November 03, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) A Las Vegas professional gambler and former operator of the bitcoin online poker site ''Seals with Clubs'' was fined $25,000 and placed on up to two years of probation on Tuesday after pleading guilty to a criminal charge of operating an unlicensed interactive gambling system.

Bryan Micon, 37, also surrendered 3.0996 in bitcoin credits, another $900 in cash and more than six computers after returning to Nevada in June from the Caribbean island nation of Antigua as part of a plea agreement reached in July.

Clark County District Court Judge Kerry Earley told Micon he faces up to 2 1/2 years in state prison if he violates terms of his sentence.

Micon spoke only to tell the judge he understood. He could have faced up to 10 years in state prison and a $50,000 fine.

Defense attorney Richard Schonfeld told the judge Micon planned to complete his probation in Las Vegas and move with his family to Antigua to take a job in the technology office of a newspaper there.

Nevada gambling regulators and state Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced in April that Micon was sought on a warrant in what they called the first-of-its-kind prosecution in Nevada dealing with bitcoin and illegal Internet gambling. Laxalt declared that Nevada would protect its reputation as leader in casino regulation.

Bitcoin currency isn't backed by any government. Its use enables Internet transactions without banks and provides anonymity that authorities say provides a method for money laundering and illegal drug sales.

Nevada officials said Micon operated his site for almost a year and went to Antigua after investigators obtained a warrant and searched his home in February.

The website sealswithclubs.eu went inactive after offering players a chance to retrieve bitcoin balances.

Online gambling occupied a legal gray area until a federal crackdown in 2011. Later that year, the U.S. Justice Department said online gambling except sports betting was legal, as long as it was permitted on the state level.

Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have legalized the practice among players who log in within their state lines.

Several other states are considering adopting laws to allow online games.

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