James Thackston’s ‘Extortionate’ 2010 Software Offer to the RGA
The high comedy involving anti-online poker activist James Thackston and his bizarre claims that highly regulated online poker sites are susceptible to massive amounts of illegal money laundering took another strange twist this week, in the form of a short e-mail exchange from 2010 that shows Thackston attempting to sell his own home-grown anti-laundering software solution to the UK-based Remote Gambling Association, via presumed connections with Michael Waxman and the now-defunct pro-gaming group Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative.
The exchange was outed early this week by Poker Players Alliance Vice President of Player Relations Rich Muny, who published the exchange on his own Facebook page, complete with a lead-in. The publishing of the exchange raised some follow-up questions, which Muny himself has yet to address, though the unveiling of Thackston a a profiteering charlatan can’t be understated.
Muny wrote (yes, in all caps), “****DID JIM THACKSTON CREATE HIS ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING STUNT TO EXTORT OFFSHORE POKER SITES???*****”
He then followed that with this note:
Remember PoliticsOfPoker.com, launched by Jim Thackston, who’s now represented by Cheri Jacobus? Well the site, which was launched in early 2010, purported to prove that online poker cannot be regulated successfully.
Interestingly, Thackston wasn’t done attempting to sell his collusion detection software at that time. Even more interesting, I have this email here where Thackston attempted to use his anti-online poker site to force the Remote Gaming Association to purchase his software. This email even includes a deadline by which Thackston must be contacted regarding his software. If the date is missed, another anti-money laundering stunt will hit the web — a method the recipient characterized as an attempt to extort money!
Thackston, whose bizarre anti-gambling theories continue to be much discussed in online-poker circles, including a lengthy and popular debunking published here (“The Bad Poker of James Thackston“).
The following e-mail exchange appears to show Thackston attempting to coerce the RGA into purchasing an undicslosed software solution to Thackston’s own claimed money-laundering problems with online poker. Thackston also claimed that the software addresses “grave deficiencies,” and that it will boost revenues for online sites by “between $500 million to $1.8 billion”!
No doubt Thackston expected to be handsomely rewarded for his proposed software solution — likely to the tune of tens of millions of dollars — but one has to remember the wacko theories of Thackston to begin with, and realize that this was almost surely a vaporware offer, of no real impact or value.
Hawkswood, having received the e-mail from Waxman and the CCIGI, refused to play the rube. He responded, “Unfortunately, and hopefully this was not the intent, your e mail employs some of the language that the industry has previously come across in what would generally be described as attempts to extort money.”
It is likely that Hawkswood was just being polite, as he also advised Thackston to forward his supposed theories to appropriate law-enforcement bodies, adding, “… and we assume it is probably an offence to withhold such information from the police, so if you could let us have your full contact details we would be happy to forward them.”
There’s no evidence that Thackston ever complied with that request, instead choosing to drop his PoliticsOfPoker.com domain, redoubling his attacks on online poker and selectively approaching US legislators predisposed to wanting to take action against online gambling and gambling in general. It also puts the lie to the very domain name Thackston chose when he relaunched his efforts at undetectablelaundering.com, since even by Thackston’s own earlier claims, such laundering attempts wouldn’t be undetectable after all.
Here’e the remainder of the exchange as posted by Muny on Facebook, which will also be archive here for reference:
From: Jim Thackston
Date: Wed, 21 Jul 2010 23:30:36 -0400
To: Mr. Waxman
Cc: J. Sandman
Subject: Money Laundering – HR2267, HR2266, HR4976, S3018, S1497
You may recall that I contacted you by email on April 16th, 2010 to discuss why we believe the current strategy to legalize internet gaming in the US will fail due to concerns within the law enforcement community that online poker can be used to launder money.
Moreover, we have discovered grave deficiencies in the regulatory schemes currently in place in Britain, the Isle of Man, and Alderney.
