Online Gambling Wildly Popular, But Legally Suspect

The Justice Department indicted the founders of three of the Internet poker sites Friday, freezing their accounts and shutting down the sites. But players will have little trouble finding other places to play online, despite the games' murky legality.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Last Friday, visitors to pokerstars.com, FullTiltPoker and absolutepoker.com got a surprise: Instead of portals to the best-known online poker sites, they saw the seals of the FBI and the Department of Justice and a notice: This domain name has been seized by the FBI pursuit to an arrest warrant.

Eleven officials of the three companies face charges of fraud and money laundering. The feds also froze their bank accounts and the accounts of thousands of online poker players.

Until last week, ESPN regularly featured poker tournaments sponsored by PokerStars and Full Tilt. The ads, and the programs, have now been pulled.

But players should have no trouble finding places to play the game elsewhere online, or they can visit any number of casinos around the country, which, as you can imagine, leaves the legal issues around this case pretty murky.

Online poker players, you know it's illegal. Why do you do it? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the BP Oil Spill Fund. You can email questions for him now. The address again, talk@npr.org.

But first, online poker, and we begin with Vin Narayanan, managing editor for Casino City, who covers the gambling industry and joins us today from member station WBUR in Boston. Nice to have you with us.

Mr. VIN NARAYANAN (Managing Editor, Casino City): It's good to be here.

CONAN: And it's not like this was a shadow operation: Hundreds of hours a year on ESPN, which is owned by Disney, and you can see players wearing fulltiltpoker.hats and the ads sponsored by those companies. This was wide open.

Mr. NARAYANAN: Oh, this was very wide open, there's no doubt about that. I mean, when you watch the World Series of Poker, you see the patches on the players. When you watch the NBC Heads Up Championship that's going on right now - each weekend on NBC for the next couple weekends - you'll see the patches on those players.

You watch it on Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, all the different TV shows out there. You see the patches out there, and you see the ads, too.

I mean, the ads were for dot-net sites, pokerstars.net and fulltiltpoker.net, but, I mean, once you got there, and you signed up, you saw the big play-now, play-for-real-money buttons there, and you could always convert over.

So it's been open. It's been pretty brazen. And yeah, this isn't a surprise that it happened. But there is one good thing, I just want to throw in there...

CONAN: Sure.

Mr. NARAYANAN: ...breaking news, almost. I just picked it up before coming over here.

The Department of Justice and Full Tilt and PokerStars actually reached an agreement earlier today that will give the domain names of pokerstars.com and fulltilt.com back to their respective owners.

And what they're going to do is they're going to allow PokerStars and Full Tilt to begin the process of start paying back to players, the American players who have money on these sites.

So they're not allowed to take American players. American players aren't allowed to play on these sites anymore, but they can begin the process of getting their money off of these sites.

CONAN: So the people who have been indicted are officials of the companies involved. No players have been indicted, and it sounds like everybody's going to get their money back, whatever they may have left in their account.

Mr. NARAYANAN: Exactly.

CONAN: And whether those are wins or losses.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NARAYANAN: Well, whatever's left in their account, players can begin the process of getting that money back.

CONAN: And it is interesting because, again, you have laws that prohibit this kind of thing. Again, you know, there are laws that make it possible to go play in Atlantic City and anywhere in Nevada and lots of places. But nevertheless, online is supposed to be illegal, but they're not being charged with that. They're being charged with fraud.

Mr. NARAYANAN: Yeah, well, it's an interesting legal situation. I mean, poker is a quintessentially American game. It started out in the riverboats in the 1800s and has been played in America throughout.

So people are playing home games in their homes. They're playing in Atlantic City. They're playing in Las Vegas. They're playing all over. They're playing in Mississippi, they're playing (unintelligible).

There is no law that explicitly forbids the playing of poker online. That's why no players are being charged. What's happened is this - the UIGEA, which passed in 2006, it was attached to the Safe Ports Security Act at the last second, which was much-passed legislation, and so that's how it passed through.

The UIGEA is basically a bank law. It prohibits the financial transactions that allow money to flow to these online poker rooms, but it doesn't prohibit the game itself.

CONAN: Well, these online poker rooms, they are virtual, of course, but all the servers are overseas.

