LAS VEGAS – Casino regulators on the British Channel Islands on Wednesday suspended the gambling license of Full Tilt Poker, halting the company's online card games and intensifying its legal problems in the U.S.
The Alderney Gambling Control Commission said in a statement it was immediately suspending Full Tilt's license after an investigation prompted by earlier federal indictments in New York, accusing company executives and associates of bank fraud, money laundering and other crimes.
Full Tilt officials did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Online poker operations are illegal in the U.S. under a 2006 law that forbids financial institutions from processing payments related to illegal online gambling. Prosecutors in New York say employees of Full Tilt, Poker Stars and Absolute Poker skirted this law by disguising payments, creating shell retailers online and pushing money through as sales for things like golf balls and flowers.
The Alderney commission said its internal investigation showed that Full Tilt employees and associates operated contrary to its gambling laws. It set a hearing on the matter for July 26 in London.
"The decision to suspend the eGambling license was in the public interest and, because of the seriousness and urgency of the matter, it required that immediate action be taken ahead of the regulatory hearing," said Andre Wilsenach, the commission's executive director.
PokerScout, a website that tracks online poker traffic worldwide, showed zero users playing on Full Tilt for real money Wednesday, down from an average of 9,000 at any given moment during the past week.
The commission's move prompted gambling regulators in the Isle of Man to reaffirm the licensing status of PokerStars, the world's largest online poker site that has faced the same legal trouble as Full Tilt.
"PokerStars continues to demonstrate compliance with its license conditions in the Isle of Man," the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission said in a statement. "PokerStars continues to offer withdrawals to any players who wish to withdraw their funds, including players in the USA to whom PokerStars does not currently offer real-money gaming."
Withdrawals have been a sticky topic for players loyal to the sites.
PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker have all taken steps toward agreements with the U.S. Department of Justice to repay players who deposited online funds with the sites. But only PokerStars has begun actually repaying funds.
The site said in a statement it has repaid about $120 million to Americans, keeping funds segregated from operating accounts.
PokerStars said it also remains in compliance with regulators in other jurisdictions including France, Italy and Estonia.