Katie Kieffer
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Strip poker is one of Attorney General Eric Holder’s favorite games. As in, he evidently enjoys stripping online poker entrepreneurs of their Fourth Amendment rights.

Holder is the head of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which is currently stripping online gaming entrepreneurs of their intellectual property rights. Technically, online gambling has never been declared “illegal” in the U.S. and yet the DOJ is citing a hazy law in order to allege that online gambling is a crime.

On Monday, July 2, the federal government arrested Los Angeles native Ray Bitar as he landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport from Dublin, Ireland. Bitar is the CEO of Full Tilt Poker, an online gaming operation that is headquartered in Dublin. The DOJ accuses him of criminal activity, including allegedly running “an international Ponzi scheme” to take money from online gamers and enrich Full Tilt ownership. If convicted, Bitar faces a maximum sentence of 145 years in prison.

The Wall Street Journal points out: “The site's users, thousands of individual poker players, had set up accounts with Full Tilt in order to have money to wager with, the government says. Yet toward the end of 2010, it became increasingly difficult for Full Tilt to transfer money due to the government's crackdown on payment processing for poker.”

So it appears that the government played a role in exhausting Full Tilt’s funding and is now accusing Full Tilt of running a Ponzi scheme. Admittedly, Full Tilt ownership held out hope for revival and erroneously portrayed its operations as healthy to its players until late in the government’s investigation. But this seems like poor judgment, not a Ponzi scheme.

Holder's game of "strip poker" began on April 15, 2011, when the DOJ and the FBI clamped down on the online gaming industry that does business in the U.S. The DOJ charged the founders of the three largest internet companies, Absolute Poker, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, plus eight other defendants, with illegal gambling offenses, money laundering and bank fraud.

No individual player was charged with criminal activity, however, the DOJ seized five key internet domain names and put restraining orders on over 75 defendant company bank accounts that process payments, effectively freezing online poker in the U.S.
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Katie Kieffer

Katie Kieffer is a columnist and political commentator. She runs KatieKieffer.com. Kieffer is the author of the forthcoming book "LET ME BE CLEAR."