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One of the owners of three of the world's biggest internet poker firms pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a criminal charge of deceiving U.S. banks over the processing of gambling proceeds.
Absolute Poker co-owner Brent Beckley, 31, admitted in Manhattan federal court to conspiring to break U.S. laws against gambling on the Internet. He also pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud.
Twelve people have been charged thus far in the high profile case, including 11 in April when the U.S. government seized the Internet domain names of the three largest Internet poker companies: Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars.
Full Tilt Poker owner Raymond Bitar, PokerStars owner Isai Scheinberg and Absolute Poker owners Beckley and Scott Tom were also charged with breaking the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and other laws.
Beckley told U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis that at Absolute Poker between 2006 and April 2011 he accepted credit cards from players so they could bet on the Internet. He said he disguised the purpose of the payments.
"I knew it was illegal to deceive the banks in this way," Beckley told the judge.
The bank fraud charge carries a possible maximum prison sentence of 30 years, but under a plea agreement in the court record, Beckley will likely serve a much lesser term of between 12 months and 18 months.
His lawyer, Robert Cleary, declined comment.
The indictment said that between 2008 and 2011 Beckley hired so-called "payment processor" Ira Rubin to help the company avoid U.S. gambling laws. Rubin would process e-checks for Absolute Poker disguised as payroll processing, affiliate marketing and online electronics merchants, according to the indictment.
Rubin, who lived in Central America for years in his attempt to avoid a telemarketing fraud charge, is nearing close to a plea agreement, according to his legal eagle.
Prosecutors said that of the billions of dollars the poker companies tricked U.S. banks into processing, approximately one-third or more of the money went directly to the companies as revenue through the "rake" charged to players on almost every poker hand played over the internet.
The government has also filed a civil lawsuit against the Full Tilt Poker website. They accused self-styled "Poker Professor" Howard Lederer and professional poker champion Christopher Ferguson and others of paying themselves more than $440 million while defrauding other players.
The case is USA v Tzvetkoff et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 10-00336.
Not only are online poker and online casino players watching closely, but also online gambling companies which are interested to offer their product to the lucrative U.S market. Just a few of those firms include Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment (owner of PartyCasino.com, PartyPoker.com, World Poker Tour and others), Virgin Games and PKR.
In the meantime some land based U.S casinos are getting deals in place, with Bwin.Party recently getting a well publicised b2b agreement inked with MGM Resorts International.
Business entrepreneurs Donald Trump and Steve Wynn are just two high profile Americans who are supportive of 100% legal online gambling in the U.S. Online poker may become legal in the U.S in the coming year, followed by online casino games however... this prediction has proved wrong year after year on U.S soil, but then again - the subject matter has never been hotter, nor has the U.S government ever need a cash boost to their coffers as much as they currently do.
Some of the most popular games with online players include Cleopatra, Sinatra, Wheel of Fortune, poker, Texas Hold'Em, Blackjack, Video Poker and Roulette. Some online gambling companies offer new players a generous sign up bonus to encourage them to become money players.
In many parts of the world including Canada, Italy, Australia and New Zealand, online gambling is just as popular as gambling in traditional casinos, pubs and hotels.
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