Folks in Nevada may have to wait a bit longer to get their first intrastate online poker room, and the first in the country. But chances are, even with this delay taken into account, they’ll still be the first.
In the first state to pass an intrastate gambling law the first company, South Point Poker LLC, to receive a license to operate within that state has hit a snag. After receiving their license this past August, 2012, South Point promised their new online poker room for Nevada residents only would open this month, October, 2012, but that deadline has not, and apparently will not, be achieved.
The problem? The independent testing labs through which South Point Poker (and all gaming operators planning to follow their lead within the state) must go to sate the State Gaming Control Board’s concerns. If it were up to South Point Poker itself, their COO Lawrence Vaughan reports, they’d be ready to go live today. Vaughan says that as the first to pioneer this road, they’ll obviously be subject to even greater scrutiny, which can only be expected.
One major difference, in fact, between South Point Poker and many of the other companies looking to open their own online poker rooms for Nevada residents is that they have their own proprietary online poker software. Most other companies trying to get in the intrastate online poker game are simply partnering with existing Internet poker software providers.
South Point Poker is already known for its free poker software of the same name provided on the ZEN Entertainment Network.
There’s a new online poker bill going before the house, thanks to Republican U.S. Representative Joe Barton, who introduced it on Friday last, June 24, 2011, with the support of four of his Republican colleagues and six of his Democratic ones.
The bill would allow for the licensing, taxation and regulation of Internet poker, with licensure regulated by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The bill stipulated that certain concerns would have to be addressed should it become law, including how to prevent minors for playing at online poker sites and how to deal with gambling addiction. The bill also forbids the use of credit cards to fund online poker accounts, although an otherwise would-be supporter of such a bill, the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, came out against it for this very reason, asserting that such restrictions were to stringent and had no place in such legislation.
The Poker Players Alliance, headed up by former Senator Alfonse D’Amato and the biggest poker lobbying organization in the country, is all in favor of the proposed legislation.
The name of Barton’s bill, or H.R. 2366, is the Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011. Among its co-sponsors is Barton’s fellow-Texan and a candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, Ron Paul. Also on board, unsurprisingly, is Democratic Representative from Massachusetts, Barney Frank, who previous introduced two other bills before Congress to legalize online gambling, both of which went nowhere.
Legalized online poker in the U.S. took a big blow backward on April 15, 2011 when the U.S. Department of Justice raided several online poker operations for doing business in the United States, including three of the largest poker sites: Full Tilt Poker, Poker Stars and Absolute Poker.
Since Black Friday, much of the poker world has been closely following the dramatic, divergent stories of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker/UB, the three sites targeted by the Department of Justice’s indictment and civil complaint. However, there has been significant drama over recent months involving three other sites, too — DoylesRoom, Victory Poker, and the Cake Poker network. Targeted them selves, by a later Department of Homeland Security action (unsealed on May 23), DoylesRoom has seen its dot-com domain seized. However, prior to that action deals between DoylesRoom and Cake Poker left the latter in severe financial straits, with one consequence being the hastened demise of another, prominent site on the Cake network, Victory Poker.
The DoylesRoom-Cake Partnership — Two Years, Four Million +
Founded in 2004, DoylesRoom originally resided on the Tribeca Network before moving to Microgaming in 2007. Then in late January 2009, DoylesRoom moved once again to the Cake Poker network. At the time of that move, DoylesRoom borrowed $15 million from Cake Poker in order to settle its debts to Microgaming as well as to fund marketing campaigns going forward. (Note: Figures associated with the DoylesRoom-Cake partnership are close estimates of amounts given to us by several associates close to DoylesRoom, Cake, and Victory Poker.)
DoylesRoom remained part of the Cake Poker network for two years before moving once again, this time joining the Yatahay network in late January 2011. At the time of that move, DoylesRoom still owed significant money to Cake Poker.
