FirePay Settles with NY District AttorneyBy: Adam Richards, Monday November 9th 2009
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FirePay is a popular e-wallet at online casinos. It is owned by the Optimal Group Inc. of Canada. FirePay has reportedly paid out $19.2 million to the New York District Attorney (NYDA) as a settlement of charges against it according to the Reuters news agency. This highlights that despite all the moves and noises being made against the UIGEA, the legal machinery in the United States is firm on proceeding against online gambling.
The scenario with FirePay is very similar to that of Neteller or Party Gaming. After the UIGEA was enacted in October 2006 FirePay withdrew from the United States online gambling market. However, in 2007 the state of New York began to pursue the earlier transactions of FirePay, even before the UIGEA went into law. The NYDA totaled the wagers placed by citizens of New York State between 2004 and 2006 and came up with $19.2 million, which FirePay paid in order to arrive at a settlement. This was the amount already seized by the NYDA, which FirePay agreed to forfeit. A statement from Optimal read that the amount was "disgorgement of property involved in and proceeds received from the payment processing services that were provided by the company’s subsidiaries to Internet gambling merchants in relation to U.S. customers of such merchants." The figures for financial transactions across the United States were even greater. A statement by the NYDA said, "Optimal, operating an electronic wallet called FirePay, processed more than $2 billion worth of illegal gambling transactions for United States customers."
The advantage to FirePay is that the settlement clears it of any criminal wrongdoing. The bad news for the online gambling industry is that as a part of the settlement FirePay has had to attest that the online gambling operators using its services knew that they were engaging in illegal activities. Therefore it is expected that a fresh round of prosecutions will be mounted by the NYDA and more funds will be seized. This has resulted in many online casinos, online poker rooms and online sports books not accepting players from New York as customers. However this would only prevent future liabilities from accruing. The NYDA is targeting transactions carried out in and before 2006 and nothing can be done about that.
The states of Kentucky and Louisiana have also been pursuing financial transactions processing the payments of online casino operators. With the settlement with FirePay New York State has surged ahead in the race for procuring the most revenue from online gambling operators functioning in the United States market. Unless the proposed anti-UIGEA bills get converted to laws really soon there is little respite likely from the ongoing prosecutions.
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