Management of leading Bitcoin online poker site SealswithClubs has announced that after more than a week of unscheduled downtime, it has officially shut down the site for good. Adding to the intrigue: a revelation from site chairman Bryan Micon that the site’s closure was precipitated by a law enforcement raid of his home on the morning of February 11th.
When SealswithClubs originally announced it was ceasing operations on February 20th, it e-mailed its customers to assure everyone that their funds were safe and available for withdrawal while keeping the reasons for the closure a secret:
On approximately February 11th, 2015, several events occurred related to operational security that we consider to indicate SealsWithClubs now operates in a perpetual state of jeopardy. We will not divulge details publically, but they may come to light if any team member chooses to come forward of their own volition at a later date. All player funds and data remain intact and the issue was not software related. We do not believe any of our Bitcoin wallets used in operations to be compromised or lost. However, this event has made the majority vote of the ownership and team agree that shutting down operations is the best move for safety and security purposes.
The lengthy statement also said that Micon plans to reboot the site soon, but on his own without help of SealswithClubs management:
SealsWithClubs Chairman, Bryan Micon, would like to carry forward the business with his own team (currently settling in Antigua) but the majority ownership cannot guarantee the future security, solvency, and integrity of that operation because there will be no administrative oversight carried over from SealsWithClubs. Members of the SealsWithClubs team and ownership are not ones to lightly endorse anything, not even our own longstanding trustworthy team members, which is why nobody ever makes a sole decision. This dynamic has saved the business several times throughout the years. With Micon operating on his own with his own team, the checks and balances we have kept in place against one another internally for 3+ years will have been removed.
As the majority ownership & team will not go forward with operations but Micon is still in a position to do so, it makes the most sense to hand off assets to Micon in order to enable him to provide to our players the best Bitcoin poker experience he can. Micon has been extremely enthusiastic and dedicated to SealsWithClubs for longer than any member of SealsWithClubs historically, and we truly believe he wants what’s best for its players.
As for player funds, as already noted, SealswithClubs has said all money is safe and can be withdrawn:
While the majority ownership and team wish the best for Micon and his operation, we prioritize remaining faithful to our player’s balances and security first and foremost. The SealsWithClubs.eu domain, related social media accounts and support e-mail addresses (for the duration they are still active and being checked) will solely be used for administrating and paying out all remaining player withdrawal requests. In the event the domain is seized or the current withdrawal server is made inoperational during the period withdrawals are still being administrated, a signed GPG message from hdev or xdev will provide definitive instructions for players to continue making withdrawal requests assuming we are still available and able to draft such a message. Any unsigned or invalidly signed instructions by others should not be considered legitimate.
It was also made clear that Micon and anyone else who will be involved in reviving the business will not have access to balance details or passwords.
Over the weekend, Bryan Micon himself recorded a video to explain what led to the site’s demise. He explained that at 8:00am February 11th, Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) agents and armed law enforcement officers entered his home, handcuffed him, and led him outside in his underwear. They remained in his home for eight hours, confiscating computers and other electronics. Micon said that while they had a warrant from the NGC, he was never charged with a crime and eventually let go.
Micon explained that he will soon be moving to Antigua and plans to re-launch SealswithClubs with a new name, SwCPoker. No time table has been set for the revival, though Micon did say that this may have happened in the near future, anyway. The raid has just hastened the process.
He also said that one reason he is moving out of the United States is to, well, get away from the United States:
After I was led out in handcuffs in my underwear, it was pretty clear that it was proper to leave sooner rather than later. I didn’t really want my two-year old daughter, who I love very much, to grow up in a police state where creativity is often met with guns and handcuffs and what-not and that’s just not the environment that I think is proper for my daughter to grow up in.