Mr. NARAYANAN: Yes, all the servers are overseas. They're licensed overseas. They're licensed to the Isle of Man, or they're licensed in the Caribbean, or they're licensed in Malta. They're licensed in a variety of places overseas, and they're strictly regulated overseas.

Europe regulates online gambling successfully. And if you look at France and the U.K., they have very strict online gambling rules. They license it successfully. They regulate it successfully. Underage gamblers can't make it onto the sites to play. They have strict social responsibility, and when it comes to problem gamblers, you have self-exclusion rules.

And when you self-exclude at an online casino, it's actually more effective than, say, self-excluding at a land-based casino because at a land-based casino, you can still walk in and play. They're not checking your ID to see your name and see whether you're on a self-excluded list. When you self-exclude in an online casino or an online poker room, yeah, you can't get on to play again.

So it's a different ballgame, but it is well-regulated, and that's one myth that sort of needs to be busted.

CONAN: Well, well-regulated except for the part where they get around -How do they collect and pay back money?

Mr. NARAYANAN: Well, that's an interesting thing. In Europe, all this stuff is legal.

CONAN: Open and aboveboard.

Mr. NARAYANAN: Open and aboveboard. So what's happened in the U.S. is the way they've gone about doing it is first, back in the day, when online gambling started in the mid-'90s, you had credit card transactions.

And around 2000, 2001, credit card companies stopped accepting transactions for online poker. So that went out the door. And then you went into...

CONAN: And these are for sports books, too.

Mr. NARAYANAN: These were for sports books, for online casinos and for poker rooms. And so credit card companies have voluntarily blocked these transactions, since around 2000. Then you went into a period where it was e-checks and electric wallets.

So you had companies like NetTeller doing this, where you would take the money, and you'd throw it into an e-wallet outside, sort of like PayPal. PayPal doesn't allow online gambling transactions, but there are lots of e-wallets that do.

So you put the money into their, and then you'd move money back and forth between your electronic wallet and the online poker rooms. And in 2007 and 2008, in those two years, the Justice Department cracked down on NetTeller. And so they said, you can't accept U.S. customers because they are using this to gamble online.

And so it went from there to: All right, let's find a new system. Let's see what other ways we can move money around the system. So what ended up happening is a set of intermediary companies was introduced into the process.

And in that process, what they did was: All right, you won't allow the transaction between the player and fulltiltpoker.com, but you will allow it, say, between Full Tilt and easyshoes.com. Never mind the fact that Easy Shoes didn't exist - and I'm just making up a company name here.

CONAN: Right, and didn't sell shoes.

Mr. NARAYANAN: And didn't sell shoes, but it was a legal transaction. So the transaction happened between the player and easyshoes.com. As soon as a transaction happened, bing, the online poker room was notified and said: Look, the money is in. This guy can play. Give him the money on the site.

And so that was the process that was basically a work-through. So what the Department of Justice just did is they unraveled the series of intermediaries between the player and the online poker room.

And they went though, and there were several layers, and it was a really interesting investigation, and you have to give the Department of Justice credit. One of the things they do well and one of the things the FBI and their investigators do well is they follow the money trail extremely well.

And they peeled back all the layers of the onion, and they were able to freeze the different accounts involved in the movement of this money.

CONAN: We're talking with Vin Narayanan, who's managing editor for Casino City, about the indictments last week of three - officials for three of the big online poker sites. Let's get some callers in on the conversation.

If you play, you know it's illegal, why do you do it? 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Let's go to Chris(ph) and Chris with us from Rochester, Minnesota.

CHRIS (Caller): Hey, thanks for taking the call.

CONAN: Sure.

CHRIS: I'm an occasional online poker player. There are lots of people who make, you know, a living doing this, a full-time job and play it, you know, all the time.

I probably would play it, oh, I'd say maybe once a week. I would play it for, you know, an hour or so, you know, very occasional, just splash around, play some small tournaments. And it's just, it was an enjoyable - it's an enjoyable, fun thing for me.

I'm not really close to a brick-and-mortar casino where I can play poker, and it's a fun and kind of educational thing for me to do.

Now, I guess I don't really need - I'm an adult. I don't really need Eric Holder to be an extra parent to look out for my interests.

