Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Chairman Alfonse D'Amato authored the statement below criticizing the questionable actions taken by a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York to freeze payment processor accounts containing more than $30 million in online poker players' deposits and payouts.
The PPA is the leading poker grassroots advocacy group with more than one million members in the USA. On the PPA site, a message says: "This is yet another example of misguided efforts to prohibit online poker. A more effective way to provide important protections while allowing individuals the freedom to play poker online is to regulate and license the industry. We need your help to make this happen. Send a letter to your member of Congress asking them to support licensing and regulating online poker."
REQUESTS FUTURE PRESENCE
The PPA also sent a letter to the Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York asking for an opportunity to be heard in any future warrant hearings. Click here to read the letter published on the PPA Site: www.pokerplayersalliance.org.
The PPA revealed to the Associated Press that the Southern District of New York gave instructions to three banks to freeze accounts to stop the Instant eCheck deposit and withdrawal methods used at both Full Tilt Poker and Poker Stars.
The PPA also outlined the chain of events in a notice to members on their site (click here to read).
Arlo Devlin-Brown, the assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), asked that the banks treat the monies as "legally seized funds" by the FBI, stating that the US Government has "probable cause that the gambling payments of U.S. residents had been directed to offshore illegal Internet gambling businesses". It was revealed that the seized funds of both online poker company funds amounted to more than $30 million.
At least 24,000 player accounts have been affected directly or indirectly by the SDNY action.
PPA has been in touch with the affected poker Web sites and has been assured that all players have been or will be appropriately reimbursed.
NOT UIGEA RELATED
The PPA asserts that "these actions are not related to enforcement of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA)", as the "seizure notice and subpoenas appear to allege violations of the Wire Act and the Illegal Gambling Business Act, even by .com sites that are exempt from Wire Act liability and by .net sites that do not accept money."
The PPA reports that they are "working closely with legal counsel on this issue to determine the appropriate course of action and will keep members updated as events warrant."
STATEMENT BY PPA CHAIRMAN
"The PPA is disappointed that this unprecedented action has been commenced against law abiding poker players. The payment processor funds frozen by the Southern District of New York belong to individual poker players -- not operators of poker websites -- and do not represent the proceeds of any gambling activity, much less illegal gambling activity. This money should be immediately released by the Southern District to ensure that player payouts are not further disrupted. To that end, the PPA is coordinating a legal strategy to appropriately protect PPA members who are impacted by the Southern District's actions. Further, the PPA has contacted the affected poker websites and has been informed that deposit and payout issues of players are being addressed and will be fully satisfied."
"There are many legal issues that question the merit of the Southern District's actions. Of greatest concern is that, in at least two cases, these actions were taken without first obtaining a seizure warrant. Seizure of money without judicial authority and litigation tactics inconsistent with previously stated Department of Justice policy appear to be the type of conduct that the Department has recently committed to change. Accordingly, the PPA on June 8th wrote to the prosecutor in charge of the matter and raised appropriate challenges and constitutional concerns with the actions taken to date.
"We are also concerned that the Southern District has selectively taken action against online poker when the current law regarding the activity is far from clear, and policies from various levels of government are inconsistent at best. In fact, no federal or state court has ever found a payment processor or a player accessing an Internet poker site to have violated the federal laws alleged by the Southern District in this case.
"For more than three years the PPA has advocated for a clear US policy, established through licensing and regulating skill games like peer-to-peer Internet poker. The PPA remains committed to legislation that creates a clear regulatory framework and we will continue to pursue every legal course available to ensure that in this instance poker players' funds are not seized and their right to play online poker is protected."