ESPN network pulls poker ads after online gambling scandal

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2011 6:07 PM

By Aman Ali

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Disney's ESPN network on Tuesday yanked its poker-related ads and programing as federal agents continued to investigate money laundering and fraud charges against online gambling sites that sponsor the network.

"For the immediate future, we are making efforts to remove related advertising and programing pending further review," ESPN said in a statement sent to Reuters.

The U.S. Attorney's office on Friday indicted operators of three of the country's largest online gambling sites, accusing the companies of laundering billions of dollars through illegal gambling.

According to the criminal complaint, the sites PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker allegedly lied to banks about financial transactions that involved setting up phony corporations and websites to launder money the poker site operators received.

Prosecutors are seeking at least $3 billion in forfeited assets from the poker companies. Eleven people accused in the indictment face charges ranging from money laundering and bank fraud to operation of an illegal gambling business.

ESPN said it decided to pull the plug on poker-ads and programing after learning about the indictments. The network added it does not plan to cancel the broadcast of the annual World Series of Poker Tournament, which begins next month.

Poker sites sponsor many televised gambling events such as the one on ESPN. Fox and NBC have aired gambling events sponsored by the sites in the past, but those network officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)