The three largest online gambling websites, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker were seized on April 15 by the U.S. government. They are being charged with bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses, according to a government press release.
The problem is that players who used the online gambling services still have money in their accounts, which were taken along with the websites. Lucky for them though, the government announced on April 20 that two of the websites, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, will be temporarily restored so they can return money to players.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated in a press release, “this Office expects the companies to return the money that U.S. players entrusted to them, and we will work with the poker companies to facilitate the return of funds to players, as today’s agreements with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker demonstrate.”
Read the full press release below:
United States Attorney Southern District of New York
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE APRIL 20, 2011
CONTACT: U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE ELLEN DAVIS, CARLY SULLIVAN, JERIKA RICHARDSON, EDELI RIVERA
PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE (212) 637-2600
UNITED STATES ENTERS DOMAIN-NAME USE AGREEMENTS WITH TWO ONLINE POKER COMPANIES
As Part of Agreements, Use of Domain Names Pokerstars.com and Fulltiltpoker.com Will Be Restored to Facilitate Return of U.S. Player Funds
PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States entered into domain-name use agreements with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, two of three online poker companies named as defendants in an April 15 civil money laundering and forfeiture Complaint (the “Civil Complaint”), alleging bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses. The Complaint, a related Indictment, and a related Restraining Order issued against multiple bank accounts utilized by the companies and their payment processors do not prohibit the companies from refunding players’ money. Nevertheless, this agreement will facilitate the return of money so that players can register their refund requests directly with Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA said: “On April 15th, this Office and the FBI took specific legal action against 11 individuals who allegedly engaged not merely in the operation of illegal gambling businesses, but in massive wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering, despite repeated warnings and clear notice that their conduct was illegal in the United States. No individual player accounts were ever frozen or restrained, and each implicated poker company has at all times been free to reimburse any player’s deposited funds. In fact, this Office expects the companies to return the money that U.S. players entrusted to them, and we will work with the poker companies to facilitate the return of funds to players, as today’s agreements with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker demonstrate.”
Under the terms of the agreements with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, the companies agreed that they would not allow for, facilitate, or provide the ability for players located in the United States to engage in playing online poker for “real money” or any other thing of value. The agreements allow for PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker to use the pokerstars.com and fulltiltpoker.com domain names to facilitate the withdrawal of U.S. players’ funds held in account with the companies. The deposit of funds by U.S. players is expressly prohibited. In addition, the agreements do not prohibit, and, in fact, expressly allow for, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker to provide for, and facilitate, players outside of the United States to engage in playing online poker for real money. The agreements also require the appointment of an independent Monitor to verify PokerStars’ and Full Tilt Poker’s compliance with the agreements. The Government stands to enter the same agreement with Absolute Poker if it so chooses.
An Indictment was unsealed in Manhattan federal court on April 15, 2011 charging eleven defendants, including the founders of the three largest Internet poker companies doing business in the United States – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker (the “Poker Companies”) – with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling offenses. The United States also filed a Civil Complaint against the Poker Companies, their assets, and the assets of several payment processors for the Poker Companies. In addition, a restraining order was issued against multiple bank accounts utilized by the Poker Companies and their payment processors. The Government did not restrain any players’ accounts. Five Internet domain names used by the Poker Companies – pokerstars.com; fulltiltpoker.com; absolutepoker.com; ultimatebet.com; and ub.com – were also seized. As alleged in
the Indictment and Civil Complaint, collectively obtained approximately result of their illegal activities. As alleged in the Indictment and Civil Complaint, the Poker Companies $3 billion in proceeds as a result of their illegal activities.
Assistant U. S. Attorneys LOCKARD and JASON COWLEY are in charge of the civil money laundering and forfeiture actions, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys ARLO DEVLIN-BROWN and NICOLE FRIEDLANDER are in charge of the criminal case.
Photo Credit: By Jamie Adams from Hull, United Kingdom (Poker chips) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.