The deficiencies are so severe that they will destroy the integrity of online poker tables and diminish customer loyalty worldwide should the full scope of the threat become widely understood.
To prove our assertions, we have posted a 2-part video at http://www.youtube.com that clearly demonstrates several vulnerabilities and shows why internet poker players worldwide are at risk.
Here is the specific link: http://www.youtube.com/user/GTWrecker94#p/a/u/1/lD5qR0WMVJA
We have developed a comprehensive solution to these problems and can show how poker website operators can generate new revenues of between $500 million to $1.8 billion, guarantee the integrity of their online tables, and create the regulatory conditions necessary for opening the US market.
The posting of the first part of the source code is currently scheduled to occur on Monday, July 26th, 2010.
In addition, we have obtained access to a database of player email addresses.
In the interest of alerting players to the cheating threat, we will soon distribute both the video links and software source code to the database.
We would like the opportunity to discuss this comprehensive solution with your European supporters who are compliant with US gambling and financial laws before we release the software source code or send the email messages.
If I receive a favorable response before the 26th, we will suspend all distribution.
From: Clive Hawkswood
Sent: Thursday, July 22, 2010 4:46 AM
To: Jim Thackston
Subject: Re: Money Laundering – HR2267, HR2266, HR4976, S3018, S1497
Thank you for your e mail. Money Laundering is clearly an issue that the online gambling industry takes very seriously. Against that background we work very closely with law enforcement agencies and government organisations that deal with organised crime. In passing I should mention that contrary to your views there are no online poker businesses in Britain so it is unclear how you could have found fault with the applicable regulatory system when it does not currently apply to any operators in the UK.
Unfortunately, and hopefully this was not the intent, your e mail employs some of the language that the industry has previously come across in what would generally be described as attempts to extort money.
Given your concern about money laundering threats we are sure you would share our attempts to combat all possible criminal avenues. We have therefore passed your e mail on to our own legal advisers, to the regulators in all of the jurisdictions you mention (if there is a weakness in the regulations it is vital that they are aware of it), and to a number of related law enforcement bodies.
Given what you say there is no doubt that you will want to share your information with them, and we assume it is probably an offence to withold such information from the police, so if you could let us have your full contact details we would be happy to forward them. We have not yet investigated your claims fully but if they do indeed highlight the weaknesses you mention then we will of course want to seek solutions in partnership with the right authorities.
Clive Hawkswood, Remote Gambling Association.
Despite the outing of Thackston as being more a profiteering charlatan than an anti-online-poker purist, there remain some secondary questions in the wake of Muny’s revelation. Whether or not reMunyceived the exchange from Waxman, Hawkswood or another party is irrelevant; what is curious is that Muny appears to have sat on the e-mails for some time, allowing Thackston and a close supporter of his, self-proclaimed political pundit Cheri Jacobus, to have served as a gathering point for anti-online-poker sentiment.
That’s a double-edged sword. As Muny posted on Facebook to Eddie Harari, whose work was misrepresented by Thackston and Jacobus, “@HarariEddie Yep. @CheriJacobus & @pokerbank1729 [Thackston] kept bluffing, but I had the nuts all along. :-)”
Actually, Muny could have saved Harari and others a lot of work in taking on Jacobus and Thackston if he’d just released the exchange whenever he received it, and failing to release relevant information in the midst of an ongoing media battle on the the topic is a fine example of intentionally manipulating the media in a non-positive way. Even is Jacobus and Thackston depart the battle, as appears to be the case, allowing them to serve as a focal point allows others with less… ummm… “extortionate” connections to use the newly made connections to work together in the future.
That’s a dangerous ploy, for an underfunded political group to allow richer opponents (remember Sheldon Adelson’s arms-length association with the pair) extra avenues and time for coordination and communication, even when you know some can be discredited at will.
There was, simply, no reason to sit on the e-mails. Muny may have had the nuts all along, but he definitely did not extract maximum value from the hand.