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DOJ Seizes Online Poker Site Domains 379

Posted by Soulskill
from the know-when-to-fold-em dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Federal authorities have seized Internet domain names used by three major poker companies. The indictment charges eleven defendants (PDF), including the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling offenses, according to Federal authorities in New York. The United States also filed a civil money laundering and in rem forfeiture complaint against the poker companies, their assets, and the assets of several payment processors for the poker companies."
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DOJ Seizes Online Poker Site Domains

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  • Victimless "crime" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jrj102 (87650) * on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:30PM (#35832868) Homepage

    I'm just glad to hear that all of the crimes against victims have been solved and the perpetrators brought to justice, giving the DOJ time to focus on victimless "crimes" like online poker.

    At least I assume that's what happened.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:35PM (#35832936)

      I'm just glad to hear that all of the crimes against victims have been solved and the perpetrators brought to justice, giving the DOJ time to focus on victimless "crimes" like online poker.

      At least I assume that's what happened.

      I was under the same impression when they started cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries and performing legwork for the RIAA and MPAA...

    • I agree with you that banning gambling is ridiculous moralizing that serves no purpose but to arbitrarily restrict the freedom of citizens. Especially in this case because the gamblers aren't even all U.S. residents. However, if these gambling establishments aren't regulated somehow, they tend to become, essentially, fraud engines. Either by the owners or enterprising players. And that level of laisez faire shouldn't really be allowed either. It's a false dilemma, but if I had to choose between no gamb
      • by Samalie (1016193)

        I disagree.

        I would rather have the freedom to choose whether or not I would risk my money in an unregulated gambling house than to be forced by the government to not gamble.

        In either case, the result is the same...I wouldn't gamble. But I sill believe in the right to choose.

        • by jrj102 (87650) *

          Exactly.

          I'm not against regulating online poker-- but I am against prohibition. The absence of regulation does not excuse the prohibition.

          • Well, I can see the basic point of your argument. Either way though, the fault lies with (U.S. style) conservatives. Their fiscal wing is anti-regulation, making proper regulation hard, and their social wing is anti-gambling, making them ban it. Quite the obnoxious pairing.
        • by RicktheBrick (588466) on Friday April 15, 2011 @05:48PM (#35833946)
          There is a new site called Quibids.com that disguises itself as a bidding site but is actually a gambling site. The site charges 60 cents a bid. It is so deceptive because if one goes to the site one sees things being bid for at less than 10 per cent of their retail value. One thinks at such a low price maybe I should bid on the product. Now suppose they have a $1,000 product and start the bidding at $1.00. Now most people bid only a penny more each bid therefore after the bidding for the product reaches $17.67 one can calculate that 1,667 people have bid on that product. Multiplying that by 60 cents a bid one can see that the site has received the $1,000 for the product so the product should be given to the lucky last bidder. It is all a sham since the honest thing to do would be to sell raffle tickets for the product and after the required amount of ticket were sold than have a computer choose which one of those people is lucky enough to get the product for free. I have gone to the site and I just feel the greedy part of me trying to get me to bid but the intelligent part tells me to stay completely off the site. I can see where others will get hooked on it and lose a lot of money.
        • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Friday April 15, 2011 @05:49PM (#35833954) Homepage

          I disagree.

          I would rather have the freedom to choose whether or not I would risk my money in an unregulated gambling house than to be forced by the government to not gamble.

          In either case, the result is the same...I wouldn't gamble. But I sill believe in the right to choose.

          Bro, read. Bank fraud and money laundering are among the charges. Not every act of prosecution is about is about attacking your right to choose. I know this is slashdot and people don't RTFA, but c'mon.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          That would be great if every man was an island, but we are not.

          Unregulated gambling brings problems to people who don't gamble.
          Plus, people who do gamblers have NO WAY to know if they are being cheated.

          Your stance seems to come from a false belief that customers would have the knowledge to make a good decision.

          For the record, on rare occasion I do gamble.

      • if I had to choose between no gambling and unregulated gambling, I'd likely choose the former.

        Which is perfectly reasonable. The bans on online gambling sites effectively border on having a government agent prevent you from entering a casino in Morocco because your local laws prohibit gambling.

