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Turner Broadcasting To Buy BleacherReport.com

Money to Burn

Turner Broadcasting Systems (TBS) is rumored to be in talks to buy BleacherReport.com for $200 million. The two companies are not commenting but sources close to deal, including the website AllThingsD, are reporting that the framework of the deal is in place and due-diligence has begun.

The Bleacher Report raised $40 million in venture capital since its inception in 2007. The site is primarily made up of user-generated content. It’s the user-generated content that has Bleachers Reports competitors crying foul, saying the sites contributors borrow content already released. The argument is weak. Twitter breaks news about 15 minutes ahead of the AP. Social networks are the hub of user generated content. YouTube was full of user generated videos when it was bought for billions.

Bleacher Report has done a great job at adding relevant content at a rapid rate. The contributors have helped propel Bleacher Report to over 9 million uniques per month. In 2010 the company generated an estimated $5 million in revenue. The year over year growth has slowed a bit to an estimated 8% from 2010 to 2011. In 2011 the company hired Rich Calacci away from CBS Interactive and he transformed the sales almost instantly. His team is on pace to bring in over $30 million in ad revenue from partners such as Red Bull, Muscle Milk, Pizza Hut and more.

Bleacher Report is selling at a premium, even for a sports based platform. Compare the potential sale to AOL’s purchase of HuffingtonPost.com for $315 million. At the time of the sale to AOL it had 25 million uniques per month and was doing just over $30 million in revenue. The Huffington Post was considered a prestigious website with real reporters and it’s user generated content is generally contributed by celebrities.

Many are asking why TBS is being so aggressive with its valuation of the Bleacher Report. TBS will likely use its vast resources to enhance the BleacherReport.com traffic. There is no question that TBS is seeking to replace the over 9 million unique visitors its ad network lost when they lost Sports Illustrated this spring. TBS is also losing PGA.com at the end of 2012. Bleacher Report saw its competitor MMAJunkie.com and Big Lead Sports’ sales to USA Today Sports Media Group. Leaving Bleacher Report as the only independent website on ComScore’s top 10.

We see a trend in journalism. The barrier to entry has never been lower. User generated content is the fuel for the World Wide Web. We have operated a user generated fan driven content website for years. We were punished by a major movie studio for most of those years until last year they announced they were launching their own user-generated content fan site.

The new online media properties seem to tout their in house publishing technologies almost as much as the content they produce. Bleacher Report is not the only user generated sports platform. Vox Media, a venture-backed startup, operates the SB Nation sports blog network

Add up the pieces – revenue potential, the loss of Sports Illustrated web traffic, PGA.com relationship coming to an end, a powerful publishing platform, and a core base of passionate contributors and the deal starts to make more sense for Turner than it might at first look.


Fight School

SchoolHouse

Last night’s UFC on FX 4 main event was everything that the major brands want to avoid. There is not a lot of control during a fight. If a guy bites another guy’s ear off the world will be watching. If a guy flips off his opponent a few times on FX, the world will be watching.

The Marketing VP that tells me the sport is too violent and the athletes are too unpredictable was just proven right. The Marketing VP that was taking a “wait and see approach” is going to wait a little bit longer. It is bad enough that we have a champion calling on the Major Brands and a few weeks later show up on TMZ arrested for a DUI single car accident with women that are not his fiancee.

The baseline of this sport should be that it is a form of Martial Arts. You can promote a fight without tarnishing your brand or the value of the guy you are fighting. What did James Tooney call Randy Couture? Then Randy beat him up. So what does that make James? Trash talk is not about taking away from the athletes that compete, discounting those around you. It is about promoting yourself, building your brand and following.

Gray Maynard flipping off Clay Guida is about as far away from being a Martial Artist as you can get. In today’s connected world you cannot say you are one thing and be another. If you are the main event on a televised fight you need to carry yourself accordingly. There is a fine line between promoting a fight and losing your cool. The UFC releases athletes for sending stupid or inappropriate jokes on Twitter but is silent when a fight looks more like an episode of Jersey Shore than a UFC Main Event. The UFC should hand down some serious sanctions for this behavior, and FX should hand the UFC some serious sanctions.

