Hit and Run: Baazov and Company Plead Not Guilty, Michigan Debates Legal Online Gambling, European Poker Awards Winners

Alex Weldon : May 4th, 2016


Amaya CEO-in-exile David Baazov has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him. A Michigan Committee Hearing on the subject of online gambling has just wrapped up. The winners of this year’s European Poker Awards have been announced. The World Series of Poker now accepts online credit card payments.

Formal pleas filed in Amaya insider trading case

It didn’t take long from the time Montreal-based company Amaya purchased Rational Group – which owns both PokerStars and Full Tilt – until Quebec’s financial watchdog, the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) began an investigation of the company due to a suspicious rise in its share prices just prior to the takeover. It did, however, take quite a while for the investigation to reach its conclusion this March. It won’t be clear until the trial is underway exactly what the AMF found in its investigations, but whatever it is, it was sufficient evidence of wrongdoing for the AMF to feel confident in pressing charges against then-CEO David Baazov, two of his close associates – Yoel Altman and Benjamin Ahdoot – and three corporate entities.

In total, 23 charges were laid, five against Baazov himself, and now the charged parties have filed their official written pleas, which are not-guilty on all counts. Although Baazov reacted to the charges by taking an indefinite leave of absence from his positions as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors, to avoid “distracting” investors, it’s not surprising at all that he has pleaded not-guilty to all charges. White collar crimes of this nature are notoriously difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt, so no matter what evidence the AMF collected against Baazov and the other charged parties, and regardless of his actual innocence or guilt, he would have to feel he has a fairly strong chance of getting a favorable verdict.

In the event that he is found guilty, however, Baazov faces pretty steep penalties, potentially as high as several million dollars in fines and up to five years in prison. No trial date has yet been set, but the formal filing of the pleas means that the case can now move forward. Naturally, the proceedings will be watched with great interest by many in the poker world.

European Poker Awards winners announced

The 15th annual European Poker Awards ceremony went down yesterday at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Resort in Monaco, where the European Poker Tour Grand Final is also being held. Fedor Holz and Liv Boeree won the Global Poker Index awards for European Player and European Female Player of the year, based on their results in the GPI Player of the Year race, in which Holz finished 5th worldwide. Their victories were therefore known in advance, while the other categories all featured four nominees who were voted on by a panel of judges.

Some of the most deserving and least surprising winners were Remko Rinkema for Media Person of the Year, and Dzmitry Urbanovich as Breakout Player of the Year. Meanwhile, a success story that was more likely to have slipped by North Americans’ attention was the Norwegian Championships Norway Cup, which won both Best Event Under €2,000 and Poker Innovation or Initiative of the Year for its sports-style broadcast coverage.

Quick Hitters

- Perhaps inspired by the European Poker Awards, PokerUpdate has decided to start its own Online Poker Awards. However, in what I can only assume is an oversight, PartTimePoker isn’t included in the “Best Poker Media Site” category, so there’s probably not much point in voting.

- Just last week, California had hearings about its work-in-progress online gambling bill, and today it was Michigan’s turn. Detailed articles about what happened will no doubt appear over the next 48 hours, but for the impatient PTP contributor and usual Hit and Run compiler Steve Ruddock’s Twitter feed has a lot of relevant info. There’s also a live blog at USPoker.com.

- Alex Dreyfus, CEO of Mediarex and the force behind the Global Poker League (GPL), has done a lengthy interview with PokerNews, to be published in instalments. In the first piece, he talks about the strengths and weaknesses he’s observed in the GPL in its first weeks, and what needs to be done to improve it.

- Are you looking for a game that isn’t poker? Perhaps something quick, fun, clever and with a poker-like element of bluffing and reading your opponents? Today, as part of my “Beyond Poker” series I reviewed a nice little card game called Welcome to the Dungeon by IELLO Games.

- The World Series of Poker will now allow players to use their credit cards to register online for its events up to $1500 buy-in. I doubt that dollar cap will bother many players, however, as there’s a 2.95% processing surcharge for such credit card payments, which would likely discourage many people from exercising that option for $5000 and $10,000 buy-in events in any case.

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