CONAN: Eric Holder, of course, is the attorney general.

CHRIS: Yeah, sorry. And so I guess this is activity that happens between adults that are choosing to partake in this very popular activity. You see poker everywhere. At bars, they have these little, free tournaments. You know, it's just, it's commonplace. It's on TV.

What would possess Eric Holder, or what would possess the Department of Justice to pick this particular fight?

CONAN: Well, it's a good question. Of course, it is Congress who passed the law that says you can't do this, and perhaps he's just trying to enforce the laws, which is his obligation to do as attorney general of the United States. But Vin Narayanan, why these companies, why now?

Mr. NARAYANAN: Well, they're doing these companies because these are the biggest in the U.S. market. I mean, Full Tilt, PokerStars and Absolute Poker as the absolute biggest that accept U.S. play.

In terms of why now, all of the investigations into online gambling are housed out of the Southern District of New York, the U.S. attorney's office there. And that office has shown an extraordinary interest in online gambling. We don't know why.

Online poker in particular, it's adults playing poker against each other. That's what it is. Playing poker is not illegal in the United States. It just isn't illegal. So this is someone in the U.S. attorney's office that has an interest in online poker and has an interest in online gambling, and they're pursuing this because of that.

I mean, U.S. attorney's offices operate as virtual fiefdoms. They're not necessarily directed from on top. It's not like the attorney general of the United States is sitting there saying: We've got to go after online poker.

No, what ends up happening is you have offices. They have particular interests in certain types of cases, and they pursue those cases. And this is a case in which the Southern District of New York, they have attorneys there that are interested in pursuing online poker cases.

I don't know why, but all the investigations are housed out of there, and they're very good at what they do.

CONAN: And this is a big business. Let's not pretend anything else.

Mr. NARAYANAN: This is a huge a business. Online gambling is a $30 billion business worldwide, of which $6 billion is gambled in the United States. This is a huge, huge business. This is untaxed business, and it's unregulated business in the United States.

CONAN: And how big a deal is it? And Chris, thanks very much for the call. How big a deal is it that ESPN has decided to pull the ads and pull the programs?

Mr. NARAYANAN: It's not a surprise, that's for sure. I mean, what they're doing is they're pulling programming that was associated with PokerStars. They're still going to broadcast the World Series of Poker, which will happen this summer, and the broadcasts will start in August and go right through November.

I mean, it is a big deal for ESPN in the sense that their poker programming was very popular. And it wasn't just the first-run programming that was popular. It was very popular in repeats. Their poker programming in repeats did a lot better than their original sports programming. So this is a big deal for ESPN.

CONAN: We're talking about online poker. If you turn to the Internet to gamble, why do you do it? You know it's illegal. 800-989-8255. More of your calls after a short break. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

Federal prosecutors in New York indicted 11 executives from three online poker sites last week for bank fraud and illegal gambling. Back in 2000, Jay Cohen, the then-co-owner of World Sports Exchange became the first person to be convicted on federal charges for Internet gambling.

Melinda Sarafa was on his defense team. She'll join us in just a moment. We want to hear from online gamblers today. You know it's illegal. Why do you log on to play? 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Melinda Sarafa, criminal defense attorney in New York that handled a variety of online gambling cases over the past decade, and joins us now from our bureau in New York.

Nice to have you with us today.

Ms. MELINDA SARAFA (Criminal Defense Attorney): Nice to be here. Thank you.

CONAN: And the Jay Cohen case differed in some important respects from the charges that were brought last week.

Ms. SARAFA: That's right. Jay Cohen's case was brought under the Wire act, which is a provision of federal law that prohibits somebody in the business of betting or wagering from transmitting bets or wages across state lines - really, on sports activities.

There's been controversy in connection with the scope of that law. The Department of Justice has always maintained that it pertained not just to sports betting, but also to all casino games. But that really wasn't an issue in the Jay Cohen case because Jay's company, World Sports Exchange, was a sports-betting company.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm. And in this case, they are not going for the alleged crime of accepting bets on poker, but for the alleged crime of, well, fraud.

Ms. SARAFA: Well, the indictment has several different charges, and it does bring - it does bring charges under the UIGEA, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that Vin spoke about. It also brings charges under the provision of the United States Code that prohibits operation of an unlawful gambling business. And then, in addition to that, it brings a bank fraud count, as well as a money-laundering count.

The substantive gambling counts are interesting, and those, I think, do raise issues about whether poker itself is unlawful under various state laws. I mean, gambling is basically regulated by the states, and...

CONAN: And is it a game of chance or a game of skill? That's...

Ms. SARAFA: Right, that's the question. I mean, what constitutes gambling under state laws, essentially, something consisting of three elements. You have to risk or stake something of value, first. Then there has to be an element of chance, and then there has to be, third, some prize for - based on the outcome.

So the question is always: Is this a game of chance, or is it a game of skill? Most states, either by statute or at case law, come out on the side of poker being a game of chance. But I have to say that those laws are based on - they're not really based on empirical evidence or statistical research. And I think that, you know, what you're seeing recently, what you've seen in recent years is more work being put into actually analyzing, from a more scientific standpoint, whether poker is a game of skill or a game of chance.

And there are some compelling arguments that poker is a game of skill. And so you may see - you may see some of those laws change. The states have different ways of approaching this. You know, some say if there's any element of chance at all, it's a game of chance.

Others say if it's - if the chance is material to the outcome of the game, then it's a game of chance. Some say if it's predominately a game of chance, then it's a game of chance. In a state where you have a predominance test, you may well find that poker is considered a game of skill.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller in on the conversation. Chris is calling from Portland.

CHRIS (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

CHRIS: Hi, Neal, longtime listener, really enjoy the show.

CONAN: Thank you.

CHRIS: I'm a professional poker player, and I would like to say that poker is a game of skill. I'm a member of the Poker Players' Association, a lobbyist group that works in Washington, D.C. And basically, I've written college essays and, you know, really think that poker is a game of skill.

CONAN: And I accept that there is skill involved, but anybody who's watched some of those television, you know, World Series of Poker events and seen somebody fill a flush on the last card when the odds are very, very low, well, there's a lot of luck involved, too.

CHRIS: Yeah, there's definitely luck involved. But with, you know, professional sports, you know, say professional golf, there's also luck involved in those events, and there's a lot of money involved in those situations. And players are asked to put up an entry fee to play in those tournaments.

CONAN: And sometimes they are. Yeah, indeed. And I'm not saying that they're not totally analogous. But how is your progress, at this point, on getting things legalized, Chris? I know Washington, D.C., is talking about opening some poker sites as soon as this summer.

CHRIS: Well, I am not completely in touch with that at the moment. But there has been talk of regulation. There's been a few bills put forward, all been shot down. But the Poker Players' Alliance has basically -like, there's been a call to action right now by all of our members and essentially all of online poker. There's a...

CONAN: Maybe Vin Narayanan can help us with this. Where are we standing right now in terms of legality of poker?

Mr. NARAYANAN: Yeah. We're in a real odd place in terms of licensing and regulating online poker. If you take a look at the states levels, at the state level, Florida has rejected it. A bill died there. A bill in Iowa recently died.

Governor Christie in New Jersey vetoed a bill that had passed both houses in the state assembly, in the state legislature, and it passed by healthy margins. That had been vetoed.

And a bill in Hawaii just died, and a bill in Nevada was essentially neutered, saying: We'll wait for the federal government to tell us whether it's legal or illegal - which is really odd.

We're entering this really odd territory from a licensing-regulation standpoint, where you had state government - who traditionally license and regulate gambling in the United States - ceding this power to the federal government right now.

And so it's in a really weird place in that front. And they're ceding it in part because some of the big gambling companies - MGM, Harrah's, Wynn - they all want a federal solution to online gambling and online poker, because it's easier to get a federal solution in terms of managing an online poker room. It's easier to build player liquidity if you can do it across multiple states or across an entire country, whereas doing a patchwork system, state by state, is very difficult.

CONAN: And some of those casino companies were involved with one of these online companies in a lobbying effort, and they ended that relationship last week, too.

Mr. NARAYANAN: Yeah, they sure did. Steve Wynn was - and Wynn Resorts was involved with PokerStars. In fact, they were going to create a poker room onto his license and regulate it in the U.S., called pokerstarswynn.com.

