It was with great dismay and sadness that I received a text from a friend today just a couple of hours ago, informing me that Full Tilt Poker, Pokerstars, and Absolute Poker have been shut down by the F.B.I. I’m baffled in a sense by the timing of the whole thing. At least I want to be baffled. In the back of my mind though, I’ve often wondered how these sites continued to cater to U.S. Citizens in lieu of the legislation passed in 2006 which was supposed to effectively shut down internet gambling for Americans.
The legislation, the AIGA, is known as the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006”. At the time it was passed I wasn’t even aware of it being an issue. I preferred to gamble my money in a live casino environment for one thing. The other thing is I wasn’t a resident of the U.S. during the years 2003-2009. I couldn’t give a shit about much going on in the U.S. and I certainly wasn’t following yawner subjects such as last minute bills pushed through Congress before it adjourned for the mid term elections. Not even last minute bills that were attached to the Safe Harbor Act, which was widely considered a “must pass” piece of legislation. Silly me.
The online casinos themselves operate off shore, meaning in foreign lands, not under the jurisdiction of the F.B.I. or any other U.S.A. led law enforcement agencies.
OR SO I THOUGHT
It appears that I was wrong about this. I’m really in shock today about this because my whole life I have heard these sort of shadowy kind of stories about the U.S.A.’s arrogant involvement in all sorts of international matters that don’t necessarily pertain to us personally. And like I said, I was wondering why Party Gaming, the company that owns Party Poker, which prior to 2006 was the largest online poker room catering to Americans, took the passing of the AIGA so personally, effectively ceasing to do business with residents of the United States.
TO THEIR OWN DETRIMENT!!!!
I don’t know the specific numbers and I am too lazy and in a hurry right now to research them out for you right this second but I know that Party Gaming was a publicly traded, and booming business, with a massive market value and firm hold on the leadership globally in the rapidly growing online poker community before the AIGA was passed. Since that time, when they left the US market to companies like Full Tilt, Pokerstars, Absolute Poker and others, Party Gaming, has lost massive amounts of market value, its leadership role in the industry, billions of dollars in revenues and more. I didn’t understand why they chose such a conservative approach to this issue of online poker being declared illegal, while all its competitors eagerly and greedily snatched up all of the available customers from the USA . Why did Full Tilt, Pokerstars etc. feel that it was okay to seemingly flout the law passage and brazenly move full steam ahead with its business operations involving American citizens? To be completely honest, at the time I heard about the situation (maybe 6 months into 2008 when I was just starting to get heavily into internet poker myself) I thought that Party Gaming was a bunch of pussies. It seemed cowardly to just let all these other companies grow into global magnates of the likes the Poker World for sure, has never seen. I’m referring to the extravagence displayed by Pokerstars and Full Tilt in pretty much everything they do. The players they sponsor, the ads they run in print, on the radio and on television, the tournaments they sponsor, all of it. It’s very showy and I can sort of understand (now that its actually taken place) how the government boys would be sitting back steaming and pissed off how these companies were just rubbing it in their faces by continuing business as if the AIGA was never passed.
I like many others, felt that the push to legalize online poker (separately from online “casinos”) led by Senator D’Amato and widely supported by a large percentage of influential people, would eventually kind of make the whole AIGA thing go away. I never perceived the lack of action by states or the federal government (except for Washington State and Kentucky) in really trying to enforce AIGA as a sign of weakness. In my mind it was a shitty, unjust piece of legislation that only snuck through without scrutiny and passed because it was attached to an anti-terrorism bill (Safe Harbor Act 2006). When terrorism was at the forefront of many people’s minds, it was a shoe in that the bill would pass a hastily formed congressional vote days before the break for the 2006 midterm elections. I actually applauded the government in not meddling even more in the lives of ordinary citizens by strictly enforcing this hassle of a law. It was already hard enough to deposit funds onto the good poker rooms like Full Tilt and PokerStars and Bodog and Ultimate Bet because their credit card processors would never successfully get approval from my credit card companies. They would invariably be declined and it had something to do with the code that the online payment processors were forced to use by way of defining the category of the transaction for which I was utilizing my own personal money. It really used to piss me off as recently as like 3 weeks ago when I last made a deposit on Full Tilt Poker. The only way I could get funds credited to my account was to request a one time only “name and city” from the cashier in which to send the funds via an international money transfer using Western Union. It would always be some sketchy name like Igibetretoo Alabiandiaz in some city in the Phillipines and the spelling of my name and the receiver had to be 100% exactly perfect or Full Tilt would be unable to process the transaction and I would be fucked. Not to mention the fact that the cost of doing the transaction was absurdly high something like 15 bucks to send a 100. In retrospect now that I am writing this, maybe I wasn’t happy after all with anything relating to this stupid law.
Even though it was such a pain the ass to get funds to the site, if you were tenacious about it, eventually it would be taken care of. If anything, I thought that was more then enough for AIGA to be considered enforced. The intent was to basically to slow down the amount of gambling online done by Americans and that was definitely successful.
Because online casinos and poker rooms are primarily funded through personal use of payment system instruments, credit cards, and wire transfers, the government needed a way to actually stop the process of getting the money from the players wallets to the sites (which operate offshore) bank accounts and the AIGA had alot of gobbledy gook about that. It made it illegal for banks to do business that had anything to do with internet gambling. Period.
Still, as I’ve stated, somehow or another it was always taken care of which means that there were a few bold operators that ran e-wallets and banks and whatever else that took the risk and still did the transactions. Well no more of that shit.
The government went bat shit apparently and started arresting the owners of banks and the owners of Full Tilt Poker, Poker Stars and Absolute Poker. They fucking seized the domain names which means if you log onto fulltiltpoker.com for instance you are going to see an FBI warning letter telling you that the site has been siezed etc. All the funds are frozen and apparently are now the property of the USA. 8 of the 11 top dogs indicted in this stupid ass shit are being sought (they are USA Citizens) via Interpol Most Wanted Status and all kinds of craziness. From what I’ve read 3 billion was siezed, the charges that the owners of the banks and online sites face are serious crimes like money laundering, fraud etc. and these hardened criminals (NOT) face mandatory 20 year federal prison terms.
Talk about overkill! What timing! What showboating by the FBI! Its so arrogant of an action that I can totally relate now with the stories I’ve always heard about the unwanted interference of the USA in matters that are none of their god damned business.
I’m so pissed and I’m just a minor little piece of sand when you consider my measly 300 bucks in my Full Tilt Account and compare to people like Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey and many countless hundreds of others whose livelyhood is dependent largely on the income they receive from these sites and who have vast amounts of monies in their online accounts. I can only imagine what the implications are going to be of this horrific bullshit news.
When I find out more I will let you know if you even give a shit about this…..