In a bold move that brings serious question to the law, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has seized online poker Web sites FullTiltPoker.com, PokerStars.com and AbsolutePoker.com, according to MMAjunkie.com.
All three gambling Web sites have been charged with accusations of fraud and illegal gambling.
Though each company is independently owned and considered a competitor of one another, the seizure of the Web sites all happened on the same day: April 15, 2011.
As one of the largest sponsors in mixed martial arts, Full Tilt Poker’s legal problems could spell financial hardships for fighters who have been paid to wear their logo in the past, especially those who had worked out deals for fights in the future.
Xtreme Couture Management co-owner Sam Spira spoke about the potential effect that it could have on the business.
"This is a disturbing development," Spira told MMAjunkie.com. "Full Tilt was one of the remaining pro-fighter sponsors that has strongly supported MMA over the past few years. The importance of the ongoing interplay between supporters and fans of poker and supporters and fans of MMA cannot be underestimated."
Magnetic MMA’s Jason Genet seemed optimistic that the sponsorships could continue going forward due to a technicality in how the advertisements were created. The logos worn by fighters have actually been for the “.net” version of their Web sites.
"The poker sponsorships that have been allowed in the UFC and other organizations are actually compliant," Genet told MMAjunkie.com. "They are for learning or entertainment purposes—not wagering. Most of the top organizations have a sponsorship vetting process that protects the athletes.
"For example, if you click on FullTiltPoker.net, you will see that the site is still live."
Still, without revenue flowing in from the United States, the gambling Web sites’ biggest market, there is major concern that there will not be enough revenue coming in to support continued advertisements and sponsorships.
Internet gambling has been illegal in the United States since 2006, but as the number of fighters being sponsored by the various Web sites continued to grow, this was the first time that the federal government truly stepped in and put a stop to the activity.