        I'm perfectly fine with the US gov't preventing gambling companies from being located in the US. But the internet is like someone in Canada making a sign that we can see from the US. You can try to put up walls to block the sign, but all I have to do is drive down the road and I can see it again. It

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          The bans on online gambling sites effectively border on having a government agent prevent you from entering a casino in Morocco because your local laws prohibit gambling.

          It "borders on" that like a Mazzerati "borders on" a Kia. Both are cars, but they're from different places.

          What it IS is preventing you from gambling in the US when it is illegal to gamble that way in the US, even if who you are gambling with is outside the US.

          But the internet is like someone in Canada making a sign that we can see from the US. You can try to put up walls to block the sign, but all I have to do is drive down the road and I can see it again. It doesn't work.

          Awww, that analogy works even if you just WALK down the road, so you failed to accomplish the mandatory automobile analogy. And looking at the sign doesn't require you sending things to Canada, so it's a poor analogy anyway.

          • The lameness of my analogies also nicely highlights the ridiculousness of applying location based laws to something that doesn't have 'location'; i.e. the web.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by SolemnDwarf (863575)

        It's a false dilemma, but if I had to choose between no gambling and unregulated gambling, I'd likely choose the former.

        And I'd choose the latter.

        Absolute bullshit. I find this kind of intervention ridiculous. It all comes down to money. They saw a thriving business that they couldn't get their claws into, so they shut it down.

        As I read on /. the other day: "It's fun, therefore it's not allowed."

      • I agree with you that banning gambling is ridiculous moralizing that serves no purpose but to arbitrarily restrict the freedom of citizens. Especially in this case because the gamblers aren't even all U.S. residents. However, if these gambling establishments aren't regulated somehow, they tend to become, essentially, fraud engines. Either by the owners or enterprising players. And that level of laisez faire shouldn't really be allowed either. It's a false dilemma, but if I had to choose between no gambling and unregulated gambling, I'd likely choose the former.

        I agree. A bunch of people here where I work had most of their life savings in an essentially unregulated gambling fund. A couple of years ago they lost about 40% and had to put off retirement. It really screwed a lot of people up because they thought the gambling house was pretty reputable and said it was low risk.

        Only the paranoid that kept their money in cash made it through as planned. The people that lost a bunch of money were a little upset, but the gambling houses got paid even though the people

    • I thought that a victimless crime was when you punch people in the dark [tv.com], not when you poke them.

    • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:49PM (#35833156)

      I'm just glad to hear that all of the crimes against victims have been solved and the perpetrators brought to justice, giving the DOJ time to focus on victimless "crimes" like online poker.

      At least I assume that's what happened.

      I could also be about the $3 Billion [cnn.com] in civil penalties they are going after. From the link:

      Prosecutors also filed civil charges against the poker companies and several individual "payment processors," seeking at least $3 billion in penalties.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      eh, my thinking was:

      Doesn't the DOJ have better things to do than make themselves look like morons by trying to seize even more domains? Or did they forget that seizing domains essentially does nothing? [techdirt.com]

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      I'm just glad to hear that all of the crimes against victims have been solved and the perpetrators brought to justice, giving the DOJ time to focus on victimless "crimes" like online poker.

      At least I assume that's what happened.

      Well, they did finally convict that notorious master criminal Barry Bonds (of acting like an a**, if nothing else.)

      Have you ever knowingly used performance enhancing drugs while playing online poker?

    • I'm just glad to hear that all of the crimes against victims have been solved and the perpetrators brought to justice, giving the DOJ time to focus on victimless "crimes" like online poker.

      At least I assume that's what happened.

      Hmmm, so bank fraud and money laundering are victimless crimes? I would have never guessed.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Laundering money is not a victimless crime.
      Committing fraud against their customers.

      This isn't about gambling.

  • by Antisyzygy (1495469) on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:34PM (#35832916)
    I didn't realize online poker was illegal. However, the other things they were pulling is pretty bad.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <.marc.paradise. .at. .gmail.com.> on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:36PM (#35832948) Homepage Journal
      As far as I can tell from TFA the "other things they were pulling" were workarounds to the fact that online gambling is illegal. ie, they lied to banks about the nature of their business, thus the charge of "fraud".
      • Yeah. I just didn't realize online gambling was illegal. Coming from Montana, there is a casino attached to almost every gas station, and then a bunch of bigger self-contained restaurant casinos. You could perhaps understand my naivety since its literally everywhere where I am from.
      • As far as I can tell from TFA the "other things they were pulling" were workarounds to the fact that online gambling is illegal. ie, they lied to banks about the nature of their business, thus the charge of "fraud".

