Full Tilt Poker Being Probed For Breaking US Money Laundering LawsApril 5, 2010 4:28 am
As reported in the Financial Times this week, Full Tilt Poker is currently being investigated by a federal grand jury in Manhattan to determine whether the poker site is in violation of US gambling and money-laundering laws.
Although details of the inquiry are not being made public yet, it is believed Full Tilt Poker and those individuals allegedly controlling the company, such as Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer, could face criminal charges if they are found to have been operating contrary to the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
Following the initial probe, Eric Jackson, the Los Angeles civil attorney acting on behalf of Mr Lederer and Mr Ferguson, said he was not prepared to comment on a speculative grand jury investigation he had not been informed of.
Despite being considered illegal, in the USA 2.5 million people wager $30 billion on online poker sites every year, with online poker giants PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker taking around 70% or $1 billion, of the US poker industry’s revenue.
If indictments are made against the world’s second largest online poker site and their high profile poker player controllers, then it would represent a significant escalation in the US battle against online poker.
To date, however, the US authorities have had to tread carefully in their approach to tackling these online poker companies as vague wording in The Wire Act of 1961 and the Illegal Gambling Business Act casts doubt on where exactly poker fits into the whole gambling issue and whether it is a game of skill or chance. Consequently, these companies have been able to thrive in the US market.
As Frank Catania, an ex-New Jersey Gaming Enforcement operative explains, “the federal government is not going to take any action against them because they would stand a chance of losing it.” In other words, a potential Supreme Court ruling found in favour of online poker would have to be accepted by the US authorities, despite their objections.
In the meantime, the grand jury probe is being seen as another example of the DOJ using all other means at their disposal in order to put pressure on the poker sites, disrupt their operations and intimidate them into complying with their demands.