Incidentally, while the exact nature Doyle Brunson’s previous involvement with the site that bears his name is unknown, a Twitter message from @TexDolly sent on January 10, 2011 noted he was “off to Cosra Rica for three days” (sic), suggesting a trip to DoylesRoom’s headquarters in Costa Rica. On May 13, 2011, a week-and-a-half before the DOJ domain seizure of doylesroom.com, Brunson announced he was terminating his endorsement contract with DoylesRoom.
Of that original loan of $15 million from Cake Poker to DoylesRoom, $2.5 million had been kept on deposit by Cake. Meanwhile, DoylesRoom had paid back approximately $9 million, with about $6.8 million still being owed. Minus the amount kept on deposit, DoylesRoom still owed Cake Poker about $4.3 million at the time of the move to Yatahay. Of that amount, DoylesRoom paid back 10 cents on the dollar to Cake, or about $430,000.
In other words, Cake Poker’s two-year relationship with DoylesRoom cost the network about $4 million plus altogether, a big hit for a relatively modest-sized network. To their credit players were always paid on time and the network continued to function as always. But there have been consequences.
As Cake Crumbles, Victory Suffers
Some of those consequences affected Cake Poker’s internal operations. According to a former Cake Poker employee, almost half of Cake’s staff were laid off. While the network’s operating budget was severely affected, it should be noted that at no point have player funds on deposit been at risk, although that situation remained tenuous for a couple of months.
Another consequence of the DoylesRoom-Cake Poker separation concerned Victory Poker, the site headed by 28-year-old CEO Dan Fleyshman. Launched in February 2010, Victory Poker began as part of the Everleaf Network before moving to the Cake Poker Network (CPN) in August. While never a large site in terms of player traffic, Victory did manage to earn a lot of attention thanks to the availability of CEO Fleyshman and the signing of high-profile pros like Antonio Esfandiari, Andrew Robl, Jonathan Little, and others.
Soon after joining Cake, Fleyshman recognized the network was potentially heading toward some financial difficulty and thus arranged a meeting between individuals who had invested in Victory Poker and Cake Poker brass in an attempt to find backing for the struggling network.
That meeting took place in London on January 5, 2011. Before the meeting Fleyshman posted on his Facebook page that he was “Walking into one of the top 5 biggest meetings of my life with ‘Big Boy’ executives who flew in from 6 countries.” However, despite such excitement, the meeting did not meet with the success Fleyshman or Cake envisioned.
In fact, once the potential backers got a look at the status of Cake Poker’s balance sheet and the unpaid debt from the DoylesRoom loan they not only declined to invest in Cake, they allegedly pulled their backing from Victory Poker as well. Fleyshman returned to his Facebook page to express his frustration: “I rarely curse,,. But today I calmly cursed 3 dozen times… Negativity & rudeness makes me :#€£¥%*•~# Grrrrrrrrr.”
Victory Nearly Turns Cereus, Then Folds
Left in a somewhat desperate situation in their own right Victory Poker made a decision to leave the Cake Poker Network and join the Cereus Network. Reactions in late March of this year to news regarding that impending move were mixed, with many wondering why Victory would choose to join embattled Cereus. At the time, Fleyshman spoke of the opportunity to join to the third-largest network as a primary incentive, although other factors — including the need to separate from Cake — were likely in play as well.
Then came Black Friday, two days after which Victory Poker announced it was no longer accepting U.S. players. In fact, on April 15 representatives of Victory Poker already had plane tickets in hand, ready to fly to Costa Rica to meet with Cereus, sign contracts, and finalize their deal. Given what the Black Friday indictment and civil complaint alleged regarding the Cereus network’s operations, one could say that Victory Poker’s having been prevented from completing its deal to join Cereus is a silver lining of sorts amid an otherwise dark scenario for the site.
While no longer serving U.S. customers, Victory Poker remained open as part of the Cake Poker Network until June 1 when it announced it was ceasing its poker operations altogether and that all of its players would be transferred to the Cake site. Victory Poker now plans to continue as an affiliate site offering news and strategy, but no games.
