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Full Tilt Poker and Others Fighting Back; Will U.S. Legalize Online Gambling?

Did you see the article printed recently in the NY Times about online gambling.

Very, very interesting.

The story is about Jesus Ferguson and Howard Lederer, founders of Full Tilt Poker…which until they were busted by the U.S. FBI, was the gambling palace of choice on the web for millions of players.

As the years went by, the story documents, Full Tilt became a powerhouse in the cultish world of Internet poker.

By 2010, Americans were gambling $16 billion a year through such sites, according to the site PokerScout.com.

But on April 15, players in the United States found this message when they went to fulltilt: “This domain name has been seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Federal authorities had blocked access to Full Tilt and two other top poker sites, Absolute Poker and PokerStars, and accused all three of money laundering and fraud.

Black Friday in our world.

But Black Friday was just the start.

A bigger bombshell hit on Sept. 20, when prosecutors asserted that Full Tilt was, in effect, the biggest bluff in poker. In a civil complaint, the Justice Department said certain Full Tilt executives, had defrauded players of hundreds of millions of dollars. Full Tilt, the accusations went, was not just a poker site, but also a global Ponzi scheme.

Full Tilt and its executives have denied wrongdoing.

And now, the Internet poker debate is now stretching from the tables of Las Vegas to the halls of Congress.

In a bid for legitimacy, poker sites and players are pushing for the federal government to legalize, regulate and tax online poker. Big-name casinos, sensing opportunity, have thrown their weight behind the idea, of course. Anything to make money.

Against the idea are U.S.  conservative Christian groups like Focus on the Family.

Could online poker go legit?

It might. I hope so.

The French investment firm Groupe Bernard Tapie has agreed to buy Full Tilt, provided that the site’s legal troubles are resolved).

And yet Big Poker and its fans say the best way to safeguard players would be to give Washington a piece of the action.

Prying the game out of the dark recesses of the Web could yield many billions of tax dollars for public coffers, something I’ve been saying for years.

I like that The Times has done this story.

It somehow adds some legitimacy to it all.

I’ll keep you posted on all this.

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