, “and yet they’ve been mocking U.S. law.

“This shows them that the FBI and the Department of Justice mean business. This is going to send a message to other online gambling sites, and I am extremely excited to see this happen.”

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