Cake in the Wake
While Victory Poker’s poker room has gone silent, DoylesRoom has moved its operations over to a new domain, doylesroom.ag, where it continues as part of the Yatahay network. Meanwhile, the Cake Poker network has survived.
A “strategic partnership” between PokerListings and the Cake Poker Network was announced in March of this year, essentially a partial selling of a majority stake in the Cake Poker Network to PokerListings, which has ensured Cake is at present and going forward financially secure. Previously — before Victory Poker’s involvement with CPN and well before Black Friday — attempts were made by Cake to sell the network in whole or in part to both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker according to our sources, though both of those major sites turned down the offer.
Cake now appears to be adopting a strategy whereby it maintains a lower profile in the U.S. than it had previously as far as advertising and promotion is concerned. Such an approach may well be recommended, given the attention being paid other sites that are seeking a more conspicuous U.S. presence.
Several attempts were made to contact representatives of Cake Poker and DoylesRoom for comment on this story. Neither site responded.
Earlier today it was announced that a federal grand jury returned indictments charging two gambling businesses and three defendants with conducting an illegal gambling business and money laundering. The two indictments were returned on April 26, 2011 and unsealed today. As part of the investigation, 11 bank accounts located in Charlotte, North Carolina; Guam; Panama; Malta; Portugal; and the Netherlands; and domain names associated with 10 internet gambling sites were also seized today.
The following internet domain names were seized pursuant to court order:
Anyone who tries to access those web sites will be directed instead to a banner that provides notice that the domain name has been seized by order of the court. The banners are expected to be posted later today.
ThrillX Systems, Ltd., d/b/a BetEd; Darren Wright; and David Parchomchuk, both of British Columbia, Canada are charged in one indictment. K23 Group Financial Services, d/b/a BMX Entertainment; and Ann Marie Puig, age 35, of San Jose, Costa Rica are charged in a second indictment.
The indictments and seizures were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Sparkman of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; Anne Arundel County Police Chief James Teare, Sr.; and Colonel Terrence Sheridan, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.
“It is illegal for internet gambling enterprises to do business in Maryland, regardless of where the website operator is located,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “We cannot allow foreign website operators to flout the law simply because their headquarters are based outside the country.”
“These indictments are the direct result of impressive undercover investigative work by our agents, along with the close collaboration of our law enforcement partners here in Maryland,” said William Winter, Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Baltimore. “The proceeds from illegal Internet gambling are often used to fuel organized crime and support criminal activity. ICE HSI will work diligently to uncover illicit transactions involving these types of financial crimes. Together, with our law enforcement partners, we will disrupt and dismantle organizations that commit these crimes, regardless of their location, whether here in the United States or abroad.”
“Internet gambling, along with other types of illegal e-commerce, is an area of great interest to IRS Criminal Investigation,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Rebecca A. Sparkman. “Laundering money from illegal activity such as illegal internet gambling is a crime. Regardless of how the money changes hands – via cash, check, wire transfers or credit cards – and regardless of where the money is stored – in a United States financial institution or an offshore bank – we will trace the funds. IRS Criminal Investigation will vigorously investigate and recommend prosecution against the owners and operators of these illegal enterprises to the fullest extent possible.”
According to the two count indictments and the affidavit filed in support of the seizure warrants, ThrillX, a registered company in British Columbia, Canada, with offices in Vancouver, Canada and San Jose, Costa Rica, is a software solutions provider producing online sports book and casino software. BMX Entertainment, based in Limassol, Cyprus, operates six websites that offer online sports betting services.
