FBI Seizes Domain Names In Online Gambling Crackdown

The FBI has seized domain names for online gambling websites in what the New York Times has described as “an aggressive attack on Internet gambling.” The charges against the operators of three of the most popular online poker sites by federal prosecutors include fraud and money laundering and saw eleven people charged.According to the Times, “Prosecutors charged that the operators of Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker tricked banks into processing billions of dollars in payments from customers in the United States. They said the actions violated a federal law passed in 2006 that prohibits illegal Internet gambling operations from accepting payments.””The online poker operators sought to avoid detection by banks and legal authorities by funneling payments through fictitious online businesses that purported to sell jewelry, golf balls and other items, according to the indictment. It says that when some banks processed the payments, they were unaware of the real nature of the business, but the site operators also bribed banks into accepting the payments.”Further, “experts in gambling law said that the forceful action raises tricky questions about gambling laws and the government’s reach.”The government also is seeking to recover $3 billion from the companies, reported the Los Angeles Times while two of the eleven people charged were arrested in the US. The remaining defendants are abroad with federal agents seeking the assistance of Interpol to capture the remaining defendants.The Times also reported that “ComScore, a company that measures Internet traffic, said that in March, Full Tilt Poker had 2.6 million visitors from the United States, PokerStars had 1.9 million and Absolute Poker had 1.3 million. ComScore also reported that 1.4 million people visited Ultimate Bet, a site that the federal indictment says joined forces last year with Absolute Poker. Those were the nation’s four most popular poker sites, ComScore said.”The tactics used, that is seizing domain names, are the same as those used last year against websites accused of copyright violations. As the Times notes, the tactic may only be temporarily effective as websites can re-establish themselves using a country code domain, for example, and be out the reach of US law enforcement.For more detailed reports on the domain name seizures from which information for the above story was sourced, see:
www.nytimes.com/2011/04/16/technology/16poker.html
www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-poker-busts-20110416,0,308055.story
latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2011/04/full-tilt-poker-fbi.html