Who is managing these athletes? Where is the training and education of what it means to build your own brand and respect the brand platforms that you are leveraging to build yours? Talking about Coors Light while standing on a Bud Light logo, getting DUI’s, flipping the bird on National TV, and ‘motorboating’ female journalists all hurt the sport’s growth potential. Anderson Silva is reportedly being paid $250,000 to work with Burger King in Brazil. How many Burger Kings are in Brazil vs the US? Yet there are no reports of any mainstream deals of this size for any US based Mixed Martial Artist. I can almost assure you that there won’t be anytime soon if our high profile athletes keep acting the way they are acting in and outside of the Octagon.

There will be enough people that will trash or try to diminish the opponents you face. Your role as a Martial Artist is to respect the sport and your opponents and to train hard to give yourself every advantage possible to win. The way you carry yourself will affect your earnings and the earnings of those that come after you. What do you want your legacy to be?


Seven Years Into the MMA Boom and The 18-35 Male is Seven Years Older

There has been a lot of talk about The Ultimate Fighter show and a lot of it has been kind of negative. If you look at the series with less angry eyes you will see that any show that can last 16 seasons is a successful series. NBC’s ‘Cheer’s’, one of the most successful series ever, ran 11 seasons. “The Ultimate Fighter’ (“TUF”) first aired in 2005 and is on its 7th year of being on Television going on its 16th season in the US and 2nd season Internationally. The show is now growing internationaly, in its second season in Brazil.

This got me thinking, many say the first season of TUF triggered the explosive growth that led many to claim MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the US.. TUF and other UFC Televised fights were rating successes in the male 18-35 demographic. Marketers are still talking about how MMA is a hit with males 18-35 and by all indications growing in popularity amongst females in the same demographic. This is what the advertisers are focused on. This valuable demographic has a history of being “elusive” and has been since the early 2000’s. But it’s been seven years since the Boom of MMA, the ’18-35′ of 2005 is now ’25-42′. Who is focusing on the 25-42M demographic that helped kick start this sport? Or for that matter the early adopters of the sport: the 30-55 Male?

As the sport matures and the fan base increases within the core demographic, brands should not lose sight of the fans that helped create the early iconic brands of the sport. As we age (yeah I am one of them) so do our tastes. However we still like a lot of the same things we used to like. Most of us are passionate about the sport and that passion stands the test of time. We are the demographic that gave this sport its legs and made sure it was able to run.

Look no further than the American Express retirement commercials from the late 90’s and today to see how sophisticated brands are shifting their message. They have gone from showing gray haired grandparents quietly puttering in their flower gardens to ‘salt and pepper’ youthful looking, yet older people out in the world on adventures with sky diving, snorkeling and enjoying their retired life. American Express knows that different generations age differently and wish to be advertised to differently.

I recently turned 40 and I do not think I would wear many of the current MMA brands myself. I like my tee shirts and Chuck Taylors like most guys my age, but no foil, wings or skulls with swords in the eye sockets are going to look right at my kids parent teacher conference.

The MMA specific brands need to remember the people that bought the products that built 100 million dollar companies are getting older and we still have money to spend if you want to make products we can use. For every core demographic there are secondary demographics of younger and older fans. One thing that can’t be ignored is that these fans are getting older as the sport matures and branding and message should be adjusted to continue to reach them.

Below you will find a pretty interesting infographic that shows the habits of the Generation Y or Millennium Generation. Let us know if you agree or disagree.

Jason Genet


Jon Jones vs The Canadian Immigration

 

If you missed it UFC Light Heavyweight Jon “Bones” Jones plead guilty to  Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) today.  For those of you that have never traveled to Canada you might not realize that a DWI is considered a “serious” offense.  I praise Mr. Jones for taking responsibility and handling this matter as expeditiously as possible.

The effect of this conviction go beyond the sentence that will be handed down by the judge.  As an example, if you are traveling to Canada, before you are allowed to enter the Country you will be asked  “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”  When your answer is “yes”, you will likely be turned away.  If you have been convicted  of a DUI or DWI within the last ten years you will not be allowed entrance.  According to the Canadian Criminal Code driving while impaired is a serious crime.  The attitude is supported by most Canadian citizens.