The indictments allege that the defendants own and manage illegal gambling businesses involving online sports betting. The affidavit alleges that online gambling sites are run by companies located outside of the U.S., while the majority of customers are in the U.S. Internet gambling operators rely upon the U.S. banking system, and more specifically, money-processing business generally called “payment processors,” to facilitate the movement of funds to and from their customers, the gamblers. Typically, an internet gambling operator directs the payment processor to collect funds from individual gamblers which are used to wager with the gambling organization. Those gambling proceeds are transferred to an offshore foreign bank. The internet gambling operator then sends a check or wire transfer from an offshore bank to the payment processor, directing the payment processor to distribute the money to gamblers for their winnings.
The affidavit filed in support of the seizure warrants alleges that Homeland Security Investigations in Baltimore, Maryland opened an undercover payment processor business, called Linwood Payment Solutions. Linwood allowed undercover agents to gain person-to-person contact with top managers of gambling organizations to discuss the Internet gambling business, to negotiate contracts and terms of the processing, and to handle the intricate movement and processing of collection and payment data from the gambling organizations to the banks.
The affidavit alleges that on November 12, 2009, a Maryland-based online gambler and cooperating informant confirmed that he/she frequented gambling sites, opened accounts and gambled in Maryland. The gambler agreed to set up online gambling accounts and was provided $500 to place bets on gambling websites. The gambler created an account on a BetEd website and placed several bets. On March 30, 2010, BetEd used Linwood to wire transfer $100 in winnings to the gambler’s bank account.
Linwood allegedly processed gambling transactions since 2009 for BetEd, K23 and other gambling organizations using banks located in Guam and Charlotte, North Carolina. According to the affidavit, between December 2009 and January 2011, Linwood processed over 300,000 transactions worth more than $33 million, including transactions for individuals in Maryland. Between February 2010 and March 2011 alone, BetEd directed Linwood to wire transfer over $2.5 million of collected gambling proceeds to bank accounts in Panama; and between February 2011 and April 2011, K23 directed Linwood to wire transfer over $91,000 of gambling proceeds to bank accounts in Portugal and Malta.
The indictments and affidavit seek the forfeiture of the bank accounts used to process the gambling transactions, as well as domain names of websites used by the defendants to further the online gambling transactions.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for operating an illegal gambling business and a maximum of 20 years in prison for money laundering. No court appearance has been scheduled.
UPDATE: We have it on good authority that DoylesRoom will continue to cater to US players and may even get their domain name back. We’ll keep you posted.
Bookmaker is already back up and running under a new domains and sent this email out to all players;
As you may already know, Bookmaker has temporarily lost the rights to the Bookmaker.com domain. We are confident that in time, it will be returned to us, until then, we have launched a new, temporary site: bmaker.ag.
Despite having lost the domain, none of the business operations have otherwise been affected. Player account balances and information are safe and secure. Effective immediately, players can log on to bmaker.ag. and it’s business as usual.
You likely won’t notice any other changes at all and will experience all the same features and benefits as our original site; just on a new address.
We sincerely apologize if you were affected by our interruption. As always, if you have any questions or concerns please call our customer service department at 1-866-9Bookmaker.
The Poker Players Alliance’s Executive Director John Pappas suggested that the amount of player funds withheld because of the U.S. Department of Justice’s actions against several top poker sites on April 15, 2011 (or what has been dubbed Black Friday) might run an estimated $100,000,000 to $500,000,000. As it turns out, if he’s not right then he’s underestimating, as the lower of those two amounts, $100 million, is the amount of money Poker Stars announced last Friday having already returned to players, and that doesn’t even take care of all of it.
And that’s just one site. Full Tilt Poker has yet to start returning player funds, as does Absolute Poker, even though both sites have come out saying they will soon, and that they have successfully negotiated a way with the US Justice Department to do so. Players are skeptical about Absolute Poker’s abilities to follow through on this promise, however, as Blanca Gaming still hasn’t convinced its community that it’s not considering filing for bankruptcy.
Full Tilt Poker issued a public explanation of its delay, albeit over one of its player forums via an vaguely identified representative, which sat as no more than an excuse with many players who are watching their PokerStars counterparts starting to get their monies back. So in addition to being a legal nightmare for Full Tilt Poker, this could turn into a PR nightmare for them as well. At least Poker Stars is trying to stay on top of that end of things while other parts of their business fall apart (or at least under scrutiny).
