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$33 Million In Poker Winnings Seized By US Govt 465

An anonymous reader writes "A New York Times story reports that, 'Opening a new front in the government's battle against Internet gambling, federal prosecutors have asked four American banks to freeze tens of millions of dollars in payments owed to people who play poker online. ... "It's very aggressive, and I think it's a gamble on the part of the prosecutors," Mr. Rose said. He added that it was not clear what law would cover the seizure of money belonging to poker players, as opposed to the money of the companies involved.' Many players are reporting that their cashout checks have bounced."
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$33 Million In Poker Winnings Seized By US Govt

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  • Lame Gov (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tc3driver ( 669596 ) * on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:07PM (#28287367) Journal
    Hello.... Government....
    Don't you have more important things to be thinking about than `internet poker`?
    Like an economy on the rocks?
    or maybe nearly 10% of the folks in this nation who have no source of income?

    Honestly, I'll never understand who goes through our governments minds... they do nothing but waste time, thus waste money... and people wonder why this nation is on the verge of collapse...
    • Re:Lame Gov (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:09PM (#28287389)

      There's no more important government function that getting their hands on someone else's money.


      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Exactly. Change we can believe in. It's disgusting, now the government is robbing people of gaming winnings. They have nothing better to do, than make sure it's citizens are taxed and robbed to death. I guess they forgot how America was "discovered" in the first place... to escape an oppressive and over size government that is at it's heart, was hypocritical, much like today. We have tax cheats and frauds in financial institutions running this country. It's just sickening. The uprising is coming, and

        • Re:Lame Gov (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MindlessAutomata ( 1282944 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:44PM (#28288189)

          I guess they forgot how America was "discovered" in the first place... to escape an oppressive and over size government that is at it's heart, was hypocritical, much like today

          The problem isn't that the politicians forgot this. It's that the American population did.

      • Re:Lame Gov (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MetinAustralia ( 1573827 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:09PM (#28287917) Homepage
        Wasn't this law brought in to protect the individual from losing his/her money to gambling? Then why is the individual now losing his/her money to the government?
        • Re:Lame Gov (Score:5, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:21PM (#28288007)

          The government is a jealous lover.

        • Re:Lame Gov (Score:5, Funny)

          by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @10:03PM (#28288361) Journal

          Then why is the individual now losing his/her money to the government?

          The government hates competition.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Kligat ( 1244968 )

          It's like kicking someone trying to commit suicide in the shin.

        • Re:Lame Gov (Score:5, Interesting)

          by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:15PM (#28288813) Journal

          Dude, this is just change you can believe in.

          Seriously, the thought of winning is what drives most gamblers who are out of control. Almost everyone I know who does online gambling says they do it "to win" and not for "entertainment" or "to pass the time". Of course I know a lot of people who will brag about spending $200 to win $50 and think they are getting somewhere. It's like another guy I know who used to spend his entire paycheck on instant lottery tickets. He would toss $400-500 to the state and average about $300 in winnings. Every once in a while, he would win big but I think he still broke even in the long run. If there is no collecting of the winnings, then a lot of the gamblers move on or stop.

          Think of it like removing all the food and furniture in the house to get your in laws (or grown kids) to move to somewhere else. As long as they're happy they will stay forever, but as soon as they get uncomfortable, they hightail it to somewhere else.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by WNight ( 23683 )

            Nobody is suggesting stopping gambling, just non-state sponsored gambling where taxes aren't being paid. All your moralizing about gambling is totally irrelevant here because the US Gov would be really happy if the addicts would ruin their lives in approved casinos.

            It's absolute theft to take this money. It belonged to one person, he gave it to another, they gave some back. Now the government decides that like the "house" in a crooked casino we can't leave, we owe a percentage of each transaction to them. F

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Because you have to destroy the village in order to save it.
        • Re:Lame Gov (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Korin43 ( 881732 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @01:13AM (#28289559) Homepage
          Isn't the point of drug laws to keep people from ruining their lives?

