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California Poker Room Fined with $8M for Loan Sharking

Written By: Maya Michaels | November 22, 2017 | Posted In Poker News

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the U.S. Treasury Department fined Artichoke Joe’s Casino, a California card room of 17 poker tables and 35 traditional card tables, with $8 million for “willful violation of anti-money laundering controls”.

Artichoke Joe’s Casino has been accused of deliberately overlooking anti-money laundering regulations and turning a blind eye to money laundering activities from 2009 to 2017. This is the largest amount ever fined to a card room since gaming violations first came under the purview of FinCEN 20 years ago.

The $8 million fine reflects the severity of violations and the lengthy duration in which it occurred, and will definitely set an example to other cardrooms that ignore money laundering and loan sharking. All casino operators and cardrooms in the state must fully comply with the regulation and report any illegal activities or they will be faced with similar penalties.

Artichoke Joe’s casino was already raided in March 2011, by the feds and two people were charged with shark loaning. This raid had a role to play in the size of the fine since the management of the casino appeared to look the other way as crimes were committed under their noses.

Loan sharks reportedly provided AJC chips to customers on the gaming floor in front of the AJC employees. Besides the $8 million fine, the property is being investigated by California gambling regulators for allegedly failing to disclose the money laundering probe. Their license could be revoked. Loss of the license would end a business that lasted 101 years in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This is not the excluded example as FinCEN discovered similar illegal activities.

Two years ago, the agency issued its first ever legal action against a California card room, Oaks Card Club. The card room paid $650,000 for willful violation of Bank Secrecy Act. Hawaiian Gardens Casino was fined $2.8 million last year for repeated money laundering violations.

The Bicycle Casino, a famous 185-table venue, was even shut down briefly this April over a money laundering investigation. Nine state and federal agencies were involved in this investigation so we can freely say that shark loaning and money laundering are a huge problem in California.

California has 88 active cardrooms all over the state according to California Gambling Control Commission. That is 1,997 total tables operating so they should all consider the risk of exploitation by criminals and face charges and fines if they don’t respect the law.

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