|The US Department of Justice seized $3.2 million paid to Discovery Communications by Tropical Paradise sportsbook for advertising, a report in the New York Times said this week. The report said DOJ officers regularly seize funds they believe may be involved in money laundering, terrorism or drug smuggling, and now their remit seems to have stretched to include online gambling. |
Tropical Paradise, an online casino based in Costa Rica, paid Discovery the cash in October to advertise its ParadisePoker.com internet poker room. According to legal documents, the US government confiscated the money and told Discovery it could be acting illegally by running the ads.
The backdrop to this case is that US Federal prosecutors can’t go after the casino operators as they internet casinos are typically run offshore or in Central America. So for the past year, the US has been trying to put the squeeze on the sites by pressuring US companies that service the casinos, saying they are ‘aiding and abetting’ the offshore operators. Until recently, that pressure has been about gaining information from the media outlets that carry the ads for online casinos. The confiscation of cash represents a new phase in the battle.
However, the move has provoked opposition from some quarters in the US, notably on legal and First Amendment issues: 'This is not drug money or terrorist money,' said Rodney A. Smolla, dean of the University of Richmond School of Law. 'The fact it is being treated as such shows a crusader's zeal against offshore gambling.'