An Editorial: By Stanley R. Sludikoff
Six score years ago a vibrant American gaming industry was erased from the scene by a scandal. It was the second time that happened in US history. This one was due to a corrupt Louisiana Lottery that was national in scope. The operators were a gang of crooks. The result was a series of laws by Congress that pretty much killed gaming for nearly 5 decades in this country.
It took a long time for gaming to come back and it has now grown to massive proportions with the majority of states having lotteries and casinos.
Surprisingly, even the massive theft by famous poker players which dwarfs the prior scandal will not have a serious impact upon poker or the gaming industry this time around. That is because our inept politicians, who have spent most states and this nation to the edge of bankruptcy desperately need new sources of revenue, and gambling, including internet gambling, is a real hope for some easing of our debts. Even our history will tell you that our founding fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were gambling officials; both were lottery executives. Lotteries were used in the early days of our country to build roads and found universities. Properly done, it can be a good thing for good causes…even though it is a bad bet. Another reason is that major gaming corporations and Native American Gaming businesses have also seen the huge amount of internet income that is available and want their share of this pie, so, they are using their political influence to be sure of getting their seat at the table.
Although the Department of Justice appears to have this matter in hand, there are still too many questions to be answered that leave the public in doubt of the results. Will all the crooks be punished, or are just a token few big boys going to jail…or is anyone going to jail? There are a large number of people and institutions whose actions are responsible for the scandal. How many are going to get away with the kind of crime that makes a professional hold-up artist look like a choir boy in terms of the scope of the crimes committed and the number of people that have been negatively affected by their actions?
In my view of this situation, here are the parties who are at fault: First we have the government of the United States that passed inept laws in an underhanded way and failed to protect the millions of its citizens by not regulating this industry.
Second we have Alderney—a British Crown dependency with 2,400 citizens located off the coast of France—acting like it can responsibly regulate a huge industry. Where does such a country get off assuming the right to manage something of this scope? And why doesn’t it take responsibility for not overseeing the perps, or, at least having an insurance policy to cover such losses? The same applies to other jurisdictions that are simply out of their league and without moral merit to perform the functions they have assumed. And who regulates these people?
Third we have the owners and managers of online sites whose precise actions have yet to be revealed as well as the amount of money that has been taken from what should have been secured funds. With all the focus on Full Tilt at the moment, it appears that Ultimate Bet/Absolute Poker has slipped through the cracks … not to mention many other sites that the DOJ considers illegal. Let’s not forget PokerStars, who, to their credit, did return player funds, yet, according to the DOJ, brought the Mafia into this picture.
Fourth we have a host of celebrity poker players who were given stolen funds. They had no right to that money, regardless of what services they may have performed. Stolen funds need to be returned. They are not the property of the finder. It doesn’t matter if you are an innocent party in receiving these funds; it was your responsibility to know where they came from. If a friend robs a bank and then gives you some of the money, you must return it, not spend it. Think about that. It is likely that funds were improperly distributed to shareholders of these poker web sites. Is someone in the government of the USA going to deal with that criminality? Or, will the DOJ just go after a handful of bad actors, because that job is too big or too difficult to accomplish?
Fifth we have the affiliates of these web sites who steered players to participate in illegal activities and then collected commissions based upon player deposits. If there is a crime here, the affiliates are accessories. A similar case can be made for those people who advertised or promoted the egregious web sites, whether they were paid a commission or a fee for their services.
Lastly, we have the players themselves. Each of you knew that the government of the United States passed a law whose purpose was to stop internet gambling. In your hearts you knew you were defying that edict, even though you may have had a legal argument to prop up your beliefs. So if you lost money in this process, you must assume some of the blame.
In future issues of Poker Player, I will go into further details on some of the issues discussed above. For now, I leave you to reflect upon my thesis. If the shoe fits, then wear it.