Yesterday was another landmark day for online poker that some are referring to as Blue Monday.
Two businesses and three persons were indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland on charges of money laundering and conducting an illegal gambling business. Darren Wright and David Parchomchuk, both of Canada, were indicted along with their company ThrillX Systems, which does business as BetEd. A Costa Rican woman, Ann Marie Puig, was also indicted along with her company K23 Group Financial Services, which does business as BMX Entertainment. They face a maximum of 25 years in prison on the charges.
Along with these indictments, ten Internet domain names were seized: DoylesRoom.com, BookMaker.com, BetEd.com, TruePoker.com, 2Betsdi.com, Funtimebingo.com, Goldenarchcasino.com, Betmaker.com, Betgrandesports.com, and Betehorse.com.
DoylesRoom.com and TruePoker.com, the only poker-related domains that were seized, are both skins on the small Yatahay Network. According to PokerScout.com, the Yatahay Network ranks 31st in worldwide poker traffic with an average real-money cash game player base of 220 players. Incidentally, DoylesRoom.com namesake, Doyle Brunson, parted ways with the beleaguered site just last week.
How did it happen?
The most alarming aspect of the Blue Monday indictments were how they happened. According to the Baltimore Sun, Federal investigators set up a payment processing business through which they processed $33 million in gambling transactions over the course of two years in an effort to identify online gambling operators. The payment processing company, called Linwood Payment Solutions, had a website and a staff of undercover Homeland Security Investigations agents who gained person-to-person contact with top managers of gambling organizations. They processed more than 300,000 gambling payments during the two year sting.
An affidavit in support of seizure warrants states that Federal agents processed a multitude of payments for Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. They were apparently prepared to indict that company before prosecutors for the U.S. District Court of Southern New York did so in last month’s “Black Friday” indictments.
What does it all mean?
It is now apparent that yesterday’s indictments stemmed from an investigation entirely unrelated to the one that led to the Black Friday indictments. This was a different jurisdiction investigating different people using different methods. It is not clear if the Homeland Security task force working on this case were even aware of the FBI’s case against PokerStars, Full Tilt, and AP/UB.
One thing that is alarmingly clear at this point is that money is not safe for U.S. gamblers at any online gambling site. The editors of PokerTips have held this position since April 15th. Yesterday’s indictments give this opinion even more merit. Any person or website telling you otherwise probably has financial incentive to take that position.
The Merge Poker Network has seen a large increase in its player base since April 15th. They have capitalized more than any other site on the absence of PokerStars and Full Tilt in the U.S. market. At this time, sites on the Merge Network are continuing to accept U.S. players. It is unclear if they will continue to do so indefinitely. But whether or not they do, we have learned from Black Friday and Blue Monday that money is simply not safe at these sites for U.S. gamblers.
In a preemptive move to remain in business in the event that their domain name is seized, Bodog.com today moved all operations to their Bodog.eu domain. This is a pretty aggressive move by Bodog. Following yesterday’s indictments, some speculated that companies like Bodog would simply voluntarily leave the U.S. market. Today’s domain name change indicates that Bodog has no plans to stop servicing U.S. customers and will continue to do anything they can to keep player deposits rolling in. But the strength and reliability of an online gambling room is not graded on the ease of depositing. They are graded based on their ability to process cashouts. Moving forward, it seems undeniable that online gambling sites servicing U.S. customers will continue to face incredible difficulty in processing transactions for U.S. customers.