A major player in the world of MMA sponsorships may have just come to an end.
Online gambling is illegal in the U.S., but several sites have found ways to work around the laws, but the Federal government cracked down on the sites on Friday. According to a report from the L.A. Times, the affiliates involved with the sites were charged with bank fraud and money laundering with several arrests already made.
“These defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme, alternately tricking some U.S. banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.
The poker sites have been shut down by the government, and while some people may still be able to access them currently, it will only be a matter of time before they are shut down completely and inaccessible.
In the MMA world, poker sites had become a major sponsor of fighters and promotions over the past several years. One manager speaking to MMAWeekly.com on Friday stated that many of the poker sponsorships rivaled the money of what any two or three other sponsors could offer, and the poker sites considered it ‘chump change.’
Full Tilt Poker, who had been a major sponsor of many fighters in the UFC, have been banned from sponsorships in the organization for the past two years. While speculation ran wild that the UFC kicked Full Tilt Poker out for being a competitor to Zuffa owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta’s own casinos, sources have indicated it was for a different reason altogether.
Independent sources confirmed to MMAWeekly.com that one of the major reasons the UFC banned the online poker site had more to do with the company wanting to avoid dealing with a sponsor who was allegedly doing illegal business. The Federal government has long sniffed around the online poker industry. UFC officials read the writing on the wall, choosing not to do business with companies in that industry.
Prosecutors in the case are looking to shut down the sites permanently, send their executives to jail, and recover over $3 billion dollars from the companies.
Bellator Fighting Championships had also banned the online poker sites from sponsorships, but companies like Full Tilt Poker remained in place as sponsors of fighters in Strikeforce.
It’s unknown at this time how fast the money currently owed to some fighters might get pulled or paid out. The company websites had all been shut down and seized as of Friday night, but it’s unclear what business will be going forward in regards to sponsorships for fighters.