Eric Holder Plays Strip Poker

Attorney General is not only up to his neck in Fast and Furious, being held in contempt of Congress and a multitude of other questionable actions, but he apparently likes strip poker as well. That’s right, the Attorney General apparently enjoys stripping the Fourth Amendment rights of online poker entrepreneurs. In doing so they have effectively shut down a thriving business in America.

Katie Kieffer commented on the DOJ’s apparent pick and choose what they will enforce in the law of the land:

On April 15, 2011, the Department of Justice and the FBI clamped down on the online gaming industry that does business in the United States. The DOJ charged the founders of the three largest internet companies, Absolute Poker, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, plus eight other defendants, with illegal gambling offenses, money laundering and bank fraud.

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No individual player was charged with criminal activity, however, the DOJ seized five key internet domain names and put restraining orders on over 75 defendant company bank accounts that process payments, effectively freezing online poker in the U.S.

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I realize that the DOJ must uphold U.S. law. Except for laws still on the books it doesn’t care for, like Clinton’s DOMA. But, this case sets a frightening precedent for the DOJ to essentially destroy a $6 billion industry and dampen entrepreneurship overnight.

While online gambling has never been declared illegal in the U.S. the DOJ continues to cite a quirky law to claim that it is a crime.

Ray Bitar was arrested by the feds at JFK airport on a trip from Dublin, Ireland. He is the CEO of Full Tilt Poker, which is an online gambling operation that is based in Dublin. He is now facing a possible 145 years in prison if convicted as the DOJ has accused him of running “an international Ponzi scheme” which took money from online gamers to make money for the owners of the website.

The Wall Street Journal reports,

In the indictment unsealed Monday the government portrayed Mr. Bitar as the director of an increasingly out-of-control scheme between 2008 and 2011 to keep profits flowing to himself and the sites owners and continued to do so even as a government investigation and other factors were increasingly causing the site to become depleted of funds.

The site’s users, thousands of individual poker players, had set up accounts with Full Tilt in order to have money to wager with, the government says. Yet toward the end of 2010, it became increasingly difficult for Full Tilt to transfer money due to the government’s crackdown on payment processing for poker. Full Tilt all but ran out of funds after money was seized by the government, stolen by payment processing companies or never collected from players yet credited to their accounts, the government says, yet portrayed to players that their funds were safe.

At the time of the government crackdown in April 2011, Full Tilt had just $60 million left, the government says. Only then the company stopped making monthly $10 million profit-sharing payments to owners, according to the government and people with knowledge of the situation.

“For the last 15 months, I have worked hard on possible solutions to get the players repaid,” Mr. Bitar said in the statement Monday. “Returning today is part of that process. I believe we are near the end of a very long road, and I will continue to do whatever is required to get the players repaid, and I hope that it will happen soon.”

While I don’t really think people should engage in online poker, since it seems to me the deck is stacked against you, people should be free to engage in the activity. After all, in one very real sense while some people will lose money at it, others will actually gain and the gain is pretty significant. According to, the industry is worth billions each year and produces thousands of jobs. In a sinking economy such as ours, both of those things are needed.

However, it seems that though no individual players were charged with a crime in all of this, five internet domains were seized by the DOJ and restraining orders were put on over seventy-five company bank accounts of defendants that process payments, which pretty much keeps online poker on ice here in America.

In conclusion, I don’t think that Mr. Bitar has been involved with illegal guns and certainly would not be responsible for the deaths of two federal agents, all while claiming that he didn’t know what was going on and seeking to hide behind the President of the United States. That’s too bad for him or he might have gotten away with it.

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