Nevada Attorney General Announces Prosecution of Bitcoin Poker Site Operator Bryan Micon
Nevada gaming officials announced a first-of-its-kind prosecution of an online poker website operator. Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt identified Bryan Micon as the operator of “Seals with Clubs“, an unlicensed Internet poker site which uses bitcoin for its currency.
Nevada officials say that Bryan Micon is particular offender in the online gambling business, and that the state of Nevada is determined to maintain its reputation as a leader in casino regulation–both online and offline. Nevada is one of three states, along with New Jersey and Delaware, which has regulated online gambling.
Bryan Micon – Illegal Gaming Operator
Bryan Micon, a 36-year old man living in Las Vegas, is not in custody. Las Vegas prosecutor Jeffrey Segal says that Mr. Micon is thought to have traveled to Antigua, an island nation in the Caribbean, to escape justice. Despite that fact, law enforcement agents served a search warrant at Bryan Micon’s home in February.
Seals With Clubs, the poker website, is inactive at the moment. The site advices member players that they have until early May to retrieve their bitcoin balances. After next week, sealswithclubs.eu is going to shut down and accounts will not be accessible.
Micon’s Lawyers Provide Statement
David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld, who happen to be the lawyers for indicted illegal gaming operator Paul Phua, are representing Micon in his abscense. The two lawyers say they have not yet seen the criminal complaint filed in Clark County District Court, but acknowledged that it accuses their client of operating an unlicensed interactive gaming portal. If captured and convicted, the charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in a Nevada state prison.
For his part, Bryan Micon posted on Twitter on April 20, “Sure I’m under a lot of stress recently, but when I look at it logically and review my Monday…Can’t be mad.”
The quote was posted alongside a picture of Mycon presumably with his daughter, overlooking a picturesque bay in Antigua.
Tony Alamo Says Indictment Is Unique
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo, who pointed out that online bitcoin poker is a major shift away from numbers-running and other old style bookmaker operations, said that the case signals a new era in enforcement of unlicensed online gambling.
Mr. Alamo said, “This is unique. Twenty to 30 years ago, before technology, it was very difficult to begin a gaming operation and not get caught. Now, you put in a server in any location, and you have access to the world.”
Tony Alamo says that Nevada is staking out its territory, while declaring a new policy when it comes to illegal gaming on that territory. Alamo added, “This sends an enormous message. Technologically, its easy to do. But if you do it in Nevada, we’re going to prosecute you.”
In Operation Less Than a Year
Bryan Micon is accused of operating the illegal website from March 2014 until February 2015. In that time, an undercover agent of the Nevada Gaming Control Board opened an account and played on “Seals With Clubs” using 0.001 bitcoin units. The agent told a Nevada judge about his activities, explaining the details of bitcoin transactions.
What Is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a virtual currency which arose in 2008 and 2009 as a reaction to the Global Recession and the subsequent credit crunch. Bitcoin is not backed by a government and it confers a high degree of anonymity on those who use it. This makes the currency a perfect way to gamble online on unlicensed websites, because it makes it hard for regulators and law enforcement officials to track the activity.
Several cases in the past few years have involved bitcoin trading, such as the Silk Road website, which was called the Amazon of the Deep Web. The Deep Web was an invention of the U.S. military, used for coded online traffic. Web operators and entrepreneurs have used it to add an additional layer of privacy to transactions, due to the anonymity provided by the deep web software. A website like Seals With Clubs therefore stays off the general radar, while protecting the privacy of its users. This unregulated environment also means players expose themselves to possible scams, because of the anonymity of the site’s owners.
Money Laundering with Bitcoin
For the same reason, bitcoin is a perfect way to launder money and make illegal drug sales online. That is the reason Silk Road was shut down, because drugs were bought and sold online in an Amazon-style web platform.
Online poker and casino gaming (or any money transaction involving those games) was illegal in the United States from the time the UIGEA went into effect at the end of 2006. The policy on prosecution changed in late-2011, when the Department of Justice said that online sports betting was illegal under federal law, but online poker and casino bets were not. Since that time, Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware legalized online casinos and card rooms. California, Pennsylvania, and other states have considered legalization. Several states currently have proposed bills which would legalize and tax either online poker sites or Internet casinos and poker sites.
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