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Online Casino News - August, 2009

Online Poker Facing Tough(er) Times in New York State

 

  Seed Newsvine

by Devon Chappell, News Staff Writer

August 7, 2009

There is no denying the tumultuous times facing the U.S. online gambling industry right now. Notably characteristic to the online poker industry in particular has been a crackdown of sorts from U.S. government officials - chiefly, the New York State Attorney General's Office. Shutting down businesses who are accepting and transferring money used for processing funds to make wagers in online poker rooms, US government policy is steadily making things more difficult for its citizens to get their online poker game on.

Just two months ago, the NY Attorney General effectively shut down the payment method of choice for many online poker players at Poker Stars and Full Tilt poker rooms. Known as Instant eCheck, the service was frozen as officials found a way to seize over $33 million in assets, thereby leaving quite a few online poker players on the outs, wondering if they would ever see their money again. While it's likely they will indeed get their money, as the case was with Neteller, things will certainly be delayed as Instant eCheck officials work out a deal with the NY Attorney General.

Even more recent was the arrest of Canadian online poker entrepreneur, Douglas Rennick, who is now being charged with fraud and money laundering, to the tune of $350 million. According to an indictment filed with the Southern District Court of New York, Rennick allegedly opened bank accounts under five different corporate names that were to be used for issuing rebate, refund and sponsorship checks. Millions of dollars were then laundered from a bank based in Cyprus to two accounts in the State of California, which were apparently used to disburse online gambling winnings.

Now, the NY State Attorney says that Rennick needs to cough up approximately $567 million to account for the money he earned off NY State residents. And, if Rennick wants to keep from serving up to fifty-five years in prison, he probably has no other choice but to pay up.

The sad thing about all this is that Rennick wasn't ripping anybody off. It's not so much a concern of the NY State Attorney that Rennick was stealing from citizens, but rather, that he was "stealing" money that New York State could have been benefiting from. Considering all the online horse betting that is allowed in the State, it's protectionism at its finest. In similar fashion to the aforementioned Instant eCheck and Neteller debacles, it is likely the NY State Attorney's Office will allow Rennick to essentially buy his freedom.

It has not been revealed just yet which poker room, or poker rooms for that matter, Rennick was operating. It is also unclear whether Rennick, a Canadian citizen, will be extradited to Canada, where the online gambling laws are a little more lenient. The one thing that is clear is that if you are an online casino or poker room operator, don't take bets from New York citizens. While they certainly account for a large portion of online gambling revenue,  New York residents are swimming in off-limit waters. Considering the New York FBI is involved with a larger ongoing investigation, more arrests are sure to come.


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