ESPN will still carry the World Series of Poker this year, company spokesman Chris LaPlaca told Bloomberg News on Tuesday in an emailed statement.
But the sports and entertainment cable network, which is owned by Walt Disney Co., will remove some poker advertising and programming after the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York indicted gambling websites that sponsor televised tournaments and froze their bank accounts, new reports indicated.
A World Series of Poker spokesman Tuesday declined to comment on the effect a federal indictment filed against three of the world’s largest Internet poker websites would have on participation in this year’s tournament.
The 42nd World Series of Poker is scheduled for May 31 to July 19 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. Five hundred people are participating in a circuit poker tournament that began Friday at Caesars Palace and runs through the end of the month.
ESPN, which is based in Bristol, Conn., said it won’t air 10 hours of PokerStars programming.
PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker were charged Friday with bank fraud, money laundering and operating illegal gambling businesses. Eleven people, including Las Vegas resident Chad Elie, were named in the indictment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York also filed a claim for $3 billion against the operators.
According to Pokerscout’s weekly traffic report, all three affected sites have seen their traffic drop significantly. Full Tilt’s 48 percent decline was the most dramatic, followed by Absolute Poker with a 39 percent decline and PokerStars at 25 percent.
The lawyer for Elie contested bank fraud conspiracy charges on Tuesday by saying his client never lied to a bank.
Attorney William Cowden made the comment outside court after Elie pleaded not guilty and was released on $250,000 bail. He said Elie intends to “aggressively defend” charges that he and 10 others conspired to persuade banks to process billions of dollars in illegal Internet revenues. Elie had appeared in federal court in Las Vegas last week and was making his first appearance in the Manhattan court where the case will be prosecuted.
The 31-year-old Elie and others are accused of fooling banks into processing Internet poker transactions. Authorities said Elie persuaded a Utah bank operator to process transactions in return for a $10 million investment in the bank.
A law enacted in the U.S. in 2006 makes it a crime for gambling businesses to knowingly accept most forms of payment in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful Internet gambling.
Cowden said his client “never lied to a bank.”
The prosecution said its goal is to shut down the U.S. operations of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.
At one point during Elie’s 10-minute court appearance, Cowden handed a prosecutor a small box containing what he said was a 500-gigabyte hard drive.
Magistrate Judge Frank Maas said he’d never before seen a defense lawyer hand over a piece of evidence at such an early stage of court proceedings.
Outside court, Cowden said he didn’t want to waste any time getting the case to trial. He also said his client would not speak about the case.
The bail package calls for Elie to post $50,000 in cash by next week as collateral. Among three financially responsible people who must sign his bond was his wife, Destiny Davis. Davis, a Miss January 2005 Playboy Playmate, was married Saturday to Elie at Little Church of the West in Las Vegas. Davis sat in the last row of spectator seating during the arraignment.