Feeds

Poker money and the ethics professor

Gaming the Commons

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

What does an ethics professor do when a self-confessed felon bankrolls his favourite causes? Give the money back? Turn it into a case study for his students? We may soon find out.

The professor is the director of Edmond J Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard, and he's no ordinary professor. It's Lawrence Lessig, the copyright activist turned crusader for political transparency, and scourge of corporate lobbying. So the extent to which gambling interests have supported two of Lessig's favourite causes may be one of the strangest stories you have never read.

In Fall 2006 the United States passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which made it illegal to take bets from the USA. It effectively put the world's largest gaming market out of reach for online gambling companies. As well as traditional casino operations, the legislation affected the the burgeoning internet poker industry - the fastest-growing sector of internet commerce.

The gaming industry, worth $12bn a year, pushed back hard, and lobby money started to appear in the oddest places. One destination was iCommons, the for-profit offshoot of Lessig's Creative Commons registered in London, which describes itself as "a project-based incubator organization".

Lessigspambot

Lessig

Shortly after the gaming legislation was passed, iCommons received three large donations. Two were from newly-formed and secretive offshore trusts, the while the third was from the founder of PartyGaming, Russ DeLeon.

The first of the trusts was called IETSI, the International Electronic Trade and Services Initiative (IETSI) which made a substantial $1m donation to iCommons. IETSI describes itself as promoting e-commerce regulation, operating under Manx regulation, with a website registered in Gibraltar. But who was it a lobbying vehicle for? On its website, in addition to the Lessig vehicles its only other declared affiliation is with the Remote Gambling Association, the voice of online gambling.

The other donation was from the Kasuma Trust, a Gibraltar-based charitable trust devoted to at-risk children, educational work… and internet initiatives. Kasuma was set up by Anurag Dikshit and Soma Pujari in early 2007.

The first of those two names may ring a bell.

Today, Dikshit is one of the richest people in the world, after co-founding PartyGaming plc in 1997, which originally offered roulette and blackjack software written by Dikshit, but switched to poker in 2000. PartyPoker.com quickly became the largest and most lucrative online poker site.

Dikshit was employed by Ruth Parasol, the former 'porn princess' who co-founded internet porn pioneers Internet Entertainment Group with Seth Warshavsky. IEG routinely overbilled its customers, former employees allege. (Its CTO provided an affadvit testifying he was asked to program the billing systems to overcharge.) Today, Parasol is married to PartyGaming boss Russ DeLeon.

In December 2008 Diskhit confessed to being guilty of Wire Act offences, and negotiated a staggering $300m fine to the US authorities. This January, he sold his remaining stake in PartyGaming. The two-year jail sentence theoretically hangs over him.

The million-dollar donation was substantial, effectively giving iCommons financial security for five years. This is confirmed in the regulatory filings of Creative Commons, which declared that iCommons had "secured sufficient independent funding to be spun off as an independent organization".

Poker money helped get iCommons off the ground
Source: Company House

So the poker industry had been kind to Lessig. What did they get in return?

Enter Charlie Nesson.

Boost IT visibility and business value

Next page: Nesson Dorma

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Fast And Furious 6 cammer thrown in slammer for nearly three years
Man jailed for dodgy cinema recording of Hollywood movie
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?