Online Poker Report

The Curious Case of Dewey Tomko and the Disappearing Op-ed

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Dewey Tomko’s alleged involvement with a small group of individuals claiming that regulated online poker can be used as a haven for money launderers (which is akin to saying crayons can be used to paint a wall in your house) has come under quite a bit of scrutiny this week.

I have included a brief timeline of the events leading up to this point at the end of the article.

The original op-ed (the article was removed on May 7, 2014) was interesting for 15 minutes, and subsequently petered out, until some six weeks after the fact when Dewey came forward, prompted by a phone call from Nolan Dalla on the topic.

In his talk with Dalla, Dewey purportedly denied having anything to do with the op-ed or even knowing about it.

From under the bus that has now been positioned on top of him, James Thackston (who appears to be the real author of the article credited to Dewey Tomko and Bill Byers) claimed otherwise.

So what really happened?

Jim Thackston’s explanation

Here is the most recent explanation I have received from James Thackston:

I sat down with Dewey at his office to discuss the op-ed.

He pointed out the changes that should be made and, with the condition that edits were made he agreed to author the piece.

He didn’t want to be the one to pitch it to newspapers so I asked him if he was willing to share the byline with Bill Byers and have him submit it.

He agreed.

Thackston also stated in a Twitter exchange that this collaborative editing took place recently, just before the op-ed was sent to the Press of Atlantic City, which would place it sometime in early March to possibly February of 2014.

It should be noted that James Thackston originally waffled a bit in his explanations of Dewey’s involvement saying on Monday, “Mr. Tomko may have changed his mind but he certainly co-authored the op-ed.”

On Tuesday morning he changed his version of the story via a tweet that has now been deleted: “The Dewey Tomko situation is entirely due to a miscommunication and misunderstanding by @pokerbank1729 [Thackston].”

Finally, on Tuesday afternoon, Thackston sent me the clarifying statement above.

In summary, Thackston’s current version of events has him sitting down with Dewey in February/March of this year and agreeing to let his name be used alongside Bill Byers if certain edits were made.

The Press of AC confirmation

One part of this story that has gotten blown completely out of proportion was the Press of Atlantic City’s diligence in checking the authorship of the article.

Despite Dewey’s claims, the Press of Atlantic City told PokerFuse/F5Poker they verified the identity of the authors by using the emails contained in the correspondence which accompanied the op-ed –a correspondence I happen to have a copy of.

This initial exchange, where the PofAC stood by the vetting of the article occurred on Monday May 5, 2014; two days later the article was removed from the site.

Jim Perskie the editorial page editor at the Press of Atlantic City explained the decision thusly, “Tomko says he didn’t write it. We have no way of proving that point either way, so we just took it down.”

Here is the email sent to the Press of AC by Bill Byers pitching the op-ed (I have confirmed that this is the exact email – unedited, except where I have redacted personal information):

From: Bill Byers [mailto:xxx@hotmail.com]

Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2014 6:05 PM

To: Perskie, Jim; Faherty, Tim

Subject: Proposed Opinion Article – Online Poker Not Always a Game of Skill

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please consider publishing the attached opinion article that I authored with Dewey Tomko.

Mr. Tomko and I are professional poker players with deep knowledge of poker as it relates to the upcoming debate in Washington DC over federal regulation of online gambling.

Dewey Tomko is a Poker Hall of Fame inductee and both of us each have 40+ years of experience in the game.

The opinion article refers to a letter I sent on January 16th 2014 to Mr. David Rebuck, Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

The letter is also attached.

I reside in Apollo Beach, Florida

My cell phone number is [redacted].

Dewey Tomko lives in Windemere, Florida and can be reached via cell phone at [redacted].

His email address is [redacted]

Sincerely,

Bill Byers

I was also able to independently confirm via multiple sources that both the redacted email address and the cell phone number in the email belong to Dewey Tomko.

So either the Press of Atlantic City did not follow their standard operating procedure and confirm the authorship, or there was some level of miscommunication between what Tomko thought he was cosigning and what actually appeared.

Thackston responds to removal of op-ed

Following the news that PoAC had removed the op-ed, I received the following statement from Thackston:

Dewey Tomko is a longtime investor in Concierge Holdings, Inc., a company we formed in the mid-2000’s to address the ipoker security problems, the same problems recently confirmed by McAfee.

Others from the poker industry are also investors.

I am seeing stories saying I impersonated Dewey Tomko.

This is false. The facts are as sent you last night (I have included the body of that email below).

I spoke to Dewey several times over the past few days including today and he said he doesn’t know what his lawyer sent to the paper.

I hope the truth is told on this.

Thank You and Regards,

Jim Thackston

Several questions Dewey needs to answer

I believe there are several questions that Tomko should answer to further clarify the situation:

  • Did you have any input or hand in writing or editing the article?
  • What specific edits did you ask to be made that is now causing you to pull your support?
  • If you were aware of, and gave permission for your name to be attached to the editorial why didn’t you request to see the final copy?
  • Did you receive a request for confirmation from the Press of Atlantic City? And did you or someone on your behalf respond to the Press of Atlantic City confirmation request in any way?

Final thoughts

First off, I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but there are certainly some unanswered questions and inconsistencies that need to be straightened out before this matter is settled.

Bottom line: Someone is not being entirely honest.

This is a Thackston problem

Regardless of how this story eventually shakes out we have to remember that this is a black mark for Thackston’s and Byers’ cause. They are making accusations against the person they prominently featured in an effort to give the article legitimacy, and with the article being taken down by the PofAC would seem to have misappropriated his name in some way.

This has nothing to do with the poker community or pro-regulation advocates.

Furthermore, this doesn’t change the fact that Jim Thackston’s collusion/money laundering scenarios are absolute crap and have been debunked multiple times, or that Thackston has been trying to sell his wares to any and all takers since 2006, pushing so hard at one point that Clive Hawkswood of the Remote Gambling Association wondered aloud if he was trying to extort the organization:

“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.”

The poker community may have prematurely jumped on different aspects of the story hoping to crucify the other side and gain a victory, but nobody fighting for regulated online gambling has lied or misrepresented themselves.

Someone on the other side has or is doing at least one of those things.

As Nolan Dalla stated after his first talk with Dewey, “Someone is lying. Someone is making things up. Someone needs to be exposed as soon as possible and all those who have used any evidence or testimony from the such an individual should be dismissed immediately as sources who are not credible.”

Not really a scandal

This also seems to be less of a scandal and more of a discrepancy over what the parties had agreed to. It does appear to me that Dewey was peripherally involved in the op-ed, but I believe that he did not agree to have his name used on the final version.

Timeline

March 19th, 2014: The start

The Press of Atlantic City published an op-ed credited to Bill Byers and Dewey Tomko.

May 2nd, 2014: The “pokerleaks” email dumps by Rich Muny prompts a phone call

Rich Muny releases more information showing the connections between James Thackston/Bill Byers/Dewey Tomko which prompted Nolan Dalla to call Dewey over the weekend.

May 5th, 2014 AM: Nolan Dalla reveals the details of his conversation with Dewey Tomko

After Nolan’s first article on the topic where we all took Dewey at his word, pro-online gambling advocates jump at the potential scandal and the chance to crucify the Byers/Thackston/Jacobus contingent with Dewey’s revelations that he had nothing to do with the op-ed and knew nothing about it.

May 7th, 2014 AM: The Press of Atlantic City removes the Tomko op-ed.

The Curious Case of Dewey Tomko and the Disappearing Op-ed
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Steve Ruddock
Steve Ruddock - Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.