The common person with a conviction may be considered rehabilitated “after” a certain period has expired from the completion of the sentence imposed.  You must apply for rehabilitative status and demonstrate your rehabilitation.  The usual post conviction waiting period is five years.  After this five-year waiting period the person must submit the following documents:

  1. An application form IMM 1444E
  2. A passport size photograph
  3. A copy of your passport data pages
  4. An FBI police certificate
  5. A state police certificate
  6. Copies of court documents indicating the charge, section of law violated, the verdict, and sentencing
  7. Proof of completed sentences, paid fines, court costs, ordered treatments, etc.
  8. Copies of the text of the law describing the offence.
  9. Detailed explanation of the circumstances surrounding the offence
  10. Three letters of reference from responsible citizens.
  11. A non-refundable processing fee of $180 USD

Further information can be found at Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s webpages, Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility and Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility – Frequently Asked Questions.

It might be possible to get a temporary resident permit to enter Canada prior to rehabilitation, but this is up to the passport control officer’s discretion and requires a $200 (Canadian) fee.  The temporary resident permit is meant to allow entry for exceptional circumstances, which would include reasons of national interest or on strong humanitarian or compassionate grounds, which a UFC event is not.

It remains to be seen how the Jones conviction will effect the UFC plans.

Jason Genet


K-Swiss Taps Out of MMA

K-Swiss the parent company of Form is exiting the Mixed Martial Arts landscape. Form was one of the few companies that had a true endorsement model and activated around the athletes and sport.  According to the companies Edgar filings they bought Form in 2010 for $1.6 million and lost about $3.7 million before tapping out.

From their public filing:

13. Form Athletics
On July 23, 2010, the Company entered into a Membership Interest Purchase Agreement (“Purchase Agreement”) with Form Athletics, LLC (“Form Athletics”) and its Members to purchase Form Athletics for $1,600,000 in cash. Form Athletics was established in January 2010 to design, develop and distribute apparel for mixed martial arts under the Form Athletics brand worldwide. The purchase of Form Athletics was part of an overall strategy to enter the action sports market, however, during the third quarter of 2011, the Company decided to no longer pursue operating in this line of business, as discussed below. Operations of Form Athletics have been accounted for and presented as a discontinued operation in the accompanying Consolidated Financial Statements.

Pursuant to the Purchase Agreement, the Company was obligated to pay additional cash consideration to certain Members of Form Athletics in an amount equal to Form Athletics’ EBITDA for the twelve months ended December 31, 2012 (“Form CPP”). The purchase price of $1,600,000 and the net present value of the initial estimate of the Form CPP was capitalized. The fair value of the Form CPP was determined each quarter based on the net present value of the current quarter’s projection of Form Athletics’ EBITDA for the twelve months ended December 31, 2012. Any subsequent changes to the Form CPP was recognized as interest income or interest expense during the applicable quarter.

The acquisition of Form Athletics was recorded as a 100% purchase and the Form CPP liability was recognized and accordingly, the results of operations of the acquired business were included in the Company’s Consolidated Financial Statements from the date of acquisition. A trademark asset totaling $3,150,000 and goodwill of $539,000, were recognized for the amount of the excess purchase price paid over fair market value of the net assets acquired. The amount of goodwill that was deductible for tax purposes was $507,000 and will be amortized over 15 years.

At July 23, 2010, the acquired assets and liabilities assumed in the purchase of Form Athletics was as follows (in thousands):

Balance at
July 23, 2010
Inventories

$ 39
Intangible assets

3,689

Total assets

$ 3,728

Current liabilities

$ 18
Form CPP

2,110

Total liabilities

2,128
Contribution by K•Swiss Inc.

1,600

Total stockholders’ equity

1,600

Total liabilities and stockholders’ equity

$ 3,728

Since Form Athletics began operating in early 2010, operating results prior to the Company’s purchase of Form Athletics were not significant and pro forma information was not materially different than what was reported on the Company’s Consolidated Financial Statements.

14
During the second quarter of 2011, after a review of sales, backlog, cash flows and marketing strategy, the Company determined that its investment in the Form Athletics goodwill and trademark was impaired and recognized impairment losses of $3,689,000 (see Note 5) and reversed the Form CPP liability of $2,110,000, which was recognized as interest income.


Where Is the Brand Activation for Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos Sponsors?