        Yeah, you don't want to lie to banks. Otherwise they'll lose money and we'll have to bail them out.

        Domain seizures though? When is the US going to figure out that domain seizures are a) ineffective and b) pissing off the rest of the world to the point that they will want to take it out of US control to do that?

        I mean, you can take US property, seize accounts in the US, etc - but the domain seizures shouldn't happen when the business isn't physically located in the US.

        Weren't credit card processors alrea

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Online poker and other forms of online gambling are illegal in the US. The money laundering and bank fraud offences relate to collecting the gambling stakes from punters wishing to play the games.

      • Laundering and fraud are also from disguising purchases as other things. I.e. 100 dollars to a "golf company" that actually goes into your gambling account.
    • by NetShadow (132017)

      Online poker where the server is run outside the United States, does *not* appear to be illegal in the US. At least the wire act used to prosecute people sending money to sports books and the like does not appear to apply to poker specifically, nor has anyone in the US been successfully prosecuted for online poker. What *is* illegal as of the recent UIGEA act is for banks to provide you the ability to send your money to / receive money from these online gaming sites. Regardless of the facts, many stat

      • So then really they are committing fraud and money laundering, not so much the fact that their business is illegal. Thanks.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:36PM (#35832940)

    Why the fuck is this story listed under "Censorship"?? The internet domain seizure is but a small piece of a huge case the Feds are bringing, and it has nothing do with censorship at all.

    Its all a part of charging these sites with bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses.

    As usual Slashdot gets the story completely wrong.

    • by cosm (1072588)
      I would venture to say it is censorshipbecause these sites have to operate this way because if they explicitly stated they are gambling business, they would be turned away at the banks. Whilst the laws being broken are not directly related to gambling, they are being broken because Americans politicians want to censor the idea of gambling from the national conscience. Wasn't Capone brought in for tax evasion? They use whatever law is on the books, but the those subsidiary laws are broken as a symptom of a g
    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday April 15, 2011 @05:03PM (#35833348)
      Amendment V to the United States Constitution

      No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_Amendment_to_the_Constitution_of_the_United_States

      Explain to me how a Government body can seize your private property when you have not even been charged with a crime yet, much less convicted. In the case of these businesses, the seizure is likely costing them millions of dollars in revenue. Their guilt is obvious but if the government can shut down your entire business by simply filing an indictment, which is not even an accusation until a grand jury reviews it, that is without a doubt censorship.

      What if the the justice department files an indictment against a major candidate for president for election fraud and shuts down his website in the middle of an election? What they can do to the unsavory, they can do to us all.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        You don't actually own domain names. You don't buy a domain names. You register them. The US government controls the registration or .com names. They can kick you off of a domain name the same way Slashdot can ban your account. Your rites are based of the contract you signed when you registered the domain.
    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      because there isn't a "suppressing major campaign donor's competition" section?
  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3&gmail,com> on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:37PM (#35832962)
    Yes! Go Department of Justice! The world is now safe! Keep nannying us please! I can't control my gambling habit, so you doing it for me solves the problem! Oh, things like state-run-lotteries, white-collar gambling on stock market derivatives and other ill-formulated market bundles, that is all well and good. But those evil-online-poker sites, they are causing the downfall of the US! Just like the millions spent on the Barry Bonds trial! All the victims of gambling and steroid use in baseball now can see that justice be served! The file-shares, go get them too! Litigate Litigate Litigate! You are the bastion of liberty in the free-world, 'O DoJ, I salute your valiant efforts at keeping us all safe.

    Fucking Assholes.
  • Wouldn't it be easy for them to get a new top level domain? Where is pokerstars.biz or pokerstars.info or pokerstars.cc? I didn't look very hard so they may have already done this.

    I suppose it's obvious that these domain seizures are nothing more than a minor speedbump and and really only specific to TLD's managed in the US. Thankfully, there are countless TLDs that are not US based so choices are aplenty.

