When the news of PartyGaming’s largest shareholder and co-founder, Anurag Dikshit, pleading guilty to violating the Wire Act of 1961 in the Southern District Court of New York broke this month, a virtual gasp could be heard around the online poker world. One of the most important people in internet poker history decided to voluntarily turn himself in, pay $300 million in penalties, and possibly serve jail time.It was shocking.
After jaws were picked up off the floor, poker players were left asking, “Why?”Why would Dikshit essentially fly to the United States, walk into a court room, and say, “Hi, I broke your laws. Have at it.” And why would he do this when the Wire Act only applies to sports betting?
One common opinion is that the man is either a moron or has been advised very poorly by an incompetent legal team at PartyGaming. The only people who have been nabbed in the U.S. have been those whose companies offered sports betting to American customers, and they were only apprehended after setting foot on U.S. soil. While PartyGaming did operate PartyCasino.com (Starluck Casino was actually the first offering the company launched, back in 1997), PartyBingo.com, and PartyGammon.com, in addition to PartyPoker.com, to U.S. residents, PartyGaming never ran any sports betting services until it withdrew from the U.S. following the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. So to many, Anurag Dikshit should have been convinced that he did nothing to violate U.S. law and that he would not be arrested unless he travelled to the States.
Others believe in a bit more of a conspiracy theory.What some think is that Dikshit did this in order to get on the good side of the U.S. government so that when the U.S. market opens back up for online poker, Party Poker will get preferential treatment when it comes to licensing and access to U.S. players. Come clean now, and Party will jump to the front of the line later. In my opinion, one problem with this theory is that PartyGaming’s two other major individual shareholders, Ruth Parasol and Russ DeLeon (who own 17 percent of the company a piece, compared to Dikshit’s 27 percent), have not followed Dikshit’s lead. Additionally, the company itself has been involved in talks with the U.S. Department of Justice “…with the aim of removing any uncertainty regarding the Company’s legal status in the United States…” These discussions have nothing to do with Dikshit’s situation.
Me, I don’t really think it is all that complicated. I don’t think there is some grand scheme to the whole guilty plea, some master plan where Party Poker can once again rule the world if and when online poker is fully legalized and regulated in the United States. I think that Anurag Dikshit just wants to not have to look over his shoulder, not worry about if the U.S. government is going to drag him off to prison. Of course, he may still go to prison, but he can now go somewhat on his own terms.
Dikshit probably just wants the freedom to live his life as he wishes. He wants to be free to travel to the United States if he wants, without worrying about law enforcement officials waiting for him as he gets off the plane. Contrary to what many may think, $300 million is unlikely to be “nothing” to Anurag Dikshit, but at the same time, he is still probably worth around $1 billion (Associated Press reports put his net worth at $1.6 billion in 2007), so he won’t have any problems paying the bills. But the ability to not have to worry about being in the crosshairs anymore very well could be worth the $300 million to him and, even if he ends up going to prison for a few months, a year, or even two years, a weight will be lifted off his shoulders.