The online gambling community was widely optimistic last fall as voters in the U.S. bucked the previous 8 years of Republican rule and voted a democrat into the White House. Everyone, yours truly included, figured that Democratic majorities on both Capitol Hill and the executive branch of government would spell a return to the days
The online gambling community was widely optimistic last fall as voters in the U.S. bucked the previous 8 years of Republican rule and voted a democrat into the White House. Everyone, yours truly included, figured that Democratic majorities on both Capitol Hill and the executive branch of government would spell a return to the days of easy payments and loosened regulations. Instead, this regime has continued the same Bush prohibitionist stance on online gambling. The ongoing confiscation of more payment processors’ bank accounts and the recent apprehension of a prominent bookmaker, and the government’ attempt to tie Internet gambling into his arrest, prove that the U.S., despite the efforts of Barney Frank and others, will remain one of just three developed nations on the planet that prohibit gambling on the Internet . . . at least for the near future.
Since the Obama administration took office there have been more arrests, continued confiscation of bank accounts, ongoing investigations into Internet gambling companies and the impending implementation of the banks as the police of internet gambling.
Party Gaming founder Andrew Dikshit settled with the previous administration for $300 million and our eyes popped when reading the story. However, in July, Party Gaming itself settled with the US authorities for an additional $105 million, payable in installments through 2012! This settlement was in return for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York ensuring the company and any of its subsidiaries will not be prosecuted for providing internet gambling services prior to UIGEA. In May, the U.S. government seized $24 million from bank accounts linked to Bodog. And, in August, Missouri officials got ex-BETonSPORTS kingpin Gary Kaplan to forfeit $43 million. Now, NY seeks $125 million form the latest arrest.
For several years now, the Feds in Maryland have been pursuing alleged money laundering in the internet gambling realm. So far in 2009, Maryland has seized $800,000 from Electracash and $365,366 from Atrium Financial Group. In addition, Account Services’ Douglas Rennick was indicted on charges of money laundering, bank fraud, and illegal gambling. If found guilty, Rennick faces a $1 million fine on the bank fraud charge, a $500,000 fine on the money laundering charge, and a $250,000 fine on the gambling charge. The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of at least approximately $565,908,288 (yes, that’s half a billion), which represents the amount of proceeds obtained as a result of the illegal gambling and bank fraud conspiracies. The list goes on and on. With a couple of million here and a few hundred thousand there, the government will have to hire extra accountants to count all of the money.
In 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which prohibited banks and credit card companies from transferring money for Internet gambling, in effect banning online gambling. However, the law left open the door for states to allow Internet gambling within the state’s boundaries, according to a Legislative Analyst opinion related to a bill last year. Still, the prohibitionist stance has taken hold in several states throughout the union. In April, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety released a list of 200 internet gambling sites that it was looking to ban in the state. Kentucky continues to fight over some gambling domains that they feel they can shut down. That case is now in the state Supreme Court.
Internet poker has been looked at by Indian tribes and states alike with California, via the loophole in the UIGEA, looking to come to the forefront. But, the effort many industry insiders thought was going to become law in California became muddled as everyone wanted a piece of the pie. The California bill has been declared dead at this point.
Really, the stance continued by this administration is simple. It’s all about the money; Making it and keeping it without any new political ramifications.
The voices for regulating and taxing Internet gambling all have one thing in common – taxation and regulation will yield big revenue for a government that is currently running deep in the red. But when you add up the ‘criminal proceeds’ gathered from the cases just this year – the prize is nearly $200 million. Add in another $300 million from the Party Gaming founder and the 2-year haul is nearly half a billion. That’s some serious cash and it leads to a surprising hypothesis. If the prohibitionist stance can rake in millions, why bother to head down the path of the rest of the Free World? Why not just keep investigating, busting and confiscating to fill the coffers? In fact, I wonder if right now there is talk amongst state and federal legislators to add a line item their budgets for proceeds from Internet gambling raids. Then, simply put enough manpower behind gathering the ‘criminal proceeds’ to meet the budget . . .4 comments