UFC on Fox Sponsorship Activation Non-Existent Leading Into Their UFC Heavyweight Championship Bout

We keep waiting and waiting but it never comes.  This next weekend marks one of the biggest events in Mixed Martial Arts history and yet there is little to no activation.  Since it is obvious that most of the MMA industry does not seem to understand what that word means, here is a brief description:

“Activation includes events, promotions, retail display, outdoor, digital, CRM (customer relationship management), direct, and other such services.”

Why have these athletes and their agencies missed the boat?  Is it because the UFC  has strict guidelines against any ambush marketing for this Fox debut?  Or have the managers of Dos Santos and Velasquez failed at executing on this tremendous opportunity?Even the brands that have been supporting Cain Velasquez from the start of his career, before his fame and before the championship belt have not made the push to connect their brand to the upcoming event.  Aren’t they hoping that the wider reach will sell more shirts?  Is this not the opportunity of a lifetime for Dethrone?  They invested heavily into Cain and having Cain at the forefront of their marketing long before he was a star.  Shouldn’t they be connecting the dots?I know it is a bad economy.  That excuse only flies here in the United States.  The UFC and Cain’s management have gone to great lengths to sell Cain as a Hispanic fighter (even ignoring the fact that he was born in the US) yet where are the Hispanic brands?  There was no housing bust in Mexico.  As a matter of fact a lot of the money from the housing boom here in the US was sent back to Mexico.  So where are the Mexican brands?

The endemic brands are not taking credit or touting the investment made and their success of that investment and the non-endemic brands that have signed on are not activating leading up to this historical event.  Why not?  What am I missing?  Is this not a dream come true?

Look at how well Anderson Silva is doing in his home country of Brazil.  He is landing marquee deals with Nike and Burger King.  Junior is a very likable and marketable guy, especially in Brazil.  Both Mexico and Brazil would be ecstatic to have their Countrymen as the reigning UFC Champion.  Yet it appears that nothing is happening.  If it is happening and the activation is coming post the event, then that is just a recipe for disaster.

We are never going to attract the NASCAR type of sponsors if what we call marketing is ironing a decal on a pair of shorts.  Here at Ingrained Media we have brought in main stream electronic companies, main stream boating companies, large auto manufacturers, drink companies, huge musical talent and more.  We have brought them into the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.  Provided them with activation and total marketing solutions.  All of these companies expected activation and marketing solutions that went above and beyond logo placement.  That is why we have talent on the preliminary cards getting bigger name sponsorship deals then most of the main card talent.

MMA Athletes are not commodities and these opportunities that are being created by others (mainly Zuffa) can be life changing events.  What does it matter if you are fighting for the UFC Heavyweight Belt, if the guy you beat is busy counting his cash, paying off his homes (yes homes) and cars?  What is the actual goal?  To be a World Champion or to be able to support your family and not be in the struggle?  I would rather have my talent be rich than famous.  The sad part of the UFC on Fox event is that you could actually have both.  These managers or agents had an opportunity to change the lives of their fighters, open flood gates for their talent, and the future of the sport. They have not done that and I guess I just do not understand why.

Jason Genet
UPDATED 11-18-2011 – The UFC on Fox has came and gone.  I wanted to update my post a bit to reflect what we saw in the way of sponsorships.
Cain- Cain had a lot of the same sponsors as his previous fight.  Milwaukee Tools, Oak Grove, Dethrone, MicroTech, BSN, LUGZ and a few others.  These sponsors are feeling the pinch of not taking advantage of the opportunity.  There will always be a loser so that is why activation is so important.  Not only will there always be a loser but sometimes the fights are so boring that both fighters come out as losers.  These sponsors had months to promote Cain and keep him active with the Brand.  That is especially true for an athlete that is off due to injuries.  LUGZ who is a Urban shoe company has been sponsoring Cain and other MMA fighters for many years.  They were the only Brand with visible pre-fight activation.
JDS- Junio had Gillette from Brazil.  Gillette is a long term Zuffa sponsor and I am not sure if the two are tied together.  Most brands like Nike or Gillette have international divisions that usually run somewhat independent from the US Brand.  That is likely why we did not see any activation from Gillette here in the US.  This was likely the Brazil division and I am sure they had the activation going in Brazil as they are a major Brand.  Actually it appears that 100% of Juniors sponsors were Brazilian based companies.  In the end it seems like a smart move for a guy who is a hero in his home country and n0t to mention the 22 million viewers that tuned in to watch the fight.
Juniors camp did a great job targeting a lucrative and virtually untapped market.
FOX TV Rating Notes:

- If you combine the FOX and FOX Deportes telecasts (one in Spanish, one in English), it would have received close to a 3.5 rating with 6.2 million viewers and a peak of 8.8 million and a M18-34 rating of 4.7. It is believed a peak close to 9 million was achieved combining both.

