International edition
October 25, 2021

After Full Tilt is caught up in US money laundering inquiry

Web gambling faces reform in UK

(UK).- Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is preparing to radically overhaul online gambling licensing rules which have left hundreds of British poker players unable to get hold of their funds after the founders of Full Tilt Poker, the world's second-largest poker site, found themselves at the centre of money-laundering and illegal gambling charges in the US.


This highlights why the government is looking at reforming how overseas-based operators are regulated and we hope to make an announcement in the next few weeks," a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media & Sport said.

The government recently completed a wide-ranging consultation on online gambling. Under current rules companies can advertise and operate without being licensed by the UK Gambling Commission as ministers rely on the strength of approved overseas regulators, including those in tiny offshore jurisdictions.

Full Tilt, which employs about 600 people in Dublin and is regulated on Alderney in the Channel Islands, is one of a handful of sites that continued to accept players from the US after the introduction in 2006 of legislation making it illegal for payment processors to transfer funds from American residents to gambling sites offshore.

Together with market leader PokerStars and number three player Absolute Poker, Full Tilt has been accused of using hundreds of bogus online retail websites and corrupt banks to hoodwink the US authorities into believing payments taken from American residents were for goods and services other than poker.

In a 51-page indictment, filed in April, the FBI and US department of justice are seeking to recover at least US$ 7.5 billion and have moved to freeze dozens of bank accounts in Switzerland, Cyprus, Andorra, Luxembourg and elsewhere, including the UK.

Full Tilt and PokerStars have spent millions advertising on British media in recent years and are among the most popular sites with UK players.

The US indictment triggered a worldwide crisis for Full Tilt, after it failed to satisfy Alderney regulators that its activities inside and outside the US were in good order. Players in the US have launched a class action claiming the site is refusing to return their money. Alderney suspended Full Tilt's licence two weeks ago. A message on the site says: "The system is currently down."

PokerStars, the world's largest site, is regulated in the Isle of Man and is one of the island's largest employers. The Manx regulator insists PokerStars has not breached its rules. The sites had an average of 35,000 players at any time, day or night, before its US operations were shut down. PartyPoker, owned by London-listed, has an average of about 4,000.

Asked if it applies a "fit and proper" test to licensees, Steven Brennan, chief executive of the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission, said: "The GSC thoroughly checks and vets every director and key official of any online gaming company ... It has the authority, and has used it, to turn down any company where it feels the company or the owners could bring the island into disrepute."The three sites are believed to deny wrongdoing but could not be reached for comment.

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