          Why is the government ruining drug users' lives by arresting them and leaving them with criminal records?
          • by BancBoy ( 578080 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @01:44AM (#28289771)
            I thought the point of drug laws was to punish people for choosing non-corporate recreational drugs. This Bud's for you! That bud growing over there? We'll lock you up for that...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by moosesocks ( 264553 )

        '+5, Insightful'? Really?

        Care to propose a government that can function without taxation? The Nobel Prize committee would love to hear about it.

        If the government is unable to enforce its laws (tax evasion being among those laws), it becomes completely ineffective. Many consider the ability to systematically and consistently collect a tax to be one of the cornerstones of a stable government. The fact that the economy is fux0red has absolutely nothing to do with the government's enforcement of the tax cod

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MarkvW ( 1037596 )

          If you put a proposition to the vote that would eliminate all taxes and double all government services, I bet that a freakishly large number of people would vote for it. Much of the /. membership takes no responsibility for governmental actions--they're just passive whiners.

    • Re:Lame Gov (Score:5, Funny)

      by east coast ( 590680 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:11PM (#28287403)
      Sorry you didn't understand... This *IS* their plan to fix the economy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Yes the government is just one big agency that only does one thing at a time~

      The nation is on the verge of collapse(it's actually not) due to libertarian shifts in the banking industry.

      • Re:Lame Gov (Score:5, Informative)

        by Arthur B. ( 806360 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:59PM (#28287823)

        Libertarian shift in the banking industry o_O ?

        The libertarians have been the most rabid opponent of the banking system for decades. The banking system is basically a franchise system by the state controlled central bank. The most important factor in banking, the short term interest rate is set by a group of technocrats and politicians, much like the gosplan. Banking is the least libertarian sector in the economy, it is a pillar of the government.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lunzo ( 1065904 )
          Libertarians (or more correctly neo-liberals) are opponents of the reserve bank yes. However they have had a huge influence on the banking industry. They successfully lobbied for deregulation in the extreme under the mantra of "the free market is more efficient" and "let the market decide". What they didn't realize is that some regulation of the banking industry is needed to ensure there is still a market for people to decide on when times get tough.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Khyber ( 864651 )

        Libertarian and banking do not, and most likely never will be, associated in the same sentence.

        Go look at the Federal Reserve. How fucked would they be if we subjected them to a standard audit?

        THERE lies your answer. The government is the problem. Bye, libertarians, bye democrats, bye greens, bye republicans - you're all at fault.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Go look at the Federal Reserve. How fucked would they be if we subjected them to a standard audit?

          Probably not fucked at all. You don't know much about audits. The Fed probably has scrupulously kept books, which accurately record the amount of funds that they are adding to the money supply. You're confusing auditability with fiscal prudence. Audits don't purport to measure whether a business or organization is healthy or behaving wisely. They attest as to whether the books are kept accurately with rega

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, let's see, you seem to be thinking the Government is one monolithic entity, that can only process one thing at a time. In reality, it's multi-taking, multi-processing, and otherwise engaged in doing a lot of things at once. More than likely, none of the people involved in this situation have anything to do with the economy in any meaningful decision-making way. Their concern is elsewhere.

      So yeah, you're just making a joke, but it's not funny, because it's simply not true. Don't go on the White-C

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Honestly, I'll never understand who goes through our governments minds...

      The last person to go through my mind was Jessica Biel...maybe it's the same for them.

    • Re:Lame Gov (Score:5, Interesting)

      by slarrg ( 931336 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @10:06PM (#28288383)
      Let me see if I've got this straight. The government is concerned that people are being scammed out of their money by online poker playing so they take the player's money instead. How's this better? And, wouldn't the fact that the money they are seizing is actually payouts from the poker companies prove that at least people are actually winning at least $33 million?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Well, the best part of the joke is that these people are still liable for taxes on these winnings. You don't escape tax liability on illegal earnings just because the government snagged the cash. Cf. Al Capone.