And that deal has been eliminated. They've withdrawn from that. And Full Tilt poker had a deal with Fertitta, which owns the Station Casinos out in Nevada, and that deal's been withdrawn, as well.

And on the federal level, last year, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, tried to attach a bill late in session, in the lame-duck session, to some must-pass legislation that would have legalized online poker. He didn't get a chance to do it. That was undercut by Obama signing off on some - President Obama signing off on negotiations over a tax bill. And that didn't go through, either.

CONAN: Well, Chris, thanks very much for the call.

I was just going to ask you to come in, Melinda Sarafa.

Ms. SARAFA: If I may, I think it's worth putting some of this in perspective. I mean, gambling is not an inherently wrongful act, okay. It's not like murder. It's not like stealing. It's not like assault, where we all know and we can all agree that those are clearly wrong and in violation of law, and every state has laws prohibiting those.

Gambling is different, and gambling is something that this country has very contradictory laws about and very contradictory views about. I mean, we have quite a bit of legalized gambling in this country.

Mr. NARAYANAN: We do.

Ms. SARAFA: Essentially, the way it works it gambling is unlawful unless the state says it's okay, and the states have chosen to say that a lot of gambling is okay, as long as they are in charge of regulating it.

You know, you have state lotteries. You have Las Vegas. You have Atlantic City. You have all of the tribal casinos. The federal government is not in the business, really, of passing substantive statutes to prohibit gambling. The Wire Act is really the only one that prohibits transmission of bets or wagers across telephone lines.

And the reason for that is it was a 1961 law that was passed as part of a package of anti-racketeering laws, and it was really focused on combating organized bookmaking. This is sort of an organized crime statute.

And that - the other laws, you know, the UIGEA, the law prohibiting operation of an unlawful gambling business, those are really federal enforcement mechanisms to provide federal enforcement power of existing state laws.

And what's interesting is that for years, since the mid-1990s, Congress has been debating whether or not to pass a law that specifically addressed Internet gaming. For over 10 years, this was going on with no success.

And when you look at the alliances behind - when you look at the parties in support and in opposition to the various laws, it's very interesting, because you had land-based casinos, who were in favor of prohibiting online gaming...

CONAN: As competition. Yeah.

Ms. SARAFA: Correct. You had the horse-racing industry trying to get, trying to prohibit online gaming with a carve-out for the horse-racing industry. And you have the Department of Justice saying that the bills that were being proposed were not acceptable because they would, in fact, expand the available lawful online gaming by creating carve-outs for horse racing and...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. SARAFA: ...so, you know, it's interesting. And now - then the UIGEA gets passed, and as Vin correctly pointed out, this was passed. This was attached at the last minute to the Safe Port Act of 2006 and essentially passed with that any discussion, any - some centers probably didn't even know it was there. So it...

CONAN: Still a law, nonetheless.

Ms. SARAFA: It's a law, nonetheless.

Mr. NARAYANAN: And a lot of the members of the House representatives didn't know it was there as well. So it...

CONAN: Nonetheless, still on the books.

Mr. NARAYANAN: Still on the books. But I will say this - the land-based gambling industry's come sort of full circle on this. And the reason they were opposed to it initially is they believe that online gaming would take away their customers.

And what they've discovered, especially through the World Series of Poker and through online poker, is online gaming doesn't take away customers. What it does is it builds a new generation of people who are willing to come to casinos. And it's that change in thought process and that realization that they're building a new generation of gamblers, especially as they see their own customer base age, that's what's changed the argument here in United States.

CONAN: Let's get another caller in. This is Jason, Jason with us from Evansdale in Iowa.

JASON (Caller): I'm here.

CONAN: You're on the air. Go ahead.

JASON: Wow. Well, I just - as a poker player, and I don't play it for -solely for a living, but I have made a decent living at it over the last few years, I think a lot of poker players who suddenly, you know, had a - basically the plug pulled on them over the weekend, have forgotten that the regulation was inevitable anyway if we really were going to get where we wanted to be as a legitimate business.

CONAN: You forgot it was illegal because you were sending payments to Acme shoes?

