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Bryan Micon, the pioneer behind Bitcoin poker site, SealsWithClubs, has been charged with “operating an unlicensed interactive gaming system” in Nevada. According to reports in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, an arrest warrant has been issued for the online poker operator.
Should Micon be convicted of the Class B felony, he could face 10 years in jail and receive a $50,000 fine.
The charges relate to allegations that Micon knowingly operated an illegal gaming site from March 2014 until February 2015.
Documents filed in court say that SealsWithClubs operated “without first procuring and thereafter maintaining in effect the required licenses.”
Although the complaint was filed on Monday, Micon’s US-facing poker site, SealsWithClubs, was actually shut down two months ago.
Warrant Follows February Police Raid
In February, Las Vegas police raided his home and placed Micon under arrest.
“A bunch of guys with guns broke down my door, put me in handcuffs, served me a warrant from the Nevada Gaming Commission regarding SealsWit Clubs and bitcoin poker,” said Micon in a video he filmed and published online shortly after the arrest.
“After I was lead out in handcuffs in my underwear, it was pretty clear that it was proper to leave sooner rather than later and I didn’t really want my two-year-old daughter, whom I love very much, to grow up in a police state where creativity was met with guns and what not.”
Micon decamped to Antigua, where he relaunched the online site, which offers online poker games where players can buy-in using Bitcoins, as SWCpoker.eu.
Nevada Turns On Unlicensed Poker
Nevada was one of the first three states in the US to regulate and legalize online poker sites. However, regardless of its new stance on the legality of Internet poker, it seems that the arrest is down to licensing issues rather than any anti-gambling position.
“Bryan has always maintained that he committed no wrongdoing, but I’m not in a position to comment on the Attorney General’s filing because I haven’t seen it,” said Micon’s defense attorney, Richard Schonfeld, following the arrest warrant issue.
The Rise of Bitcoin Poker
SealsWithClubs takes advantage of the revolution in digital currencies. As a new crypto-currency, Bitcoin has no trail back to banks and is totally anonymous.
That makes it ideal for many gamblers to use to bet online or play poker with, especially in grey or unregulated jurisdictions.
As Bitcoins are completely virtual, however, they can be subject to theft if servers are hacked or stolen. However, in Micon’s YouTube statement in February, he reiterated that “all Bitcoins were safe,” after the initial raid. “Math does not bow to guns.”
There are currently several casino and poker sites that deal almost exclusively with Bitcoin payments. Gamblers can buy-in to tournaments or gamble at table games using the digital currency, but they are at the whim of current markets when cashing out Bitcoins to wallets and selling them at exchanges for cold, hard cash.