PokerStars slams US civil charges

PokerStars has accused the US government of “an attempt to cripple a legitimate international business” with its civil complaint against the company, describing it as “reading like a novel, invoking shady dealings and far-reaching conspiracies”.

The global poker leader’s criticisms of US authorities were contained within a document filed Monday in support of its motion to dismiss civil charges within the “Black Friday” indictments of 28 individuals and entities associated with the three leading US-facing poker rooms – PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker. The US Department of Justice claimed in the complaint unsealed in April last year that PokerStars’ property was subject to forfeiture as it had allegedly been part of an illegal gambling business and a conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. The US also claimed US$1.5bn in alleged money laundering penalties from the online poker business.

PokerStars’ memorandum of law in support of its motion to dismiss, submitted though lawyer David Zornow of New York firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, provided a 60-page point-by-point rebuttal of the US government’s gambling, fraud and money-laundering allegations against the company, that PokerStars says “fails to allege sufficient facts – grounded in valid legal theories – to justify its bold bid to seize more than $1.5 billion from PokerStars.”

According to PokerStars’ lawyer, the complaint “suffers from three global flaws… that standing alone would be fatal. Together, they show that the Government has grossly overreached in an attempt to cripple a legitimate international business.”

First, argued PokerStars, the US DoJ complaint does not provide sufficient detail to allow the company “to satisfy the heightened pleading requirements” associated with civil forfeiture and fraud actions. “This vagueness fails to do what pleading rules require: Let PokerStars know what it is alleged to have done wrong so that it can marshal its defense.”

Second, the US government “fails to state a legally viable theory of how PokerStars violated the IGBA [Ilegal Gambling Business Act], the wire and bank fraud statutes and the money laundering statutes,” the poker room’s legal representative argued.

Finally, stated PokerStars in its memorandum, while the US government admitted the PokerStars business operated legally throughout the rest of the world, it was trying to seize all of the poker room’s assets without showing that it had in rem jurisdiction over those assets or attempting to separate PokerStars lawful income from that it alleged was “earned through illegal activities.”.  The poker operator stated elsewhere in the document that “approximately 75% of PokerStars’ business was from players outside of the United States” during the period of the complaint.

Thus, concluded PokerStars through its attorney, “the Government’s claims fail as a matter of law and the Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice.”

Casino Choice journalist

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