Two of the biggest online poker companies in the world – PokerStars and Full Tilt – are to collectively pay $731m in illegal internet gambling charges. Absolute Poker is also currently looking at a settlement.
The three sites were shut down last year, after being charged with civil money laundering, the US government claiming that the sites had tricked banks into processing revenue from online gamblers by passing them off as payments from online merchants.
The companies, as yet, admit to nothing, but their settlement speaks volumes. Multiple Full Tilt Poker employees have been banned from working at PokerStars, as the company has acquired Full Tilt and are taking charge of the $184m owed by the company.
PartyGaming, which merged with poker and sports betting site Bwin in 2011, cooperated fully with the US government and settled in 2009, thus resulting in far less grief. It appears the daring activities of Full Tilt, PokerStars, and potentially Absolute Poker, has indeed resulted in their severe charges and their facing hundreds of millions of dollars flying out of their accounts as quickly as it went in.
It’s unclear whether this will change the way those online poker companies who have taken advantage of the legal grey area in US law operate, but it definitely sends a warning: even the biggest creatures can be taken down, and the US government is zero-tolerance on those who do not comply when given ample opportunity to do so.
What’s shocking is the scale of the money laundering operation that took place – it’s not a rare criminal process by any means, but those banks must feel foolish to have taken in so much cash and changed it into harmless bills on a regular basis for so long without suspecting a thing. Or at least, that’s the hope, lest the banks be found to be complicit, which would be a significant twist for those following the story. The moral here? If you’re given an out, take it.