Feds Continue Crackdown On Poker… By Seizing The Wrong Bodog Domain
from the keystone-kops dept
The feds domain name seizure powers seem simple enough (if of extremely questionable legality, seeing as domains involve speech which requires a higher standard to seize), so it really amazes me how badly they seem to regularly screw up in using them. The latest is the seizure of Bodog.com as well as the indictment of Bodog boss Calvin Ayre. While there’s been lots of attention paid to the seizures of sites having to do with copyright and trademark infringement, the same feds (ICE and the DOJ) have also been using the same powers gleefully to stop you from playing poker online. You may recall that they seized PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker last April, followed up by 10 more domain seizures in May (which was especially bizarre, since the key thing that’s illegal is processing payments, but in that case, the federal government set up its own fake payment processor for those sites…).
Bodog, however, has been considered the “big dog” of online poker for quite some time, raising some questions as to why it wasn’t included in last years’ busts. Of course, in typical fashion, the feds seem to have targeted the wrong domain. Bodog gambling sites moved off of Bodog.com ages ago — first due to a patent dispute, and later to avoid having the sites on US controlled domains. For quite some time the company has mainly relied on bodog.eu, and more recently has been offering a different domain called Bovada.lv for US-based players.
As for Bodog.com? It had become the face of the “Bodog Brand” and was used for licensing the Bodog name, but wasn’t itself a gambling site in ages. The affidavit for seizure (pdf and embedded below) claims that federal agents set up accounts and gambled on Bodog.com, but I really wonder if they didn’t miss the fact that they were redirected to another site. Checking the internet archive, it certainly looks like Bodog.com was pretty much out of commission long before the feds claimed to have set up and used accounts there. Either way, the seizure seems unlikely to do much to stop gambling on Bodog sites, considering that the actual gambling was happening on sites, other than Bodog.com, which likely are still perfectly operational.
As for the actual indictment (pdf and embedded below) against the individuals, it’s more or less what you’d expect. They focus a lot how Bodog moved money around, but much of that was only necessary because of the (relatively recent) decision by some politicians in the US to sneak an anti-online gambling bill into a bill about protecting our ports and harbors. Ever since then there’s been a growing effort in Congress to actually make online gambling legal again — in part because the big casinos who mostly supported the original ban have now changed their minds and want in on the action. In other words, while it is likely that Ayers and his team did violate the law, there are a lot of questions about the law itself, and there’s a half decent chance that what he was doing will be perfectly legal before too long.
Kinda makes you wonder why the feds are spending their time and taxpayer-funded resources on such a thing, doesn’t it?
As for Ayers, he sounds pretty defiant, suggesting that this is really just the feds acting in the best interests of large casinos who don’t like the competition:
I see this as abuse of the US criminal justice system for the commercial gain of large US corporations. It is clear that the online gaming industry is legal under international law and in the case of these documents is it also clear that the rule of law was not allowed to slow down a rush to try to win the war of public opinion.
These documents were filed with Forbes magazine before they were filed anywhere else and were drafted with the consumption of the media as a primary objective. We will all look at this and discuss the future with our advisors, but it will not stop my many business interests globally that are unrelated to anything in the US….
The whole thing seems like a big waste of time by some federal officials who like big headlines, but don’t seem particularly focused on stopping crimes that actually cause real harm.