The biggest news of this past week in the gaming law arena has to be the accusations against Full Tilt Poker. The U.S. Justice Department has deemed Full Tilt a global Ponzi scheme that defrauded countless online poker players to the tune of over $300 million.
It has been said that the 23 owners of the site took out $444 million in self payments. Receiving the largest amount of this money were Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Rafe Furst, and Raymond Bitar. They allegedly received $38 million, $24 million, $12 million, and $40 million respectively.
The Department of Justice states that on March 31st of this year, Full Tilt Poker owed its players $390 million but only had $60 million in its bank accounts. Furthermore, Lederer apparently told other Full Tilt insiders that the company had only $6 million in the bank but had liabilities of over $300 million.
It comes as no surprise that the Alderney Gambling Control crypto gambling is rumored to be planning to revoke Full Tilt Poker’s gaming license for good. This would likely be the end of the gaming site as it would then be nearly impossible to find an investor.
American Gambling Association President Looking for Poker Regulation
The president of the American Gambling Association (AGA), Frank Frank Fahrenkopf, is trying to find out exactly how long Full Tilt was robbing its players for. He also wants to know exactly for how much. He would use these figures to help lobby for U.S. laws that will protect poker players.
Fahrenkopf, disgusted by the actions of Full Tilt, went as far as to compare the situation to the Wild West. The current online poker climate is, in his opinion, lawless. He has urged Congress to change laws immediately because he doesn’t want the things that Full Tilt did to continue amongst other sites. He thinks these actions will keep going until online sites are governed by the same regulations as brick-and-mortar casinos.
The AGA would like to see New Jersey and Nevada as the regulatory authorities in the U.S. online gambling market and does not support any current online gambling legislation at the federal level.
The Bid for Regulation Gains More Support
FairPlayUSA is a “new coalition of law enforcement officials, consumer protection experts, poker players, companies in the commercial gaming industry, and other Americans concerned about Internet gambling.” The group recently gained the memberships of former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and former FBI Director Louis Freeh.
Ridge has publicly stated that Prohibition has not worked and is not the answer. Criminalization, he said, does not make sense. He hopes that FairPlayUSA can help to create a way to regulate the game and enable enforcement of laws for online poker.
Massachusetts Online Gambling Proposal Has Detractors
A couple days ago, FlopTurnRiver reported that Massachusetts has proposed an amendment that will allow residents to play legal online poker by the end of 2012. The bill was passed by the State House of Representatives by a 123 to 32 vote. It now must pass the State Senate.
If the bill goes through, it would allow people to create an account for legal online poker, but there would also be precautionary measures taken to prevent minors and players from states in which online poker is illegal. Massachusetts would then be the first state to have legal online poker. New Jersey, Nevada, and Florida have all proposed it, but none of them took it all the way.
The Catholic Church, however, may stand in the way of legal online poker in Massachusetts. The state’s four Catholic bishops recently signed a statement condemning the bill: “While the Catholic Church views gambling as a legitimate form of entertainment when done in moderation, the gaming legislation opens the door to a new form of predatory gaming which threatens the moral fabric of our society.”
They went on to say that they understand that “the state is searching for new ways to increase revenue and create jobs aimed at meeting these difficult challenges and to bring about economic stimuli. However, expanded gambling in the form of slot parlors and casinos is an illusory solution to this complicated problem. If anything, expanded, predatory gambling will only add to the need for state assistance in the Commonwealth.”
The population of Massachusetts is 44% Catholic, which gives the religious sector of the state plenty of influence when it comes to politics. It remains to be seen whether or not they can stop the bill in its tracks, however. Since the bill is scheduled to reach the State Senate soon, we will probably find out in the very near future.