    I wish they took bets on how quickly they will be back....
    • by bfree (113420)

      In the meantime you can just edit your hosts file: 77.87.179.116 www.pokerstars.com

      Amazingly neither pokerstars.com nor their blog site [pokerstarsblog.com] have any news about this yet.

      My ISPs dns servers are already dishing out the hijacked IPs for the other two domains (50.17.223.71) but I'm sure someone here can find the old IP addresses.

      As for betting when they will be back, you want a regular bookie for that (not a poker site), perhaps betfair [betfair.co.uk] or Paddy Power [paddypower.ie]. Notice I gave the links to their sites on their home nations

  • The Slashdot article links to a press release about the indictment (http://www.justice.gov/usao/nys/pressreleases/April11/scheinbergetalindictmentpr.pdf), not the indictment itself.

    In understanding legal issues, I am all about "reading the source code". Has anyone found a copy of the actual indictment itself that lists all the details about what these folks are being charged with?

    Even better would be a link to the criminal complaint which I assume preceded the indictment. Those things are usually dozens of

    • by AEton (654737) on Friday April 15, 2011 @05:16PM (#35833490)

      OK, I did some digging in PACER, where it looks like the documents have probably been filed but are probably still sealed.

      The relevant case is in the Southern District of New York (https://ecf.nysd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/ShowIndex.pl - anyone can sign up for a PACER account, they're free but you pay 8 cents per page, and if you charge less than $10 in a quarter it's free).

      They're using an existing case, 1:10-cr-00336-LAK, which is all about the arrest and indictment of a gambling payment processor dude a year ago in April 2010.

      See http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/arrests-follow-internet-high-flyers-release/story-e6frg6nf-1226039942478 [theaustralian.com.au] for more on the dude.

      So the timeline is:
      1) Gambling dude is arrested in 2010 and charged with some gambling-related crimes. See his indictment at http://tech.mit.edu/~mherdeg/10-cr-00336-lak-1.pdf [mit.edu]
      2) Some time recently, he is (according to an Australian newspaper) secretly released from prison and prosecutors have not said whether he's still being charged
      3) These 11 people are all being charged with 9 new crimes (documents not yet available, but apparently they'll be stored in this place / as part of this case number)

      There have been a bunch of sealed documents added to the case recently; maybe they include the complaint and indictment that the press release talks about. You can see the history I got from PACER at http://tech.mit.edu/~mherdeg/10-cr-00336-entries.txt [mit.edu].

  • by BigHungryJoe (737554) on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:43PM (#35833080) Homepage

    The online poker industry is young yet and has not had time to establish a strong lobby in Washington, DC. Once they do, it will become a respectable, job-creating industry run by innovators that make this economy strong... and these sorts of stories will disappear.

  • Now they are going to be without a place to play, and might actually do something constructive with their lives.

    Wait? What? There's more online poker games for them to go play?

    Great work again, Gov. I see my tax money is being used responsibly, mainly in this time of buget cuts.

    Stupid twats.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Daniel Negreanu just went all in with 2 cartons of Marlboros, a carton of Camels, 4 packs of 305's and his bitch, Mike Matusow.

  • by lothos (10657) on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:50PM (#35833172) Homepage

    http://www.gambling911.com/gambling-news/online-gambling-becomes-legalized-united-states-thanks-washington-dc-041211.html [gambling911.com]

    "Washington, D.C., with its under 1 million population, has become the first jurisdiction in the United States to legalize online gambling.

    The District of Columbia is looking to raise millions of dollars from a multi-billion dollar industry that, until now, has operated exclusively offshore from the United States. That apparently is about to change."

    "Players are really loyal in this industry," Ifrah said. "You really have to ask yourself what is the incentive a player is going to have to leave a trusted site with global competition to play in a site that's untested and kind of unknown and doesn't offer you the same level of play."

    Looks to me like they just want to get rid of the competition.

  • by gpuk (712102) on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:55PM (#35833242) Homepage

    This domain seizure trend is getting out of hand. If the FBI, ICE and DOJ keep this up, it's going to finish with the UN administering the root servers.

    I'm a paying, European customer of Full Tilt Poker... I hope this domain seizure doesn't interfere with FTPs non-US operations. What jurisdiction do they have to decide whether or not I can exercise my legal right to engage in an online card game for money?

