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Online casinos stars face many legal questions

An online casinos billionaire, Calvin Ayre, who graced Forbes magazine's March cover decided to make himself scarce after federal authorities arrested another online casinos site executive David Carruthers on July 16 as Carruthers transferred planes at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. A federal judge ordered one of the top online casinos to stop accepting bets placed from within the United States, and prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of $4.5 billion, plus several cars, recreational vehicles and computers from Carruthers and 10 other indicted defendants associated with the Costa Rica-based online casinos operation.
As the World Series of Poker was in full swing at the Rio hotel-casino, online casinos site officials danced around an issue looming over the tournament: Are online casinos legal?
Tournament organizers and the U.S. Justice Department say online casinos are against the law. The online casinos players, thousands of whom qualified in cash-paying online casinos tournaments, say yes.
"I've got no certainty whatsoever," said Ayre, speaking by telephone from Canada, days after Carruthers' arrest.
"I don't believe any senior executive of any (online casinos) company is going to be going into the United States for the foreseeable future," Ayre said. "It's not just me, and I've talked to a lot of them."
The World Series of Poker's uncomfortable relationship with online casinos took center stage in May 2003, when an unknown accountant named Chris Moneymaker qualified through a $40 online casinos satellite tournament and went on to win the $2.5 million main event to become the poster child for the online casinos revolution.
Advertising by online casinos poker sites on mainstream television exploded — and then the Justice Department intervened.
In a June 11, 2003, letter, deputy assistant attorney general John Malcolm warned the National Association of Broadcasters that the department considered Internet gambling to be illegal, and said, "any person or entity who aids or abets" online betting "is punishable as a principal violator."
Major networks reacted by forcing online poker companies to create "dot-net" sites, on which poker was played only for fake money and no reference or link would be made to the "dot-com" versions, where billions of very real dollars are wagered every year.
"I don't talk to the dot-coms, I don't," said tournament commissioner Jeffrey Pollack, when asked about the thousands who qualified online through dot-com sites.
He insisted that those who qualify in tournaments simply pay cash as individuals to enter the $10,000 per seat event.
"Online gaming is illegal," he said.
The televised tournament's first day was even delayed by several minutes as organizers announced that anyone sporting a "dot-com" logo would not be allowed to play.
About half that day's field of more than 2,000 players flipped shirts inside-out, and workers circulated with rolls of black tape, covering any "dot-com" symbols they could find.
"Tape or not, I still look good," said David Daniel a 31-year-old player from Bristol, Tenn., who qualified by winning $10,000 in a $160 "double-shootout" satellite tournament on the internet.



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