  • by genner ( 694963 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:18PM (#28287483)
    "It's very aggressive, and I think it's a gamble on the part of the prosecutors," Mr. Rose said.
    The prosecution should be brought up on illegal gambling charges.
  • by KneelBeforeZod ( 1527235 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:20PM (#28287495)
    Who Trusts Online Gambling Anyways? Quite honestly I think the gov is just worried that online gambling may be a simplified way of laundering money.
    • by e2d2 ( 115622 )

      I think this you are right and this is all setting up the future, specifically the regulation of online gambling and taxation of it. These are not easy topics considering no country owns it. But you better believe Uncle Sam wants his cut. IMO that's what this is about. That and the lobbying efforts of various casino industry groups and both right and left leaning anti-gambling groups. One hates gambling because Jesus would hate it. The other hates gambling because it provides pleasure, and leftists hate any

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zonky ( 1153039 )
        I think you'd find that many on-line casinos are already regulated by the countries they are based on. There are many that are not, of course.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:55PM (#28288311)

      I work on one of the largest wagering sites in Australia, and a lot of thought and effort is put in to protect the sites against money laundering and other nefarious uses.

      Our site is heavily regulated and audited by the Australian state governments, and our system already supports geographic distribution of taxes, based on the location of the account holder. The location of the account holder is verifiable, because we require a 100 point ID check to fully activate an account.

      Through proper regulation, and well built systems, issues such as "who gets the tax" and "how can the site be trusted" are solvable, and have already been solved in many countries.

  • Wont work. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wonderboss ( 952111 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:22PM (#28287509)
    They may successfully grab the money of these unfortunates, but then people will stop depositing winnings in US banks. The internet does not respect borders or jurisdictions.
  • Saw it Coming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:26PM (#28287537) Homepage

    Honestly, I wondered why this hadn't happen sooner.

    Now, instead of the people taking a risk of getting cheated out of their money, they 100% did get cheated out of their money.

    The companies should be allowed to pay-out what has already been accumulated, but no more after that. There's no guarantee whatsoever that the gamblers themselves weren't going to pay taxes on the money that they won.

    • There's no guarantee whatsoever that the gamblers themselves weren't going to pay taxes on the money that they won.

      Guilty until proven innocent?

      And why the fuck should they have to any more than they should pay money to Tony Soprano?

  • by CaptainPatent ( 1087643 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:27PM (#28287545) Journal
    I live in the Washington DC area - a place where you can't get a legal hand of poker dealt for literally 200 miles around. There are still plenty of really big games around here - you just need to bring a firearm to some of them.

    It sounds like a great idea to me to push poker off of a safe online format and into illegal and sometimes dangerous poker rooms. Sure many people will choose not to gamble - but what exactly is the cost in lives that justifies that?

    I play on FullTiltPoker all the time. It's safe and I can play for literally as little as 10 cents for a full tournament. How is that worse than having some of the same people venture into big games that aren't legal, they can't afford? You think gambling is a problem? Wait until those same people with gambling problems get in front of a loan shark, or shot because they can't pay.

    Great move.
  • Laws, schmores (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Ah, you're missing the big picture...

    Since the laws against internet gambling are themselves illegal [], it's important to put the casinos out of business so that they can't keep on embarrassing the government and claiming compensation year on year.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by hedwards ( 940851 )
      That's not true. That was politically motivated, the WTO was hijacked as a way of getting back at the US for foreign policy disagreements.
      • Re:Laws, schmores (Score:4, Informative)

        by bongomanaic ( 755112 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:27PM (#28288899)
        That is an utterly ridiculous claim. The reason why the WTO ruled against the USA is because it is clearly in breach of its obligations under the treaties. The WTO has held that the USA has the right within the treaties to ban remote gambling, but that they haven't completely banned remote gambling, instead they have restrictions that unfairly discriminate in favour of US-based operators. The USA can resolve the problem either by completely banning remote gambling or by ending the discrimination. There are apparently domestic political difficulties that prevent the USA from following either course, but that is irrelevant in determining whether the USA has adhered to the rules it agreed to be bound by.
  • Nothing more needs to be said.

    Except, maybe.. that the prosecutor(s) should be fired, forced to wear yellow, and barred from working with or for the American government for the next 20 years.

    How far America has fallen from the beautiful ideal of the land of the free. :(

  • I've got a great idea. How about the government makes a list of the most important issues facing the United States today. Hell, I'll even be happy to let the party in power at the moment dictate the order of this list.

    Where do you all think internet poker falls on that list? Is it even in the top thousand?!?!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mysidia ( 191772 )

      It's pretty high on some of the special-interest-groups' lists [].

      The number of anti-gaming [] groups is obscene.

      And apparently their voices are heard louder than most.

      Also, they have a lot of ammunition to use against "online poker" sites, partly because politicans can easily be made suspicious of online services...

      There are lots of negative connotations about "online gambling" sites

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 )
      You're the second person who has said something like this. You do realize that the federal government has millions of employees, and is in fact capable of focusing on more than a thousand things at the same time? It's not like budget-planning is being put off to focus on this, or President Obama personally ordered it himself. Someone down the chain thought it would be a good idea. It's a weird idea, but at least this will bring some attention to the issue.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by anaphora ( 680342 ) *
      There is a Government Briefing Book hosted at [] that asks citizens to rank issues they are concerned with. Online poker is the number one issue in the Technology category. Maybe you're not concerned with the fight against classifying poker as a game of 'chance', while horsebetting is a game of 'skill', but many of us make our living doing this and pay our taxes on it like normal people. Countless others enjoy depositing $50 and enjoying their evening gambling. By a wide margin, most online poker de
  • Just splendid... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UttBuggly ( 871776 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:03PM (#28287871)

    I happen to be a better than average poker player. Just today, I played in the $60 Freezeout at a local casino (died pushing an 18 outer), came home, played some low-limit NLHE and Omaha H/L PL on PokerStars and Full Tilt.

    Joined the PPA - Poker Players Alliance - when it formed and hoped the UIGEA would get some attention. Well, not the way we hoped!

    Since I make the vast majority of my poker money from live games in brick and mortar casinos, this newest stupidity doesn't hurt my bankroll directly. It does however, limit what I use online poker for...practice. I can play 4-6 tables at one time online, so I can see many, many more hands per hour than live at a single table.

    I do own poker simulation software, so I can use that for a similar purpose. The issue is that the software AI is nothing like a human opponent.

    I don't know the numbers the PPA is telling Congress, but I recall reading that if internet poker were taxed, the annual nut was over $10 billion. That's not small change.

    This is a prime example of solving a problem that doesn't exist in the most ignorant way possible. Give me a freaking break.

  • by AdmiralXyz ( 1378985 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:06PM (#28287899)

    It will be fun to see how American conservatives respond to this, seeing how they balance their desire to purge us of our moral evils with the desire to scream that Obama is a communist for seizing people's hard-earned property.

  • US v. $124,700 (Score:3, Informative)

    by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:07PM (#28287905)

    They probably sued the money first.

    US v $124,700

    Civil forfeiture is nothing more than an end run around the 4th and 14th amendments.

    Besides, if money can be sued by the government, and thus deprived of its liberty, doesn't the money have the right to legal counsel?

    What about the money's right to 5th amendment protection against self incrimination? ...need I go on?

    • Re:US v. $124,700 (Score:4, Informative)

      by KiahZero ( 610862 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @10:33PM (#28288577)
      Courts not only have jurisdiction in personam, over people, but also in rem, over property. Civil forfeiture takes advantage of this in order to seize illegal assets, where the court has jurisdiction over the property in question.

      The owner of the property still maintains Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment protections against unreasonable seizure. Seizing illegally obtained property is not unreasonable, and thus the Fourth Amendment isn't violated.

      Also, you might want to reread the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendments; the right to an attorney and the right against self-incrimination do not apply in civil trials. Further, the Fifth Amendment attaches only to persons, and the Seventh Amendment applies only to suits under the common law, which does not include the statutory basis of civil forfeiture of illegally obtained assets.

      Sure, there are problems with civil forfeiture, but if you want to oppose the practice, it'd be helpful if you had even an inkling of an idea what the hell you were talking about.
  • Will the WTO give Antigua and Barbuda 33M more.

    Will us gov be able to hit a over seas bank that you have money at?>

  • by asifyoucare ( 302582 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:30PM (#28288081)

    Why do they care about poker but not about many other legal forms of gambling? What makes online poker worthy of the government's time? Are they using the criminal law to prop up government sponsored monopolies in gambling?

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll