If you are an online poker player or just a fan of poker (who the hell is a fan of poker but doesn't play it?), then my condolences to you. Buried below the many headlines this Friday is news that the Debbie Downer FBI has charged the biggest three online poker companies with a multitude of crimes related to how they continue to operate and have US customers despite online poker and sports betting being illegal in the US.
"The founders of three of the largest Internet poker sites bribed and tricked their way past U.S. gambling laws, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Nearly a dozen people connected to international gaming sites PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker were charged with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling - and their companies face over $3 billion in penalties and forfeitures, authorities said."
Given ESPN has a ton of poker programming including the WSOP series which gets ample amount of run time on ESPN's family of networks, this was obviously a story they reported on and they did. But they forgot to mention one thing: ESPN takes in a likely 8 figure amount of advertising and sponsorship revenue from the companies now embroiled in legal controversy.
The fact that ESPN takes handfuls of money from these companies is not really a secret nor really that surprising. I don't really think many people even care. I don't care. But they certainly have to acknowledge that relationship now that sh*t has hit the fan with these partner companies. ESPN.com did when running their story on the topic with a disclosure at the end of the article.
" Poker Stars and Full Tilt are sponsors of ESPN poker programming."
It's not a trivial relationship that is really a flash in the pan of ESPN's revenue. These companies buy ads in the magazine, on television (the Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu commercials), and have been some of the limited advertisers who have done front page road blocks off the website which is a rare occurrence on espn.com. If Neil Everrett and Sportscenter is going to put on their serious face /"we need to talk" camera angle then they should also cop to the relationship they had in place with the companies in question. When they mention news about ESPN personalities, they're always pretty good about disclosing their relationship and connection to the parties involved in any potential scandal.