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Judge Questions Online Gambling Prosecutions At Dikshit Hearing

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Judge Jed Rakoff called into question US prosecutors on Thursday at the sentencing of former PartyGaming co-founder Anurag Dikshit. The admitted felon received no jail time in a case that has spanned several years and led to many questions about online poker laws in the US.

Judge Rakoff sentenced Dikshit to one year probation for his role in PartyGaming. Dikshit had previously said that he thought he "possibly" could have been breaking US laws when PartyGaming was accepting US customers, but not everyone is convinced that is the case.

During the hearing, the judge brought into question the idea of why no others had been prosecuted for online gambling related crimes dealing with this case. Dikshit has been cooperating with the US as part of his plea deal back in 2008, and the judge did not understand why that cooperation has not led to more arrests.

"Nobody else has been indicted," said Judge Rakoff during the hearing, while speaking to Assistant US Attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown. "It has been two years since this defendant began cooperating, what's going on?"

Devlin-Brown responded by saying that the investigation is ongoing, but it has become clear over the past couple of years that these types of cases are not netting much results outside of financial gain for the US justice system. The main question that has been raised that prosecutors are afraid to find the answer out is whether or not online poker is even illegal under US law.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was created back in 2006, but that legislation only further clouded the existing Wire Act law that was on the books. The UIGEA makes it illegal for banks to process online gambling transactions, but does not address what games are considered illegal online.

Making matters worse for prosecutors are the number of judges around the country that have ruled poker a game of skill. By ruling the game is skill and not luck, it has become difficult to prosecute players or site operators under state laws. Many states define illegal gambling as playing games of chance.

While Dikshit will not receive jail time, it is unlikely he will be invited back into the online gambling community anytime soon. Poker players around the US were furious with Dikshit when he pleaded guilty in the case. The admission of guilt is not something players wanted as a precedent in the country.

The light sentencing Thursday again showed that no judge is willing to put their name on a long sentence involving online gambling. With the laws murky, the judge in this case had obvious doubts as to whether Dikshit actually broke any laws, and he showed that by sentencing Dikshit to only one year probation.

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