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Monday, September 01, 2014
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Poker lobbying group marks Black Friday anniversary
 

The Poker Players Alliance on Friday reminded poker players that its lobbying campaign to organize gamblers is running out of time as the one-year anniversary of Black Friday's seizure of several of the most popular online poker sites approaches.

Titled "The Players Will Never Fold," the PPA is urging players to contact their elected representatives and demand legalization of online poker in the United States. The campaign runs through Sunday, which marks the one-year anniversary of Black Friday.

"It's been a full year since the rights of millions of American poker players were trampled and ... we are calling on congress to reverse this wrong and reinstate our basic freedoms," said John Pappas, PPA's executive director.

On April 15, 2011, three of the largest online poker sites were seized and shut down by the U.S. Department of Justice. Operators of sites such as Full Tilt Poker, Poker stars and Absolute Poker were charged with illegal online gambling, as well as bank fraud and money laundering.

In subsequent months the Justice Department seized at least a dozen gambling websites, including Bookmaker.com and Doylesroom.com.

The federal crackdown on Internet poker stopped thousands of U.S. residents from playing and tied up millions of dollars they had deposited or won. Pappas said the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization has more than one million members, some who still have online poker site balances that are still frozen nearly a year later.

On Thursday, attorneys for four leading class-action plaintiffs filed suit in federal court in Las Vegas against former Full Tilt directors Howard Lederer and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson alleging illegal conversion of funds.

The lawsuit claims that before and after April 15, 2011, Lederer and Ferguson "exercised unlawful dominion and control" over players' money deposited in Full Tilt accounts. The government has described Full Tilt as a "global Ponzi scheme."

The lawsuit also claims U.S. players have been denied access to some $150 million in their accounts in part because of Lederer's and Ferguson's decisions.

The lawsuit claims Lederer "received approximately $42 million in distributions and 'profit-sharing' payments," some in Full Tilt loans that may still be outstanding, while Ferguson received $85 million, some of which may have been in the form of loans.

The plaintiffs seek a court order requiring Lederer and Ferguson to refund player money and pay punitive damages. The four leading plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Steve Segal, of New York; Nick Hammer and Robin Hougdahl of Minnesota; and Todd Terry of New Jersey.

The PPA and the American Gaming Association have lobbied against state-by-state legalization of online poker, favoring federal legislation. In December, Nevada became the first state to approve regulations that allow companies in the state to apply for licenses to operate online poker websites.

Despite the Justice Department's crackdown, hundreds of illegal, offshore Internet sites are still operating, Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., AGA president and CEO, said in a statement Friday.

"As long as these sites are operating outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement and with little to no regulation, Americans who continue to patronize them will be at risk of being defrauded," Fahrenkopf said.

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