JASON: No, no. And that's my point, is a lot of us implicitly, we kind of knew after 2006 that it became more difficult to get money online, it became more difficult to get money offline. And we all knew something couldn't be right about that. And we kind of knew what our government had done, how they snuck that - they snuck the UIGEA - we felt like the UIGEA got snuck in on us.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

JASON: But the fact that - sorry, I lost my train of thought there.

CONAN: Okay. Well, Jason, thanks very much for the call.

JASON: Thank you.

CONAN: Hope your concentration is better when you're trying to draw to an inside straight.

Mr. NARAYANAN: No, Jason makes a good point, though. I think to a certain degree, online poker players and the online poker industry in general, they weren't expecting this because they were used to operate -just operating and no one bothering them. And this has come to - come as a shock to the system of a lot of online poker players and to the online poker industry.

And this actually has a good chance of changing the regulation debate because now you have couple million poker players out there who play poker online who actually don't have poker to play anymore. And they'll be much more mobilized than they were previously.

CONAN: That's Vin Narayanan, a managing editor for Casino City. Also with us is Melinda Sarafa, a New York criminal defense attorney. We're talking about online poker. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And Chris is on the line, Chris calling us from Brainerd in Minnesota.

CHRIS (Caller): Yeah. One thing that I kind of - I keep hearing you say that bothers me is that what we're - that playing poker online is illegal. My understanding is it's the transfer of funds that was made illegal.

CONAN: And do you play and do you transfer funds?

CHRIS: No, I don't. I've got all my money online after the law was passed. And there's things - there's ways to get money online where you just play in tournaments that are free to enter. And if you do well, the site itself gives you money.

Ms. SARAFA: The caller makes a good point, that generally these laws are prohibiting the operation of a gambling business, that the players themselves are not really the focus of the laws.

CONAN: And none have been charged and I gather none will be.

Ms. SARAFA: Correct. Well, I can't speak for the prosecutors. But no, but the way the laws that are written...

Mr. NARAYANAN: None are expected to be charged, yeah.

Ms. SARAFA: None are expected to be charged. And the laws really are geared toward individuals who are in the business of betting or wagering, not players themselves.

Mr. NARAYANAN: These are ultimately banking laws.

CONAN: Chris, thanks very much. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Ryan, Ryan with us from Pensacola.

RYAN (Caller): Hi. How are you doing this afternoon?

CONAN: Very well.

RYAN: I wanted to make a point, I guess., I've never bet money online, but certainly played it casually with friends. And like you were saying before, it certainly (unintelligible) interest for wanting me to go to a casino and actually try it out for real. I haven't done that because I think I'm smarter than that. I would lose my life savings.

But also in terms of it being a game of skill, I don't see how people can make that argument. I guess the skill being - from being able to read people, but - I mean, skill in my mind would be something of athleticism or a physical quality of the game, which, I guess, you know, reading wrinkles in somebody's forehead, if you want to make that argument...

CONAN: But as Melinda Sarafa was saying earlier, it depends on how the states define games of chance and the element that chance plays in it, and I guess that's a debatable issue. But I wonder, Melinda Sarafa, if you think that the litigation that's going to surround these charges may involve attempts to extradite people who are in the Isle of Man or in Ireland or various places, if that's going to clarify these issues.

Ms. SARAFA: Well, the real hammer in this indictment is the bank fraud charge. And that will probably be the way that if the United States chooses to pursue extradition, they'll probably focus on that, because they won't be able to extradite for violation of a law that - for the gaming violation because that's illegal in the jurisdictions where these individuals are operating.

I don't know that you're going to ultimately get clarification of this issue in connection with this indictment, and that's sort of the genius, I guess, of this indictment. It focuses - it brings charges not against these companies solely because they're offering poker, but because they're offering poker by means of - they're offering poker and deceiving banks with respect to the nature of the transactions. Those are the allegations. And so the bank fraud charges are actually - you know, they stand apart from the issue of whether poker is unlawful, because those are focused on what information was provided to the banks.

CONAN: Right. Well, thanks very much. We'll follow this case with interest. Melinda Sarafa, New York criminal defense attorney, with us from our bureau in New York. And Vin Narayanan, managing editor for Casino City, with us from member station WBUR in Boston. Thanks both very much for your time.

Ms. SARAFA: Thank you.

Mr. NARAYANAN: Thank you.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.