    I noticed that the forums are still up: http://pokerforums.fulltiltpoker.com/ [fulltiltpoker.com]

    • by gpuk (712102)

      Bad form to reply to my own post I know but FYI www.fulltiltpoker.org is still up as are the .fr and .it sites (as one would hope)

    • it's going to finish with the UN administering the root servers.

      That actually may be the whole point. The Feds may be trying to engineer the handover of the TLDs to the UN. They're just trying to piss everyone off enough for the UN to take the initiative rather than the US be so blatant about it. If I had to guess, China's pulling the strings for this to happen. I wonder what kind of back-room deals are being made now they own so much of our debt.

  • by XiaoMing (1574363) on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:58PM (#35833280)

    The statement on the site warns that taking part in an illegal gambling business is a federal crime. “It is also a federal crime to knowingly accept, in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful Internet gambling, credit, electronic fund transfers, or checks," the warning said.

    Yeah! Don't these idiots know that this type of risky gambling behavior is only allowed for people's life savings and investments, and only to be done so by giant financial corporations who knowingly deceive the general public?!

    According to the indictment, the offshore poker companies continued to operate in the U.S. despite...

    And these guys are OFFSHORE and operating in our beloved US?!?! What kind of blatant hypocrisy is this. I miss the good old days of [right now] when home-grown companies like GE funnel the money they've earned to off-shore accounts and pay zero dollars in taxes on the money they made off of the American people with full support from the government. Who do these hypocritical poker bastards think they are!

  • Instead of spending all this money to stamp out online poker, why won't they regulate and tax it? This demonizing makes absolutely no sense. Especially when our country's not exactly flush with cash. The way our government spends money to eliminate the possibility of making money continues to amaze me.

  • by NetShadow (132017) on Friday April 15, 2011 @05:02PM (#35833336)

    Online poker where the server is run outside the United States, may not be illegal in the US. At least the wire act used to prosecute people sending money to sports books and the like does not appear to apply to poker specifically, nor has anyone in the US been successfully prosecuted for online poker.

    What *is* illegal as of the recent UIGEA act is for banks to provide you the ability to send your money to / receive money from these online gaming sites. Regardless of the facts, many state and federal officials persist in calling online poker illegal, despite it not apparently breaking any laws.

    See this quote:


    The indictment sets up a complicated global legal battle between the Department of Justice and the online poker entrepreneurs who have long argued that their operations in the U.S. do not violate U.S. law. Indeed, in recent days, one of the nation’s most prominent casino billionaires, Steve Wynn, announced a strategic relationship with PokerStars and said “in the United States of America the Justice Department has an opinion but several states have ruled and courts have agreed that poker is a game of skill, it’s not gambling. PokerStars rests their argument on that.”

  • DC 1rst place for online gambling! April 12th [forbes.com]

    This seems to be a many pronged approach. 1) The government loves to interfere with your life to give you the idea that you're being controlled, not them.
    2) The government is going to make online gambling taxable, and wants no competition.
    3) The government will seize all the cashouts for the next few months like they did in 2009 for extra money.

    (The following is a joke, don't get upset), Obama must be tired of making spending cuts so he needs to take
  • by Usagi_yo (648836) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:26PM (#35835136)
    It's unfortunate and I have some sympathy with those that were able to beat the online game without cheating and who made their living and have now had their account balances confiscated. However lets face reality, that probably represents 3% or less of online poker players. Meaning that a good estimate is that 97% of online poker players simply lost. Losers complain, some I daresay, may even think they've been cheated, people who think they've been cheated most certainly complain. Looks like those complaints have been heard.
    • Actually, estimates are that about 20-25% of online players are winning players. There are sites that track all online play at some of the major sites, so data like this isn't that hard to come by. Pokertableratings.com and sharkscope.com, for example.

      If that sounds low, consider a lot of people play with money they don't care about (me) and that those numbers are monstrously larger than the percentage of undeniably legal, US run lotteries where far less than 1% of players are winners over time. Consider

  • by UttBuggly (871776) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:44PM (#35835322)

    I am a fairly skilled poker player (have a positive bankroll) and play on PStars and Full Tilt, and have for years.

    At least at this moment, MY accounts are still live and my money is still there. Didn't try to withdraw any, so that may be the litmus test.

    But, I can still buy into a cash game or tourney, so I not sure what the DOJ has done that is having any actual effect on the sites doing business as usual.

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