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Thursday, 01 December 2011 08:43

The Sticky Business of Online Poker

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When it comes to scandal, poker provides plenty of fodder. Online poker sites are abuzz with the latest celebrity gossip which happens to involve everyone’s favourite term-of-the-moment: Ponzi scheme.

Tobey Maguire is surely used to being caught in a sticky web of lies, but online poker news sites report that he has wisely decided to fold and settle a poker lawsuit.

Former hedge fund operator Bradley Ruderman ran a series of unlicensed poker games funded by money he defrauded from his clients. The Texas Hold’em tournaments, in which millions of dollars changed hands, involved high-profile businessmen and celebrities including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire.

Maguire won $311,000 at the tables from Ruderman. The now-bankrupt Ruderman Capital Partners alleged that since the games were illegal, the winnings were ill-gotten gains that Maguire was obliged to return. Although Maguire was unaware that an illegal scheme was operating, he has agreed to pay $80,000, which will go towards repaying the victims of the scheme.

The current laws within the US has meant that citizens are still restricted to playing free poker online or in real-money tournaments, which has left them vulnerable to unscrupulous unlicensed dens. Although the government sought to protect its citizens, it has in fact done precisely the opposite and left the country with the worst of both worlds – a flourishing unregulated, illegal industry and a market which legal, reputable sites like Party Poker and Pokerstars can’t touch.

Whilst it is important to acknowledge that problem gambling exists, closing the market appears to have done nothing except encourage a proliferation of illegal activity. Free poker is fun, but whilst the demand for real-money poker is there, there’ll always be illegal sites willing to take advantage of innocent players. The government would do better to protect its citizens through regulation.