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Breaking: FBI Seizes Internet Poker Domains

15 April 2011 by admin

FBI warningBreaking news – Two of the largest online poker domains in the business have been seized by the U.S. federal government today. There is little information at this point, but early indications are that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice have seized the domains to Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars.

Upon visiting the websites for Full Tilt Poker or PokerStars, you expect to be greeted with the welcome screen for the poker room. What you don’t expect is a giant “WARNING” printed on the screen, followed by the official seals of the FBI and the Justice Department. Right now, visiting those websites will get you exactly that, following by a message from the federal government. That message reads:

This domain name has been seized by the F.B.I. pursuant to an Arrest Warrant in Rem obtained by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Conducting, financing, managing, supervising, directing, or owning all or part of an illegal gambling business is a federal crime. (18 U.S.C. § 1955)

For persons engaged in the business of betting or wagering, 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. (31 U.S.C. § § 5363 & 5366)

Violations of these laws carry criminal penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.

Properties, including domain names, used in violation of the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 1955 or involved in money laundering transactions are subject to forfeiture to the United States. (18 U.S.C. §§ 981 & 1955(d))

Is Online Poker Illegal?

One thing worth pointing out is that the information on the page is incorrect. As we at have pointed out on many occasions, there is no federal ban on online gambling or online poker in the United States. The only online gambling activity banned by federal law is sports betting, which is outlawed by the Wire Act. The so-called FBI warning lists Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 95, for example, but that law does not ban online gambling. That law simply says that those involved in an “illegal gambling business” shall be fined or imprisoned by not more than five years. It defines “illegal gambling business” as a business that “is in violation of the law of a state or political subdivision in which it is conducted.”

Just like UIGEA, it doesn’t make anything illegal; it simply allows the federal government to enact punishment for an activity that is already banned by another law. As I stated, there is no federal ban on online gambling, but there are state bans. Online gambling is illegal in Washington state, so this law would apply to someone who plays at PokerStars if they live in Washington.

The domains were seized by the government in a case where 11 defendants, including the owners of PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker, are charged with various crimes. Most of the charges are related to bank fraud and money laundering.

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