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North American Poker Tour Exposes PokerStars

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:
Jan/06/2010

A lucrative sponsorship deal of the North American Poker Tour will further help to boost market share for online poker's largest room, PokerStars.com.  There is a downside to all of this as Gambling911.com has been reporting on extensively throughout the second half of 2009.

"On Wednesday, PokerStars did the smart thing by offering a free breakfast that the assembled media could find in the same room as the press conference trumpeting the worst-kept secret in the poker. Finally, the North American Poker Tour, the newest of PokerStars' series of region-specific tours, has been made official," Andrew Feldman of ESPN.com reported. "The subject of assorted whispers over the last eight months or so, the NAPT is looking like Stars' attempt to infiltrate and eventually conquer the US televised tournament market."

The NAPT is the first major poker tour in North America created by poker players for poker players with accessible buy-ins, expectations for massive prize pools and thousands of players from around the world all competing for millions of dollars. The NAPT will start at the

PokerStars.net Caribbean Adventure (PCA) in the Bahamas on January 5, 2010.

Two further stops are already planned for the NAPT's inaugural season, with more events to be announced soon. The NAPT Venetian event in Las Vegas, Nevada, from February 20-24 will be the Main Event of The Venetian's Deep Stack Extravaganza I; and the NAPT Mohegan Sun Main Event in Uncasville, Connecticut, from April 7-11 will be the star feature of a spectacular new poker festival there this Spring.

Both Main Event buy-ins will be $5,000 and like the PCA will feature an exciting variety of side events with a broad range of buy-ins to suit all players.

Joanna Krupa (pictured left), famed from appearing on "Dancing with the Stars" and "PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge" will be its TV host. It will feature the very best players from North America and from around the world, including team members  Joe Cada, Greg Raymer, Vanessa Rousso and

Daniel Negreanu who is among those who have been eagerly awaiting the launch of the NAPT.

"I'm really looking forward to the launch of the NAPT.  PokerStars.net has done an excellent job sponsoring meaningful tournaments around the world with the EPT, LAPT, APPT, and various other local tours - and it's exciting to see them coming to my home town of Las Vegas!  With the addition of the NAPT, I'll have a chance to play some tournaments on home soil, and I'm very excited about that," said Negreanu.

Lost in all of this hoopla is the fact that PokerStars closely aligned payment processors have been the subject of an aggressive investigation by US Attorney's Office out of the Southern District of New York that culminated in seizures of funds and an indictment last summer.  Online poker, and more broadly - online gambling, has been the subject of numerous investigation in recent years.  

The US Attorney's office did notify legal counsel for Costigan Media, parent company of Gambling911.com, that they have submitted filings to the Court in recent weeks, though no specifics were provided.  Costigan Media was successful in having that office unseal some portions of the seizure warrants issued last June following a decision rendered by the Honorable Judge Laura Taylor Swain.  The electronic media company is represented by Baruch Weiss of Arent Fox (pictured).  He has previously served as the assistant general counsel for enforcement at the Treasury Department, and as the acting deputy general counsel at Homeland Security.

Though names related to an ongoing investigation were allowed to remain redacted as part of that court ruling, both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were mentioned as part of the unredacted content and individuals close to the investigation suggest that further indictments are possible.

Industry experts also suggest that PokerStars principals are less exposed in this case since they have little presence in the United States as per actual operations whereas Full Tilt Poker "ownership" is publicly made up of professionals living within the US.

It remains to be seen whether the North American Poker Tour will serve to further push the buttons of the US Government.

One of PokerStars payment processors, Canadian Douglas Rennick, faces more than 50 years in prison (cumulative), $1.75 million in fines, and the forfeiture of nearly $566 million on charges of fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling operations for his doing business.

For PokerStars, they risk irking the US Government further but the rewards of the North American Poker Tour could ultimately far outweigh the risk as they chip away at additional lucrative market share. 

Jagajeet Chiba, Gambling911.com 

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