Report: FBI Shuts Down Poker Sites, Including MMA Sponsors


The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reportedly shut down three of the largest online poker sites available to United States residents.

According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, the FBI has charged 11 people -- including the founders of PokerStars.com, AbsolutePoker.com and FullTiltPoker.com -- with bank fraud, money laundering and violating gambling laws. The government is reportedly seeking $3 billion from the accused for the charges filed against them.

The shut-down of the aforementioned companies may greatly affect the world of MMA, as online poker sites have traditionally served as sponsors for both fighters and events. Though neither the UFC nor Bellator allows poker sites as sponsors, Strikeforce has prominently featured FullTiltPoker.com as a sponsor in the past.

Following Congress' passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act of 2006, one highly successful site, PartyPoker.com, shut down operations. However, instead of explicitly making online gambling illegal, the vague law instead disallowed companies from taking payments for “unlawful” gambling activities, and U.S. citizens continued to play.

The companies allegedly used several techniques to escape the scope of the law, including moving their headquarters overseas to extend beyond the scope of the new act. For instance, PokerStars.com is located on the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom.

Another strategy allegedly employed by the companies was to disguise customer deposits as payments made to fictional online companies in another attempt to navigate the new law. When banks began noticing this practice and refusing to process the transactions, the companies reportedly turned to smaller, struggling banks and other institutions to process payments.

The sites have each had their homepages replaced by an FBI notice stating that the domains have been seized through a legal arrest warrant obtained through the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York.

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