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Casino City's Top-10 online gaming stories from 2008

29 December 2008

10. Chips fly and records fall at Full Tilt
The combination of big names playing for some big money at a dizzying pace certainly made for one of the biggest online stories of 2008. It was the last weekend in October when the likes of Phil Ivey, Tom "durrrr" Dwan and John Juanda were playing at Full Tilt when the record for the largest online No-Limit Hold'em pot was broken four times within 24 hours.

Dwan got things started when he captured a pot worth $617,968. Later that night Juanda took down a $678,069 pot, before Mr. Ivey got into the action, beating out Juanda for another record-breaking pot worth $687,622. Just nine hours later, Di "urindanger" Dang finished off the record-setting day at Full Tilt, winning a pot worth $723,938 with the help of pocket aces.

9. Calvin Ayre's "retirement"
The online gambling world was taken aback a bit in April when Bodog issued a press release announcing that the estimable Calvin Ayre would be "retiring from his largely ceremonial role as the face of Bodog."

Since this is Bodog we're talking about, questions were raised as to what exactly this meant. Was Calvin literally retiring and heading off into the sunset? Was he trying to avoid the Feds? Or was this some sort of publicity stunt?

Then, in classic Calvin Ayre style, the Bodog founder somewhat clarified his move on his blog stating, "You've likely heard the rumblings and rumors….and for once…..it's true…I'm packing it in! Well who am I kidding, if you're reading this now you know that for the past few years I've been pretty focused on jetting around the world to exotic places and filming crazy sh** for this blog. I was really more of a brand ambassador for Bodog the past while anyway – but it was fun while it lasted."

All cynicism aside, Calvin also stated in his blog that he was going to focus his e on a "balanced private life" and "The Calvin Ayre Foundation, which I am truly passionate about." No matter what the real story was behind his "retirement" you have to hand Calvin credit for the growth of his foundation.

8. IRS seizes Bodog payment processors
Was this part of the reason Mr. Ayre announced his retirement? Nobody knows for sure, but you have to think that Calvin had an idea something like this was on the horizon.

The news of the seizure came to the forefront in late July when it was revealed that a two-year IRS investigation into Bodog resulted in the seizure of more than $24 million from two payment processors. On Jan. 24 and Feb. 19, the IRS seized about $14.2 million from JBL Services. And on July 2, it seized about $9.87 million from ZipPayments. Bodog quickly released a statement saying the seizures didn't affect its business.

"Not one single player failed to get paid when this processor (JBL Services) was disrupted," Alwyn Morris, chief executive officer of Morris Mohawk Gaming Group, which assumed ownership and operation of Bodog in North America in mid-2007.

7. Online gaming sites attacked by bots
It's a scary headline for anyone involved with the online gaming business, but it was true. In February, Full Tilt Poker, Titan Poker, Virgin Games and Party Poker were among the sites attacked by a web-based botnet , according to the Shadowserver Foundation. Full Tilt Poker's site was inaccessible for parts of two days. And Full Tilt had to "pause" the final table of the FTOPS VII Main Event for a brief period with just three players remaining when its client lost connectivity with the Full Tilt servers.

The Shadow Foundation traced the initial attacks to a server hosted by Layered Technologies. That server was shut down, but the botnet moved to a new host and IP address.

"DDos attacks are always going to be out there," said Andre M. DiMino, director of the Shadowserver Foundation. "In the past, they were used to show the might of the botnet. But the real purpose for botnets now is fraud and identity theft."

6. AGA President announces shift in attitude for online gambling
In a year filled with downbeat news for the online gambling industry, American Gaming Association President and CEO Frank Fahrenkopf provided a breath of fresh air when he announced at the G2E trade show in Las Vegas in November that "the need for new tax money could drive [online] legalization in both houses of Congress."

While we are likely a long away from this becoming a reality, Fahrenkopf's announcement was a good start, especially if you consider that in the past the AGA's stance towards online gambling was much unenthusiastic.

5. Norway passes own version of UIGEA
More bad news for the industry came in December when the Norwegian parliament passed a proposal in December that mimics the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that the U.S. adopted in 2006. The Norwegian measure bans financial transactions between the nation's residents and online gambling operators.

Fortunately, it is unlikely the ban will go into effect until mid-2009 at the earliest, but this still remains as yet another black mark for the industry in 2008.

4. PartyGaming founder pleads guilty
When Anurag Dikshit, a co-founder of PartyGaming, plead guilty in December of violating the Wire Act in connection with offering illegal Internet gambling services to U.S. residents, it sent ripples through the online industry.

The guilty plea meant that the 37-year-old waived his right to indictment by a grand jury. As part of the plea, Dikshit agreed to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice and forfeit a total of $300 million. He was released on $15 million personal recognizance bail, but he faces up to two years in prison. The sentencing curiously won't occur for another two years, however.

The Poker Players Alliance was quick to comment on the story. Alphonse D'Amato, chairman of the PPA, emphasized that the settlement was a personal one that in no way constitutes a legal precedent and does nothing to clarify the confusing interpretation of the Wire Act by the Department of Justice.

3. Microgaming bails out of U.S.
The impact from the Kentucky domain seizure case (see item No. 2 on this list) was felt big-time when Microgaming – one of the world's largest Internet gaming software providers – announced that not only would it be pulling out of Kentucky but also begin blocking new registrations from all U.S. players.

It's one thing to have a court announce that 14online gambling sites that were subject to a seizure order. But when one of the most well-known software providers reacts to it by entirely pulling out of the U.S., it makes the effect that much more daunting.

2. Kentucky domain case
Ever since it was announced in September that Judge Thomas Wingate would hold a forfeiture hearing regarding domain names to 141 online gambling sites in Kentucky, this story has gripped the online gaming industry across the globe.

The list of sites targeted was "developed by attorneys (conducting the investigation) and are sites where people from Kentucky, using Kentucky addresses, were able to place bets," Casino City was told by Jennifer Brislin, communications director for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the government. The targeted domains are held by a mix of domestic and international registrars, Brislin added.

In December, lawyers representing online gambling interests told the Kentucky Court of Appeals that Gov. Steve Beshear's effort to seize domain names is "blatantly unconstitutional" and it appears that there is hope that this decision could turn in favor of online gambling, as the APCW's J. Todd reported in his Dec. 23 edition of Perspective's Weekly.

Stay tuned.

1. UB/AP cheating scandal
Despite the fact that the actual "cheating" in this scandal took place in 2007, the story lingered long enough to dominate the headlines throughout 2008. Fines were handed out, "damage control" statements were made and , investigation teams were appointed. The story even hit the mainstream media when 60 Minutes aired a piece about it.

Unfortunately after all of that, this story may still not be over. And longer it lingers the worse it will be for the industry to recover from it.

Casino City's Top-10 online gaming stories from 2008 is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT