Black Friday: still going strong, one week later

Hey, it’s been a whole week since the sky fell in, but there’s still a few Black Friday items that made news on Good (in relative terms, at least) Friday, so let’s get to it.

black-friday-good-fridayAbsolute Poker speaks! Following announcements by PokerStars and Full Tilt that they’d reached agreements with the Department of Justice to refund players’ deposits, Absolute Poker issued the following statement: “At this time, Absolute Poker’s top priority is, and must be, the refund of balances to its and UB’s US players. However, given the far-reaching consequences of the US Attorney’s actions for Absolute Poker and for the entire poker community, Absolute Poker believes that the responsible course of action is to review with its attorneys the relevant court filings before taking any action.” (Said attorneys are from the firm of Blank Rome LLP, FYI.) “Absolute Poker wishes to make clear that it wants to work cooperatively with the US Attorney to safely and efficiently return its players’ funds. To that end, Absolute Poker’s counsel has initiated communications with the US Attorney’s office and plans to continue proactively advancing those discussions.”

✖ The Isle of Man’s Economic Development Minister Allan Bell MHK has publicly stated that the local government’s “current position is that PokerStars will retain its licence in the Isle of Man – there is no reason to reconsider that.” Meanwhile, when asked about DoJ claims that Interpol wants to extradite PokerStars’ principals to the US for trial, Detective Chief Inspector John Mitchell, head of the island’s financial crime unit, said: ‘We have not had any requests for assistance [from] the US or Interpol. We await any requests for assistance in due course.” Minister Bell echoed the top cop’s statement, saying ‘We would consider any proposal,” but noted that any move by the US to extradite island residents would have to go through the UK, with which the Island has an extradition agreement.

✖ Canada’s Globe & Mail published a profile of PokerStars’ “mysterious” founder Isai Scheinberg. Scheinberg, a dual Canadian/Israeli citizen, is remembered by a former colleague as “very much a political person. He knew who his allies were. He knew who the people were who disagreed with him … He probably had a huge international phone bill.” An anonymous holder of one of the Canadian bank accounts seized by the DoJ told the Globe that he’d been fooled into processing payments for the poker giant. “They didn’t disclose to me it was a gaming site. They told me, ‘It’s a marketing agency, and we’re giving refunds on [internet] widgets.” The anonymous account holder claims to have halted the activity when he learned of the chicanery.

✖ Speaking of PokerStars-related chicanery, the Las Vegas Sun’s Jon Ralston claims Stars’ political action committee has filed an amended lobbying report that removed the names of legislators who have since claimed they never received any filthy poker lucre. The amended report also shows that Assemblymen William Horne and Kelvin Atkinson, the two Nevada legislators who flew to London on Stars’ dime, each received an additional $2.5k after the November election, while Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin received an extra $5k after the election.

✖ A former FBI agent suspects ex-Intabill payment processing whiz-kid Daniel Tzvetkoff has entered the FBI witness protection program. James Wedick told Australia’s The Age that if, as is widely suspected, Tzvetkoff is cooperating with the feds in their crackdown on online poker, he would be held in isolation in a special wing of a jail somewhere on the US east coast — not in a safe house, as some have suggested. “If he’s gone into the witness protection program… he’s in a lock-up somewhere … there’s no way they’d let him walk out.”

✖ The sole credit union on the list of accounts seized by the feds on Black Friday was Vensure Federal Credit Union in Mesa, Arizona. Though only one account at Vensure was allegedly related to poker processing, Vensure was shut down by the National Credit Union Administration. While the NCUA isn’t commenting on the reasons behind the shutdown, the assumption is that lone account held so much of Vensure’s total funds that the CU could not remain liquid without it. According to the Credit Union Times, questions are being raised about the NCUA’s oversight, considering that Vensure booked no loans and issued no credit cards in 2010, yet took in $1.8m in fee income and paid out almost $700k in professional services. In 2009, Vensure had 74 members and paid out $11,651 in interest on those accounts. In 2010, the number of members had climbed to 94, yet Vensure paid out no interest at all.

✖ The World Team Poker Championship Event, scheduled to take place May 24-26 in Las Vegas, has been postponed “for later this summer.” It’s not known how the rescheduling will affect the likelihood of many international squads taking part.

✖ A post at Wicked Chops Poker sketches out three prospective paths to US online poker legislation, none of which anticipates US poker players getting back online for at least two years. On that note, have a great holiday weekend, everyone…