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ESPN Cuts Poker Programming in Wake of Indictments, Company Shares Fall

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 ESPN Cuts Poker Programming

(Bloomberg) - Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s ESPN sports cable channel will remove poker advertising and programming following a federal indictment against gambling websites that sponsor televised tournaments.

“We are aware of the indictment only through what has been announced publicly,” Bristol, Connecticut-based ESPN said today in an e-mailed statement. “For the immediate future, we are making efforts to remove related advertising and programming pending further review.”

Poker has become a TV staple, with programs on ESPN, NBC, Fox Sports Net and the Game Show Network. The networks have scheduled 47 programs, including repeats, this week, according to Cardplayer.com. ESPN, the most-watched U.S. sports network, which airs the “World Series of Poker,” declined to elaborate beyond its statement, according to Chris LaPlaca, a spokesman.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan announced on April 15 a revised indictment against the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. PokerStars, based on the Isle of Man, Ireland’s Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker of Costa Rica are the leading online poker sites doing business with U.S. customers, according to prosecutors. Five sites displayed notices today that the FBI had seized the domain names.

The indictment names two principals from each company and others who allegedly worked with them to illegally process payments. A total of five domains were seized, according to Carly Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. They are: Pokerstars.com, Fulltiltpoker.com, Absolutepoker.com, Ultimatebet.com and UB.com.

‘High Stakes Poker’

Disney, based in Burbank, California, fell 32 cents to $41.20 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock has climbed 9.8 percent this year.

News Corp. (NWSA)’s Fox Sports Net broadcasts “World Poker Tour.” Lou D’Ermilio, a spokesman for Fox Sports in New York, couldn’t immediately comment.

Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBC airs “Poker After Dark” and the “National Heads Up Championship,” while the Game Show Network, owned by DirecTV and Sony Corp., airs “High Stakes Poker.” Chris McCloskey, a spokesman for NBC Sports in New York, couldn’t immediately comment.

News Corp., based in New York, fell 42 cents to $16.98 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The Class A stock has gained 17 percent this year. Comcast lost 53 cents to $23.96. DirecTV retreated $1.04 to $45.85, while Sony’s U.S. traded stock declined 44 cents to $29.25.

The case is U.S. v. Scheinberg, 10-cr00336, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

 

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