Reports from the Associated Press news agency this week describe an online poker promotional website which has apparently misused the logo and identity of the University of Massachusetts to attract traffic, causing a ruckus and a demand from the college that the site be taken down.
UMasspoker.com contains the trademarked UMass-Amherst lettering and Minuteman athletic logo and depicts the Minuteman peering over stacks of cash, dice, cards and poker chips. School officials have sent a cease-and-desist demand to the site’s operators.
"If they don’t comply then we go to court," school spokesman Ed Blaguszewski told The Associated Press reporter. "The UMass name and logo are university property, and they cannot be used without the university’s permission. This Web site is not an appropriate use."
The site appears to be operated by students and recent graduates, billing itself as an information exchange about poker strategy and cash games and tournaments on and off campus.
Brett Burdick, who graduated from UMass-Amherst last spring, said he’s been the site moderator for the past year.
"We never got any grief over it," he told AP. "There’s sites just like this all over the country on college campuses."
Directly below the site’s logo is a link to Empire Poker.com, which within a few clicks allows users to start gambling. Empire Poker.com, licensed by the government of Gibraltar, is promoted by Baywatch beauty Traci Bingham, who is featured prominently on the site. There are links to seven other online poker sites, located under a section called "Online Poker Room Reviews."
Associated Press estimates the annual revenues from global Internet gambling at around $12 billion, based outside the United States, though about half of the customers live in America. Players can easily skirt a new U.S. ban on Web gambling financial transactions by registering accounts offshore, the report adds.
UMasspoker.com contains information about past and upcoming poker games on campus, some of which appear to be illegal.
A September 24 posting about a "September Kick-off" tournament two days prior in the fifth-floor lounge of the Coolidge residential tower said 21 people participated and the total prize pool was $421. The "buy-in" was $10. The top winner took home $160.
Burdick, interviewed before UMass announced its action, said he doesn’t know if such games are illegal or not. He said he never received information from the university about whether such games are allowed.
"That’s sort of a gray area," said Burdick, who did not return calls for further comment.
An advisory issued by the state Attorney General’s office two years ago — in response to the rising popularity of poker games such as Texas Hold’em — said most poker tournaments are illegal unless operated by a licensed nonprofit organisation. It said it’s illegal to promote, operate or play in a poker tourney if players pay an entry fee, bet, and cash or other prizes are awarded to winning players.
Blaguszewski said UMass isn’t looking to prosecute people, but wants the site taken down. The bigger issue, he said, is educating students about the dangers of compulsive gambling.
"This is an issue across the country for colleges and universities," he said, adding that university health counselors "have begun working with residence life staff and plan to increase their outreach efforts."
The UMasspoker.com domain name was created and registered in November 2003 and updated last year. The domain name is set to expire November 8, unless it’s updated again. The registrant was Daryn Firicano, who could not be reached for comment. He had no phone number listed to his Amherst address and an e-mail listed to him has expired.
In a May 2005 letter to the student newspaper, the Daily Collegian, David E. Rudman described himself as "a founding member" of UMasspoker.com, which he described as a nonprofit site home to 500 UMass poker players "who share information, discuss theory and dispel ’get-rich-quick’ rumors." There was no Massachusetts phone listing to Rudman.