The Rumor Mill: FBI May Be Preparing to Target Other Poker Sites

When the FBI shut down the .com domain names for PokerStars, Full Tilt and Cereus there was hope by many that it would be the end to the prosecutions. Unfrotunately, for poker players, there is still a chance all U.S. facing sites are in trouble.

Rumor Mill
When the FBI shut down the .com domain names for PokerStars, Full Tilt and Cereus there was hope by many that it would be the end to the prosecutions. While those 3 were by far and away the largest U.S. facing poker sites there were others that were taking U.S. action. In particular the Merge, Everleaf and Cake networks were still welcoming U.S. accounts plus a few independents like Bodog, Betonline and World Poker Exchange were encouraging new U.S. signups.

It appears, however, that there is still a chance all U.S. facing sites are in trouble. Following the seizures, Merge announced that they would no longer be offering the rakebacks they promised and numerous sites on their network like Carbon Poker and BetUSA moved to a .ag extension in anticipation of the FBI using VeriSign to take the .com domain name. And recently a source in the poker industry that still receives payments for poker advertising informed me that he’s heard numerous rumblings that the FBI “wants the rest” and consequently he is trying to lure more European sites for advertisements in anticipation of the inevitable closure of the other sites.

There were also suggestions last month on numerous poker sites that the DoJ were preparing to seize the funds of Merge and Everleaf payment processors and in fact Merge stopped accepting funds from U.S. players for 4 months after Black Friday. On October 13th Merge started accepting U.S. funds again but according to Subject Poker asked they were asked by Merge to keep that announcement silent and they barred the states of Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New York, and Washington as well as residents of Washington D.C. This may be an indication that Merge found a new payment processor they believe is untouchable but it could also be a decision to get as much money as possible into the site before the FBI makes its move. Cake poker, the largest of the U.S. facing networks has not been named at all in any rumors of seizures but it should be remembered that one of their biggest associates, The Greek Poker, stopped accepting U.S. clients which could be a reason the FBI is not currently that interested in them.

What is also notable is that Fairplay USA, a quasi lobbying group seeded by Caesars and MGM recently acquired Tom Ridge and Louis Freeh as members. Ridge, of course, was the secretary of homeland security under George W. Bush and Louis Freeh was the director of the FBI. Many are painting their involvement as a positive step for the online poker industry since both were firmly against online gambling expansion in the past. Thus some are suggesting that their new pro gambling stance along with their clout will help them encourage others in government and the FBI to stop their vendetta against online poker sites. But one must remember that Caesars has made it clear that they want a federal online gambling law but they have also pushed for the elimination of “illegal” sites. And almost everyone in the industry agrees that Caesars was instrumental in the FBI’s moves on Black Friday. It’s quite conceivable therefore that Freeh’s involvement while appearing to be “friendly” to the online poker industry is in reality just a source to gather information to help the FBI “get the rest.”

In any case Americans just need to be aware that the FBI is likely not finished with their prosecutions and players should thus be cautious and smart when making payments to any poker site. Furthermore, they should not believe comments coming from ‘Free Play USA’. The group may indeed be good for the online poker industry, but more than likely their goal is to just give Caesars an online poker monopoly for a few years and then allow other U.S. based sites to come aboard too.

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