Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor synonymous with poker’s Black Friday, has been sacked after reportedly failing to offer a letter of resignation.
As part of President Donald Trump’s sweep of the Justice Department, Bharara has been given the boot in favor of former Deputy US Attorney, Joon Kim (currently the interim replacement).
According to sources cited by the Washington Post, Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were part of the call for a clean sweep of the department.
A phone call to all 46 prosecutors on March 10th by deputy attorney general Dana Boente followed the precedent of asking those in power to submit their letter of resignation.
Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, initially questioned the call because of 2016 meeting with Trump.
Conflicting Messages for Bharara
During the November meeting at Trump Tower, Bharara claims he was asked to stay on in his position by the then president elect.
Assuming this was a verbal agreement, Bharara sought clarification that Boente’s instructions applied to him.
A period of miscommunication appears to have taken place in the days that followed before Bharara announced that he’d been sacked. An unnamed source told the Washington Post that “everybody’s gone” and this was confirmed by Bharara on March 11th.
“I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life,” the legal expert tweeted on March 11.
The exact reason for Bharara’s sacking is unclear and will likely be listed as normal procedure. Some, however, have speculated that his removal is due to his reluctance to speak to President Trump on the phone.
A request for Bharara to call the White House on March 9 was apparently rejected by Bharara because it went against Justice Department’s protocols.
Regardless of whether this proves to be true, the man responsible for one of the most significant moments in the history of online poker is now watching from the sidelines.
Man Behind US Poker Blackout is Ousted
When PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet were shutdown in 2011, Bharara was the man behind the move. Despite none of the sites being based in his jurisdiction, the attorney was able to base his case on a New York law that makes running an online poker or betting site a Class A misdemeanor.
From this he obtained felony indictments for violations against the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) and the Illegal Gambling Business Act of 1955. Using these, Bharara was able to temporarily shut down the aforementioned sites globally before a deal was reached.
By the time the dust was settled, PokerStars and Full Tilt were unable to remain operational in the US (but resumed service internationally), while Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet were taken offline completely.
As well as bringing a halt to online poker in the US, Black Friday reshaped the industry as a whole and, to some extent, Bharara’s move is still having an impact on the game today.