Note *Non-US players (over 70% of total player pool) are still playing on Full Tilt and PokerStars normally at this time.
Last Friday, April 15th, the United States Department of Justice launched an attack against three of the world’s largest online poker websites, PokerStars, FullTilt Poker, and the Cereus Network (Absolute and Ultimate Bet).
All poker account funds of American players have been seized and are being held indefinitely, an amount which totals at least in the tens of millions of dollars, and possibly over $100 Million. American players on these major sites are unable to play for real money at this time, or withdraw their funds. Furthermore the owners of the sites are being investigated by the United States Department of Justice.
The DOJ claims that these sites committed various types of bank fraud. Under the UIGEA, banks are not allowed to process transactions, such as withdrawals and deposits, which are linked to online gaming. According to the charges, the owners of these sites mislead banks into processing their transactions by using bribes and illegal documentation, plus a host of other fraud charges.
The question on everyone’s mind is, “What’s next for online poker in the United States?” American players with seized funds want to know if, or when, they will get their money back. Online poker players who play to support their families want to know if they need to find other long term employment. Successful online poker pros, with consider amounts of income and sponsorships on the line, are debating whether or not to leave the country, in order to resume playing poker online. There is a great deal of uncertainty in the air. What’s next for online poker in the United States?
Here is the ideal scenario for poker players in the USA.
1. The owner’s/operators of PokerStars/Full Tilt/Cereus will not be prosecuted.
Annie Duke posted on her Twitter that she is concerned for her brother, part owner of Full Tilt Poker, Howard Lederer. As part owner of Full Tilt Poker, he will be investigated by the DOJ and face possible prosecution.
According to Professor I. Nelson Rose, who teaches gambling and law at Whittier Law School in California (gamblingandthelawdotcom) Annie Duke has little to be worried about. Rose contends that the operators will never stand trial because if they are found guilty owners/operators of the sites wouldn’t be allowed to set up shop in post regulated online poker. So by prosecuting them the government risks losing their cooperation to pay possibly hefty government fines and to be lucrative business partners in the future.
2. 100% of seized funds will be returned to American players.
Tom Dwan, and Phil Galfond are confident that all seized funds will be returned to US players. These two top pros are so confident that all US players’ money is safe, that on, Twitter, they publicly guaranteed up to $1 Million each of their own money, to those with funds frozen on Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. Until official word comes from the Department of Justice, who is now in charge of US player funds, there will be uncertainty. Optimism from two top poker professional who are heavily invested in the outcome is a positive sign.
3. Online poker will be regulated in a short period of time, possibly months.
With so much demand for online poker, and money to be made, it’s to both the sites’ and government’s common interest to get online poker up and running in the United States as soon as possible. With the Department of Justice’s intervention this week, online poker in the US will need government regulation to move forward. Until that happens poker operators will be hesitant to service US based players.
4. Regulated poker will attract new players, and will have a profitable format (low rake, variety of legitimate sites to choose from, vast player friendly promotions).
The US government has the power to regulate poker which would make depositing and withdrawing easier. If players can freely use debit and credit cards to withdraw and deposit it will attract more casual players. The government can also hold online gaming companies accountable and make their operation more transparent, giving players more security. This would enhance poker’s public image and popularity.
As we speak, the rest of the world is enjoying online poker uninterrupted. Major tournaments on PokerStars, have been seen a reduction in entry of approximately 20%, which is noticeable but not major. Online poker worldwide is safe and has a bright future. The current answer for online poker players in America is to wait and see. Hopefully the U.S. Department of Justice will regulate and legalize online poker in the United States in the near future.