- The 4.3 rating in Males 18-34 beat every college football game this season except the LSU vs Alabama game on CBS.

- The 4.3 rating in Males 18-34 beat 65% of the playoff and World Series baseball games this season on FOX.

- The 4.3 rating in Males 18-34 was the third highest rated television show of the year for FOX Deportes.

- The show drew 1.7 million women over the age of 18.

- The median age of viewers for the telecast was 35 years old.

- The 5.7 million viewers was the most watched fight in broadcast on US television since HBO’s Lennox Lewis vs Vitali Klitschko back in 2003

- UFC programming delivered a total of 6.7 million impressions across all FSMG television networks.

- The peak of 8.8 million lasted as long as the fight did, which was 1 minute (fight started at 9:40 pm).

- By 9:45 pm, the viewership had dropped to 5.9 million. Kimbo Slice vs James Thompson peaked at 6.51 million and lasted for 10 minutes and 38 seconds. (Sports Illustrated) … about 25% of the audience had left at the end of the main event.

- UFC on FOX began with 5.2 million viewers and dipped as low as 4.4 million before viewership started to climb around 9:36 pm, as the fighters were starting to make their way to the Octogon. (Sports Illustrated)

Brazil Ratings on TV Globo:

- The event peaked at 22M viewers in Brazil, and during the fight (1 minute), it reached a 20 rating and a 52% share (percentage of homes with TV’s). The ratings were above average for a Sunday morning. (Globo)

-Jason Genet


Our Newest Partner

DCMA Collective and Ingrained Media Partner Up to Usher the Brand Into the Sport of Mixed Martial Arts

Leading Lifestyle Brand DCMA Collective to Enter the World of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) April 25, 2011 — DCMA Collective Lifestyle Brand partners with Ingrained Media to take it’s brand of apparel and accessories into the world of Mixed Martial Arts. DCMA Collective, made famous by brothers Joel and Benji Madden of the band Good Charlotte, will mark its first foray into the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Ingrained Media is one of the leading marketing agencies focusing on MMA.

The DCMA MMA Collection will be officially launched in the coming weeks and available through the DCMA store and select online retailers. While this may be the Brand’s first foray into MMA it is not the first for the brothers. Benji and Joel Madden are huge fans of the sport and the athletes that compete. Benji Madden also trains MMA at Fortune Gym in Los Angeles. Their love for the sport and the athletes made MMA a natural progression.

“I am stoked to finally be able to take our Brand into MMA. DCMA Collective has always been on the cutting edge with our designs and approach to the market. We are going to bring our promotional and design talents to the sport and athletes and see where we can take it.” said Benji Madden co-Founder of DCMA Collective. Madden continued, “MMA is not only the fastest growing sport in the World it brings together many forms of Martial Arts which are all combined with honor and commitment. Those aspects of the sport are things that are at the core of what we do at DCMA.”

DCMA Collective is more then a Skate or Band apparel company it is about a lifestyle and the experiences that are derived from that lifestyle. The DCMA Collective brand is about the Athletes, Artist, People, Music and Life. You simply can’t define it, you just have to experience it.

“We are honored to be able to work with a company such as DCMA Collective. DCMA has a great vision for what they want to do and how they want to accomplish it. Our team is thrilled to be able to work side by side with them and help DCMA reach their goals.” said Jason Genet President of Ingrained Media.

“We’re psyched to bring the Athletes and supporters of Mixed Martial Arts a new style to consider,” said Benji Madden, co-founder of DCMA Collective. Benji Madden continued “The designs will be a blend of our world class designers and input from the sponsored athletes, I can’t wait to see what they come up with.”