After the events of April 15th, now known throughout the poker community as Black Friday, poker advocates have been rallying support for the repeal of the prohibitive UIGEA and the restoration of legal online poker in the United States. At the forefront of this movement is the Poker Players Alliance which most recently declared that May 24, 2011 will be National Poker Lobbying Day.
On that day, the PPA has asked every one of their over 1 million members to head to the nation’s Capitol in Washington, DC on an “emergency fly-in” to meet with their various respective congressmembers and legislators to request passage of legislation that will license, regulate, and therefore legalize, online poker in the U.S.
So far, the PPA has already been making a minor ruckus through phone calls and emails and the like. But this in-person event is their attempt to rachet the pressure up a notch. Organizers have even prepared learning materials and reference tools for participants to utilize in best presenting their case. The materials even guide would-be attendees in identifying their representatives and properly requesting and successfully setting up a meeting with them. The call to action came from the desk of PPA Chairman Alfonze D’Amato, himself a former U.S. Senator.
Add this to the pressure being exerted by major land-based casino operators like the respective CEOs of Wynn Resorts and Caesar’s Entertainment, and legal U.S. online poker may see the light of day before we know it.
Of course, the PPA spent over $30 million on lobbying for legal online poker in the U.S. last year. So every participants counts in this effort, which still may be an uphill climb.
In the matter of just three weeks Lock Poker has become a giant in the online poker arena. It’s estimated that they have already signed roughly 20% of US online poker players that were affected by Black Friday. They have gone from an irrelevant online poker site to the biggest thanks to the US Government and an aggressive marketing plan.
As Lock Poker spokesperson recently said in an interview, “Someone around the office commented today that it was like Lock Poker executives hitting the lottery, but it’s more along the lines of them winning every lottery drawing held in the United States so far this year.”
“Overnight this company has gone from an unknown to a household name like Sony or Coca Cola, and they haven’t spent a single penny in advertising dollars to do it. It may be the greatest business success story ever…and there’s been some big ones in our time.”
The main reasons for their rapid growth can be attributed to a massive 200% up to $1200 first deposit bonus as well as unique promotions like the Battle of the Ronin and the Bluff Pro Challenge.
Lock Poker has also been busy signing up the world’s best young poker pros like Jose”Girah” Macedo, Eric Lynch, Brett Jungblut, Wesley “Aumnicient” Clark and John “Reraz0r” Law.
Lock Poker is on the Merge Poker Network and is 100% Mac Compatible. For more information read our Lock Poker Review.
Lock Poker is currently running a promotion called the Battle of Ronin in which $500,000 in cash prizes are up for grabs, along with seats in the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event.
The full name of this competition is the Battle of the Ronin Rake Chase, which sheds a bit more light on its structure. This is a rake race, meaning that throughout the month of May, Lock Poker will track the number of VIP points you earn and award you prizes as you surpass certain milestones. Prizes are cumulative, so as you climb higher through the points levels, earning ever-greater prizes, you get to keep all the prizes you won previously on the way there. You get your first prize of $1.50 after earning just 100 VIP points.
There are more than 1,400 individual prizes up for grabs worth $500K total. There are 35 levels in all and each player can earn $45,000 cash for him or herself by clearing all 35 levels.
The great thing about this kind of race is that you’re racing only yourself and the clock for these prizes. Every player will get the prizes associated with each level as they surpass the milestone for that level.
In addition, you will also be competing with all other Lock Poker players for a coveted seat in the 2011 WSOP Main Event, a prize worth over $10,000 for an event with a first prize of $10 million. Only one of those prizes will be awarded, and it will go to the player who has earned the most VIP points between the start of May 1 and the end of May 31, 2011.
