Are the Feds going soft in the war on online gambling? For the last couple of months, gamblers in the US have been stuck in limbo as popular money transfer firm NETeller was unable to return to them funds that were being held by the company. While the government has gone after online gambling firms and the financial institutions that abet the business, it's not clear that the actual act of placing a bet online is illegal, so it didn't make sense to victimize gamblers themselves. It now appears that NETeller has reached a deal with the Department of Justice to return $55 million in frozen assets at some point in the next 75 days, although the details of this transfer have yet to spelled out. It's great that the DOJ is concerned about getting people their money back, but it appears it might have an ulterior motive here. As part of the agreement, NETeller will undergo a complete forensic audit that will allow the Feds a detailed look into how the whole business works. It bears repeating that NETeller isn't itself an online gambling firm. It's basically the European version of PayPal, and, as PayPal used to do, it helps people transfer money to online casinos. The company's founders were arrested back in January, but so far haven't been formally charged with anything, so it seems as if this forensic audit is basically a way for the Feds to figure out what, if anything, the NETeller founders can be charged with. Meanwhile, the cost and effort associated with this whole anti-gambling push continues to escalate, and it's still not clear who the victims are or why this is a government priority at all.
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