For the first instance in quite some time, a debate has erupted in the poker community that doesn’t involve regulation of the online gaming and poker industry. In this particular instance, the supporters of embattled poker professional Bryan Micon are facing an uphill battle in convincing the opposition that he did nothing wrong.
As reported here at Poker News Daily recently, the state of Nevada’s Attorney General and the Nevada Gaming Control Board recently filed criminal charges against Micon, alleging one count of operating an unlicensed interactive gaming system. The charge stems from a February raid on Micon’s then-home in Nevada, where he was handcuffed and separated from his wife and daughter as state law enforcement and NGCB authorities ransacked his house for evidence as to his operation of the online poker site SealsWithClubs.com. Once this process was completed, Micon was released and, along with his wife and child, fled to Antigua, pausing only long enough to shutter the online poker site and reopen it later under a new name (SwCPoker.eu).
Since the announcement of the criminal charge against him, Micon has employed the pages of the crowdsourcing site GoFundMe to raise money for his defense in Las Vegas. Since Tuesday, the site has been able to raise $2915 from 38 donors with a goal of raising $100,000 towards Micon’s legal fees. An anonymous donation for $1000 is the majority of that total, while different donations from fellow pros Eugene Todd, “Hollywood” Dave Stann, Dutch Boyd and Randy Dorfman are counted among the 38 donations.
Although there has been some support on the pages of GoFundMe for Micon, the debate over his legal situation is more towards “he should have known better” than “he didn’t do anything wrong.” On the Two Plus Two forum, a 186-post thread has developed since the announcement of criminal charges against Micon and the overall mood of the thread seems to lean against the man who once called himself “The King of the Degenerates.”
For those who support Micon, it is pointed out that the SealsWithClubs website utilized the usage of Bitcoin as its currency. In the site’s case, someone would use a Bitcoin or two and, in exchange, would receive chips that they would use on the site. If a player won and wished to cash out, they would be cashed out in Bitcoin. Since Bitcoin isn’t recognized as currency, Micon’s supporters suggest, he wasn’t operating a gambling site. The supporters also point out that the actions of other past and present scandals in the online poker world – Russ Hamilton and Ultimate Bet, Howard Lederer, et. al. and Full Tilt Poker, Scott Tom and Absolute Poker, even Jen Larson and the recent demise of Lock Poker – have occurred with little to no punishments and that Micon’s transgressions aren’t as severe as those.
While there are these supporters, the majority of the sentiments on the forums are running against Micon. Pointing out that he allegedly operated the site from Nevada following the creation of Nevada’s intra-state online poker industry, many have noted that it was only a matter of time that the NGCB and the Attorney General came after Micon (in fact, a strict reading of the charge Micon is facing – operating an unlicensed interactive gaming system – would seem to be a slam dunk for the AG). Additionally, many have stated that the Bitcoin people can’t have it both ways – claim that Bitcoin isn’t a currency (which would require individual nations to recognize and monetize) but claim that using Bitcoin for illegal purchases isn’t a crime because Bitcoin is a property (as was the case in the 2013 Silk Road prosecutions).
Micon, for his part, has remained silent on the issue, a distinct change over his previous boisterous personality when he promoted SealsWithClubs and Bitcoin. His latest comment regarding the legal proceedings was over his GoFundMe page, where he “personally thanked everyone for the outpouring of support” from the donations. “I now have legal representation in both Antigua and Nevada (and) my family and I will be exploring all possible options,” Micon wrote.
According to court documents, Micon is employing the prominent Las Vegas law firm Chesnoff & Schonfeld (David Chesnoff is a nationally-recognized defense attorney who has several highly successful cases to his credit). They have probably encouraged Micon to remain in Antigua permanently as the island nation, which has had a long standoff with the United States government over internet gaming and poker with the World Trade Organization (WTO), isn’t likely to recognize a U. S. extradition order. Why is this? Because both Tom and Bodog founder Calvin Ayre, also under indictment by U. S. authorities, call the island nation home.
It is a simple question…is Micon guilty? If so, he faces 10 years in a Nevada prison (not known for their kind treatment of gaming offenders) and a $50,000 fine. Is the majority of the poker world correct that Micon violated the laws of Nevada regarding gaming or is the minority right in that Micon has done nothing criminal?