Update: Department of Justice seizure of online poker sites

After a weekend with little news and lots of speculation, things are starting to happen in response to the Department of Justice seizure of online poker sites. There are still plenty of unanswered questions, but there have been some big developments over the past day or so, including announcements from ESPN, the first plea from one of the 11 indicted persons, and updates in the ever-changing landscape of online poker in the United States. We’ll be updating this article as news breaks, so keep checking back in for the latest stories and headlines.

More Casualties: The Big Game and Million Dollar Challenge Off Fox

With 30 episodes of a new season already shot and ready to air The PokerStars Big Game is now in need of a home. Sources close to the network have confirmed that the Million Dollar Challenge the Big Game – both PokerStars-funded productions – will not air on the network again.

There is still a possibility the show finds a market in Canada and the United Kingdom but the shows will not air on a U.S. network any time soon. Five episodes were produced to air in Russia and another five were produced for the Italian market. Those episodes will air in their respective markets.

Bradley Franzen Pleads Not Guilty

The biggest news of the morning was the announcement that Bradley Franzen entered a plea of not guilty to charges of operating an illegal gambling business, bank fraud, and money laundering in Manhattan federal court. Franzen is one of four payment processors listed in the indictment. According to the indictment, Franzen helped the major online poker sites find payment processors willing to take payments from the online poker sites.

Franzen’s bail was set at $200,000 and Reuters is reporting that equity on Franzen’s parents’ home was used to release him this afternoon. John Campos, vice chairman of SunFirst Bank in St. George, Utah was arrested on Friday and is set to appear in a St. George federal court later today. The other eight people listed in the indictment have not been arrested as of yet.

Nevada Lawmakers Pledge to Return PokerStars Contribution

Over the weekend, news came to light that PokerStars contributed $300,000 to a number of Nevada State Assembley members.  The donations preceded the introduction of Assembly Bill 258, a piece of legislation that would introduce intrastate online gambling in Nevada.

On Monday, Las Vegas Sun contributor John Ralston tweeted on @RalstonFlash that the Assembly Democrats who received those donations had a meeting and agreed to return the campaign contributions.

CNBC Speaks with Poker Royalty’s Brian Balsbaugh

CNBC’s Darren Rovell has been covering the online poker seizure all weekend and spoke with Poker Royalty’s Brian Balsbaugh regarding the impact the news has on brick and mortar casinos and ESPN. Since the announcement Friday, Bwin.party stock did see a major bump in value. Here is the video from CNBC:

Sundays Go On Without US Pros

With lowered guarantees all around, the poker sites managed to avoid overlays despite the absence of US players on most sites. BLUFF broke down the Sunday results, including the major events on Lock Poker and Bodog, which are still accepting US players.

AP/UB and Victory Shut the Door on US Customers

While PokerStars was quick to block US players from playing on their site, Americans were able to take part in games on Full Tilt Poker, Cereus Poker Network, and Victory Poker over the course of the weekend. Victory Poker CEO Dan Fleyshman requested the Cake Poker Network to block US players from his site on Sunday. Early Monday, Full Tilt Poker announced it would be logging American users off of their poker client. Some players in the US were able to continue playing on the site because they did not download the latest software upgrade or had stayed logged into the client before news of the seizure broke.

Absolute Poker and UB Poker originally told US players they could continue to play on the site, but could not cash out. As of Monday, they appear to have had a change of heart and will also be blocking US players from taking part in real money games.

The questions about cashouts remain unanswered. PokerStars representatives contacted all SuperNova Elite players on the site to assure them money is safe, but players with US bank accounts are still unable to cash out. However, a PokerStars representative did post in the TwoPlusTwo forums confirming that if US players relocate to a foreign country, they will be able to access their accounts and the funds therein.

ESPN Will Still Broadcast the WSOP

Shortly after the PPA released its official statement on the indictment, BLUFF broke the news that the Onyx Cup was off and ESPN was halting production on PokerStars-sponsored programming. Since then, ESPN Poker’s Andrew Feldman clarified that the upcoming World Series of Poker will still air on ESPN. ESPN also released a statement to CNBC’s Darren Rovell, telling him, “We are making efforts to remove related advertising and programming pending further review.” The North American Poker Tour’s second season was set to kick off on ESPN tonight. Those episodes will likely not air, as any other previously scheduled poker content, including old episodes of WSOP coverage airing on ESPN Classic, were yanked off the air. The contract between ESPN and PokerStars is said to be worth $22 million.


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