“This collaboration presents a truly compelling opportunity to go beyond the typical reach of the Athlete and DCMA Collective,” said Jason Genet, President of Ingrained Media. “We’re excited to see the results of the combined marketing efforts that that Joel, Benji and the folks at DCMA Collective have built blended with the Ingrained Media platform.”

The initial designs will be ready early to mid Spring 2011. Marketing efforts will begin with Social Media Campaigns and Internet Marketing. Collectively the combined efforts will reach over 3.4 million Social Media users, feature advertisements on over 100 MMA Websites, and include Fighter Endorsements and exposure in potentially televised events.
About DCMA Collective:
DCMA Collective was founded in 2006 by Good Charlotte’s Benji and Joel Madden, their brother Josh Madden and Tal Cooperman. DCMA Collective offers a lifestyle fashion collection for men, women and children. DCMA Collective currently offers apparel, accessories, and footwear all bearing their iconic brass knuckles logo. DCMA Collective opened their flagship store in the popular Melrose and Martel in Los Angeles on March 15th, 2008 and has been worn by countless celebrities, athletes and musicians. http://www.dcmacollective.com/

About Ingrained Media:
Ingrained Media is a boutique marketing firm with a specialization in sports marketing. Unlike traditional agencies Ingrained Media offers a hybrid of services with a specialty on athlete development and social media marketing. Ingrained Media has been responsible for the development of both brand and athlete social media presences reaching hundreds of thousands of users on a daily basis. Ingrained Media also has a strong interest and specialty in the fields of Advertising, Promotions, and Public Relations.


Has MMA Folded on Poker?

(Disclaimer: Ingrained Media represents Athletes within the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. We have never done business with any of the companies listed below but certain members of our company have. Collectively these individuals made less then $1000 from their previous relationships with these companies. We have no current relationship with these companies.)

Media outlets ranging from The Wall Street Journal to all the top MMA websites have reported on the issuance of arrest warrants for several executives from the online gaming and poker sites such as Pokerstars.com and FullTiltPoker.com and that the government has shut down those URL’s . The Mixed Martial Arts industry claimed “It’s sponsors were shutdown” and one infamous agent said, “In the short-term, it will severely impact fighters’ sponsor revenue, which traditionally matched their show pay for our televised clients. I would venture to say the poker industry is equal to apparel industry as the No. 1 sponsor of fighters outside the UFC.”

We wanted to look into this situation and the billion dollar industry that will be impacted by these bans and the effects, if any, on the sport of MMA and the game of Poker..

A couple things that we need to make sure are clear: This is a US based ban that has a minimal impact on the overall international gaming market, and secondly, this is the US; these executives and companies are innocent until proven guilty.

The sponsors that the Mixed Martial Arts industry have been talking about are actually not the sites that have been taken down. The sponsor of the Mixed Martial Arts industry that is the most prominent is FullTiltPoker.net. The site that has been banned by the US Government is Fulltiltpoker.com. The difference is the .NET site is for entertainment and learning purposes and the .COM is the pay-for-play site. You would think that agent would know who his “number 2” sponsor is. That is, unless he did his deals with FullTiltPoker.com.

It is actually feasible to assume that the Full Tilt corporation will spend more in the US on its .NET presence since that is all they will be allowed to do. Many of the sites that are reporting on this story also earn income from the online gaming industry. I am not sure why or how they could misreport the information.

The Television lineup is still full of various cash poker games and anyone that can go to an Indian Reservation Casino or most of the Casinos in Las Vegas offer both electronic and live cash games. Many states have “poker rooms” that allow cash games and in houses across the US family and friends come together for friendly cash poker games. Poker is a game that dates back to the earliest settlers of this country. Poker is a part of America’s history and future.

Full Tilt Poker is on record saying:

“Dublin Ireland (April 15, 2011) – Full Tilt Poker is saddened by today’s charges against its CEO Raymond Bitar and offers its full support to Mr. Bitar and Nelson Burtnick.

Online poker is a game of skill enjoyed by tens of millions of people in the United States and across the world. And, Full Tilt Poker remains as committed as ever to preserving the rights of those players to play the game they love online.

Mr. Bitar and Full Tilt Poker believe online poker is legal – a position also taken by some of the best legal minds in the United States. Full Tilt Poker is, and has always been committed to preserving the integrity of the game and abiding by the law.

