Shhh. You hear that? That's the sound of thousands of unemployed people (and poker stars) bawling in unison. The FBI has shut down three of the largest online poker sites -- Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker. Executives at the gambling sites have been charged with bank fraud and money laundering. If you go to any of the gaming sites -- like I just did (strictly for research, not because I was hoping to win some cash for a pair of Louboutins) -- you'll be greeted with: "This domain name has been seized by the F.B.I. pursuant to an Arrest Warrant." Dang! Not good for the thriving online poker industry. (Or Christian Louboutin.)
A civil suit was also filed, seeking to recover $3 billion from the companies. Double dang! But, wait a minute ... did the online poker sites launder any money? Didn't players give their banks permission to transfer their money? Did the government crack down this hard on Wall Street? Why are you getting all greedypants, Government?
I certainly don't think the owners and operators of these sites are the most scrupulous of people. In fact, Raymond Bitar, the chief executive of Full Tilt Poker, moved his company to Dublin, Ireland, after Congress enacted a 2006 law that bans businesses from taking payments for "unlawful" online gambling. Yet he and his company issued the statement:
I believe online poker is legal -- a position also taken by some of the best legal minds in the United States. I am surprised and disappointed by the government's decision to bring these charges. I look forward to my exoneration.
Weeelll, if you believed it was totally legal, you wouldn't have skedaddled out the country so fast, Raymond, but I'm kind of surprised by this crackdown, too.
To little ol' me, it seems like kind of a silly thing for the government to put so much time into (isn't there, like, a war going on, guys?). Never mind the general freedom issue at hand, if the government would just make this stupid thing legal, they could tax it and make boatloads of cash (enough for a lot of Louboutins), instead of seizing accounts and collecting fines. Like I said, this is all consensual (and, not to split hairs or get too political here, but unlike the billions stolen taken from the taxpayers for TARP money to the banks).
But, I guess if you guys are getting all hard-core in the world of gambling, we can expect to see the shutdown of the state-run lotteries soon, too, huh? No? Didn't think so.
What do you think about the government's crackdown on online poker sites?
Image via Fristle/Flickr