Feds Seize Poker Websites; Founders Indicted

from the guilty-until-proven-innocent dept

It appears that the federal government has really fallen in love with its new found ability to simply seize whatever websites they don't like. The latest is that the FBI (not DHS this time) has seized the three largest online poker websites, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, and indicted the founders of those sites. Some have already been arrested with warrants out for the others. Because, you know, poker is destroying society or something. While at least this time it actually commenced legal actions in association with the seizures, the more the government does this, the more it's going to make sure this new favorite tool (domain seizures) gets shot down by the courts.

First of all, whether or not those sites are illegal is something of an open question. Back in 2006, as part of a bill to protect our ports and harbors (I'm not kidding), Congress passed a "ban" on online gambling. But it's been a pretty open question as to whether or not poker sites really applied. There are questions as to whether or not poker is a game of skill or chance, with at least one court saying that it was the former, and thus not necessarily "gambling."

On top of that, some in Congress have been working hard for a while to clarify that online poker is legal.

Even if you accept the idea that these sites are breaking the law -- which is a big open question -- is it really okay to simply seize the domains prior to an adversarial hearing? File charges, bring it to court, and have the government ask for an injunction, allowing the site operators to state the basics of their case. Seizing the domains seems like a massive government overreach (yet again).

Of course, the interesting thing to me is that this may get a lot more people interested in the federal government's new love of seizing domain names prior to any real due process. Perhaps not that many people are all that concerned when the issue was the "boring" question of copyright, but an awful lot of people play online poker, and they are unlikely to appreciate the seizures...

Filed Under: domain seizures, fbi, online poker, poker
Companies: absolute poker, full tilt poker, pokerstars


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  1. icon
    Ron Rezendes (profile), 15 Apr 2011 @ 3:49pm

    Re:

    Poker, chess, pinball - all have been proven in US Courts to NOT be games of chance, thereby allowing wagering between players so long as there is no cut of the pot involved (i.e. the house can't take a % or fixed amount from the pot).

    I play professional tournaments for money in all three and have some first hand knowledge of how and why this is allowed.

    The crux in poker is that players can win even if they don't hold the best hand, bluffing is a skill and can be done regardless of the cards you are dealt allowing you to still win through the use of skill.

    Roger Sharpe proved pinball was also a game of skill to the NY City Council and single handedly helped overturn the ban on pinball in several states.

    The San Diego Chess Club, of which I have been president of for 15+ years now, has had the local authorities visit because someone wasn't comfortable with players playing chess for money (anywhere from a quarter a game to five bucks a game playing blitz chess - 5 minutes on the clock for each player). When the police showed up they asked a couple of questions, essentially was all the money strictly between the players involved, and when told that it was they informed the complainant that there was nothing illegal going on even though it was in a city park (Balboa Park).

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