Full Tilt Poker, the world’s second largest online poker site, is being investigated by a federal grand jury in Manhattan. Subpoenas have been issued to many witnesses and indictments against two world-famous poker players, Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson. These two poker players have been accused of controlling the company by a Los Angeles civil lawsuit filed last year. The investigation will examine whether gambling and money-laundering laws have been broken.
Money laundering charges require the cooperation from authorities in countries where gambling is legal. Since this gives the United States more information, it is a very attractive option when choosing what to charge against Full Tilt Poker. Lederer and Ferguson’s attorney, Eric Jackson, says his clients are unaware of the grand jury inquiry.
Criminal charges against two of poker’s most well-known players and one of the biggest online poker sites in the world will definitely give an example to other poker sites around the world about the United States’ disapproval of online poker. Nelson Rose, an author of gambling law, says: “They are waging this war of intimidation […] they go after high-profile targets and try to intimidate everybody.”
Online gambling is illegal in the United States. However, online poker is not clearly stated as illegal in the Wire Act or the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. It has been debated as to whether poker is indeed gambling. A game is considered to be gambling when the luck factor outweighs the skill factor. There are a number of bills in Congress that would permit states to authorize and regulate online poker but this criminal investigation is another setback in the fight to legalize online poker.