“I am surprised and disappointed by the government’s decision to bring these charges. I look forward to Mr. Burtnick’s and my exoneration”, said Mr. Bitar.

Unfortunately, as a result of this action, Full Tilt Poker has decided that it must suspend “real money” play in the United States until this case is resolved. However, Full Tilt Poker will continue to provide peer-to-peer online poker services outside of the United States.”

We tend to agree with Mr. Bitar’s claims. While we cannot reasonably or responsibly talk about the legal issues these 11 executives are facing, as we said they are innocent until proven guilty. What we do know is that many of the greatest legal minds contend that poker is a game of skill not chance and therefore not technically gambling. I love the game of poker myself. I have played on FullTiltPoker.net and we have a family tradition where we all gather over Thanksgiving and have a Texas Hold Em Tournament.

Online gambling and online poker just got a lot less convenient in the US. The courts are going to be forced to determine if online gambling and poker should be legal and if legal, who regulates the industry.

If you’re in the U.S., when you point your browser to any of those three gambling sites, you see a scary message: The U.S. government has seized the domain names of the three sites, preventing gambling transactions and anything else:

The Government claims that these businesses manipulated the banks in order to process these transactions (almost all of them conducted electronically) using wire transfers, credit cards and other means of commerce.

The problem gets a bit dicey when you realize that these three online gambling organizations are not based in the U.S. For instance, PokerStars’ headquarters is on the Isle of Man, a self-governed British Crown Dependency located in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. Here is an image of their headquarters.

Even if the US Government wins the judgement there is no guarantee that the Isle of Man or the other host countries where these business’ operate and are based will comply with the US extradition request or asset seizure request. There is huge disagreement about the legality of online gambling. Not to mention the economic impact these small countries would feel if these large industries ceased to exist.

Are we supposed to believe the banks and credit card companies did not notice billions of dollars of transactions coming and going out of very small countries? Bank of America calls me if I use my card in a store that is outside of my normal shopping habits but they could not detect the billions heading to Ilse of Man or Costa Rica?

Since we are talking about US law and online gambling being illegal in the US, some questions obviously arise. The US Government is for the people, by the people, right? A recent poll of US citizens with over 3100 responses indicates the people are siding with the poker companies. 52% of those asked said online gambling should be legal and that it is a victimless crime, 33% said as long as it was regulated and only 15% said no. So 85% of the people polled feel as if online gambling should be legal and if we were asking them about poker only the percentage would be in the mid to high 90’s.

Last but surely not least, Full Tilt Poker specifically is just a platform. The laws that are being violated if online poker is illegal are being broken by the users of Full Tilt Poker, not the company itself. If the Government prevails in it’s case against Full Tilt and others, are the Internet providers who connect the users responsible? Or how about the poker table manufacturer? Full Tilt is not a wagering company or betting company. They are the virtual version of a Card Room; they merely provide a service to those who wish to test their skills against others for fun, prizes or money. It is duly regulated and licensed by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission.

The residents of the US seem to want to be able to play poker and gamble online and poker seems to be at its all time high in popularity. The few in opposition of the game and its legality should be reminded of Las Vegas. It was a relatively unregulated home to the Mob who handled and profited from the gambling industry. The US Government did not shut down Las Vegas, they cleaned it up and regulated it. The Mob was servicing millions of tourists (the voting public) and the Government found a way to keep them playing. Now Vegas represents a billion dollar industry.

For a company that has always found a way to brand itself (NSFW) in a industry valued in the billions we think the fight has just begun.

Or look at China. Some of Las Vegas’s biggest “whales” came from Asia and specifically China. China took a small island that had historically been plagued with prostitution and some of the lowest numbers trade jobs in the region. It has been transformed to a Chinese Las Vegas. Many of the same casinos located in Las Vegas have locations there. It has become extremely successful and transformed the economy of the region.

The law makers and media do not need to worry about the MMA athletes who are sponsored by websites still operating and very much in need of promotion. We need to ask our Senate and Congress to try to find a way to do what the majority of the people want and legalize poker and online gambling. Virtual gaming will help our economy and could create jobs here in the US if we found a way to embrace rather than erase this business.

Jason Genet

IngrainedMedia.com


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