Monday November 5, 2012 : A CHANGE OF HEART ON POKER?
 
Former US Attorney and an opinion on the skill vs. chance debate
 
The online poker information site Quadjacks unearthed an interesting opinion on the intricacies of the chance vs. skill legal debate over the weekend, reporting that Black Friday cash processing defendant Chad Elie had posted a view from former Missouri US Attorney Catherine Hanaway, now apparently employed in the legal private sector.
 
Hanaway rose to prominence in the first really big U.S. bust of an online gambling firm when she headed the government prosecution team and presided over the resultant demise of BetOnSports and the detention of its CEO, David Carruthers back in 2006
 
In 2010, Hanaway appeared to be employed by a law firm led by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, which provided a legal opinion to SunFirst, a bank that subsequently featured in the e-processing prosecutions that have been a feature of the internet gambling scene in recent times.
 
Quadjacks reports that the Hanaway letter is one of the documents posted by Elie, who has been sentenced to a five month jail term, on his Twitter account this week at http://twitter.com/BlackFridayChad/status/264475312329478144/photo/1
 
In the letter Hanaway gives her professional opinion on the Wire Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, although it must be remembered that this was prior to the game-changing December 2011 DoJ about-face on the Wire Act.
 
To quote Quadjacks: "The Hanaway letter seems to support the notion that processing transactions related to online poker does not violate the Wire Act or the UIGEA. This is a document a bank would need to protect themselves against liability in case the transactions turned out to be problematic."
 
An article published in the Salt Lake Tribune in April last year and subsequently referenced in an April 2011 discussion on the twoplustwo message board confirms the existence of the Hanaway letter here:
 
http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/money/51650236-79/bank-companies-payments-poker.html.csp and notes:
 
"A letter last year to SunFirst from a law firm led by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft says the firm believes it could be legal to process payments for peer-to-peer poker players, that is those who play against each other and not against a computer.
 
"If a case was taken all the way to a judge and/or jury, and a decision was made on the legality of these practices … we believe the decision would be in favor of online poker as a game of skill being allowed under those laws," said Catherine Hanaway, the attorney who wrote the letter.
 
"The letter dated July 26, 2010, was solicited on behalf of one of the poker companies, PokerStars, named in the [Black Friday] indictment and addressed to SunFirst Bank. It came about seven months after the indictment says SunFirst began processing payments.
 
"But the letter makes clear that the Department of Justice "takes a contrary position" and warns that the law in this area was unsettled.
 
"Hanaway said given that warning, she was not surprised by the indictments."
 
It is not clear what Elie hopes to achieve by posting the Hanaway letter, although it is certainly an interesting postscript to his case.