NO DEPOSIT REQUIRED TO PLAY
The top 300 US players will get paid out $100 instant cash with an additional $100 play through cash bonus.
No withdraw restrictions on the $100 or
Keep it and claim your additional $100 cash bonus and do what you were born to do,
Play poker as one of Hero Poker’s 300.
THE BATTLE GROUNDS
Date: Sunday 15th May 2011 @ 4:30pm US Eastern
Game: Texas Holdem No Limit 6 Handed
Tab Location: Tournaments/Scheduled / Special (priority listing)
Blinds: 15 minutes starting at 10 / 20 (10% antes after level 7)
Prize Payout: Top 300 places
Payout : $30,000 cash plus $30,000 bonus ($100 + $100 per player)
Starting Chips: 3,000 chips
Break for 5 minutes every 60 minutes
Late Registration: Ends after 60 minutes
Eligibility: US players + Password
Time Bank: 30 Seconds with 1 Second Earned Every 1 Hand
*after you sign up at HeroPoker.com, go to the ‘game lobby’, in the bottom menu select ‘player admin’; update your player details and email Hero Poker at Marketing@heropoker.com with your username.
THIS IS FOR US PLAYERS ONLY – YOUR DETAILS WILL BE CONFIRMED
DO NOT GIVE OUT THE PASSWORD TO NON-US PLAYERS
Earlier today the parent company, Blanca Gaming, of the Cereus Network which owns Absolute Poker and UB sent out and email to their shareholders letting them know that they will most likely be filing for bankruptcy. Absolute Poker and UB ran their operations from a four story building in Costa Rica that as of this moment is closed and empty. Everything was removed and 95% of their workforce was let go.
Since Black Friday we have not heard much of anything from either poker site even though they continued to allow US players to play. Still the Network lost 70% of it’s traffic and has become an insignificant poker network. Players still cannot withdraw and many are starting to think they never will unless the U.S. DoJ releases the frozen funds. Currently non US players are allowed to withdraw a maximum of $250 every two weeks.
Things do not look good and as a result we’ve removed Absolute Poker and UB from Holdem Poker Chat. They had a great chance to do the right thing and make up for their past mistakes but as of right now it’s not looking like they will.
Below is a copy of the email that was sent to shareholders:
Dear Madeira Fjord, AS Shareholder,
Since the last meeting of shareholders, there have been a number of developments that affect our Company.
Most importantly, Blanca Gaming has provided notice to our subsidiary Avoine that it is currently unable to make any payments toward its debt obligations. Additionally, Blanca has further advised that there will be no future payments.
Over the past 60 days, the Company has accumulated current debts in excess of $250,000 which are increasing at $100,000+ per month. These obligations are primarily legal and professional fees in Norway.
With no cash on hand and no prospects for any cash flow for the foreseeable future, the Board of Directors is required by Norwegian law to enter the bankruptcy process. The Oslo court will appoint a Receiver who will review the affairs of the Company including the assets, liabilities, and its recent transactions. After a full assessment, the Receiver will make a determination how to enforce any applicable rights, obligations, and obtain the maximum value for its assets in the best interest of the Company.
As the Receiver is a court appointed 3rd party, we can be assured that the Receiver will evaluate all relevant options including any applicable soliciting proposals from interested parties related to the assets of the Company. Funds accumulated through the Receivers’ efforts will be disbursed according to Norwegian law.
As of the date of the filing, the Board of Directors is relieved of duty, and all future matters are in the sole control of the Receiver.
Madeira Fjord, AS Board of Directors
Update: Absolute Poker and UB have ceased all US operations and will focus on non US players. A company spokesperson said: “We regret that we have been compelled to take these actions. We have worked tirelessly to create a truly amazing company that is filled with extraordinary people. We have always been and still remain fully committed to our employees and players. At the same time, we are confident that this restructuring will strengthen the company and its future.”
Update May 5, 2011: Blanca Gaming officially filed for bankruptcy in Norway this morning.