Online poker players get their cash back

online_poker.gi.top.jpgOnline poker players will be able to get their money from websites that were recently indicted for bank fraud and money laundering. By Ben Rooney, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Online poker players will be able to withdraw money from accounts at two of the three Internet poker companies recently indicted for bank fraud and money laundering.

The U.S. government agreed Wednesday to allow PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker to resume use of domain names that had been shut down last week.

That will "facilitate the withdrawal of U.S. players' funds held in account with the companies," according to the agreement.

Players in the United States are not allowed to deposit money into their accounts, and the government plans to set up an independent monitor to oversee the transactions.

The agreement also allows for players outside of the United States to resume playing for "real money" on the two Websites.

Prosecutors said the same agreement is open to Absolute Poker, the third company indicted last week.

Despite the agreement, it was unclear Wednesday when the domain names will be restored.

Currently, the domain names of the three companies remain blocked, with a notice stating that violating U.S. gambling laws could result in five years jail time and fines of up to $250,000.

On April 15, federal authorities unsealed a sweeping indictment and civil complaint against 11 people in the United States and abroad, including the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.

The government alleges that the companies, based offshore, used a network of payment processors to set up fraudulent U.S. bank accounts to launder money from online poker players in the United States. The defendants are also accused of using prepaid cards to disguise gambling profits as legitimate purchases.

While gambling is legal in some U.S. states, a 2006 law prohibits companies from knowingly accepting money from U.S. citizens for gambling over the Internet.

The government had filed "restraining orders" against several bank accounts and the domain names used by the poker companies. However, prosecutors contend that the companies were never required to freeze player accounts.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said no player accounts were ever frozen or restrained, and each poker company has been free to reimburse any player's deposited funds.

"In fact, this office expects the companies to return the money that U.S. players entrusted to them, and we will work with the poker companies to facilitate the return of funds to players," Bharara said in a statement.

The case has roiled the online poker playing community and has broad implications for a cottage industry estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, welcomed the agreement announced Wednesday, but said more needs to be done.

"Even with today's announcement, millions of Americans are being denied their hobby, avocation and in many cases their livelihood because they remain unable to play poker on the Internet," he said.

Pappas said members of his alliance have sent over 65,000 e-mail messages and letters to federal officials demanding access to their money and criticizing the government's "declaration of war on poker."

"Online poker is not illegal and it's time the government stops treating American poker players like criminals and protect the rights of their constituents," he said.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, maintain that gambling over the Internet is against the law, and that the companies allegedly took in some $3 billion as a result of their illegal activities

Bharara said the companies had been given "repeated warnings and clear notice that their conduct was illegal in the United States."

Despite these warnings, he said the companies "allegedly engaged not merely in the operation of illegal gambling businesses, but in massive wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering."  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,804.80 26.65 0.15%
Nasdaq 4,765.38 16.98 0.36%
S&P 500 2,070.65 9.42 0.46%
Treasuries 2.18 -0.03 -1.27%
Data as of 10:00pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.62 0.09 0.51%
Apple Inc 111.78 -0.87 -0.77%
General Electric Co 25.62 0.48 1.91%
Intel Corp 36.37 -0.65 -1.76%
Microsoft Corp 47.66 0.14 0.29%
Data as of Dec 19

Sections

New York Magazine reporter Jessica Pressler, who has been caught up in controversy this past week, will not be moving on to a new job at Bloomberg News. More

Investors beware: These 5 global crises are likely to rattle the stock market and world economy. More

Forums in dark corners of the web sell the kinds of hacks that befell Sony. More

Unilever sued Hampton Creek over its egg-free mayonnaise spread Just Mayo. But the company behind Best Foods and Hellman's mayonnaise has now dropped the lawsuit. More

The income of the top 1% jumped significantly in 2012, far outpacing inflation. Not only did this group make a larger share of the country's income, their share of total taxes also jumped from 35% to 38%. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.