The online poker players of the United States are still in a holding pattern waiting for the return of their funds from some of the Online Poker Sites that were targeted in the April 15th, 2011, indictments handed down by the US Department of Justice. PokerStars has already initiated transfers to player's bank accounts as of this writing but Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker have not. The reasons behind the slow pay-out from Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker are not clear at this time; one can only hope that their player funds will soon be returned.
Many articles on a variety of topics have surfaced since Black Friday. Most are written in support of online poker and state the reasons that it should be legalized, regulated, and taxed. A few carry interesting detailed backgrounds on some of the sites - Absolute Poker in particular - and others report the news, while others still are opinion pieces. PokerWorks has compiled some of the best reads on Black Friday and lists them here to help you filter through the edge of black, the edge leading to a loss of freedom in the United States:
Online Poker's Big Three Indicted (UPDATED 4/18 4:45 p.m. PDT)
On Friday, an indictment against the founders of online poker's "big three" was unsealed by federal authorities. According to MarketWatch.com, the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker were indicted on charges of bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling. There were also restraining orders issued against over 75 bank accounts used by the online poker companies and their payment processors, as well as five Internet domain names.
The State of Online Poker
Online poker is alive and well - with a few jagged edges. An indictment against the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker was unsealed by federal authorities on Friday, April 15th, 2011. The charges were money laundering, illegal gambling, and bank fraud, along with restraining orders issued against over 75 bank accounts that were used by the online poker companies and their payment processors - including five internet domain names. PokerNews has an updating page to keep you atop the latest news as it unfolds.
PokerStars already has stopped serving the U.S. market. I expect Full Tilt Poker and probably Absolute Poker to follow. I would not expect these sites to serve the U.S. market again until after online poker is officially legalized, licensed and regulated in the country. Even then, the chances of these sites obtaining a license have been severely impacted. Americans with money on the sites likely will get it back eventually but, as it did when the Neteller founders were indicted, it could take a while.
There are so many aspects of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) recent actions against online poker that I don’t understand.
I don’t understand why the very government that was built to champion personal liberty would take away our rights to play online poker, a game that citizens of almost every other country in the world are allowed to play. Why don’t we have the same rights as those who reside in other countries?
I don’t understand why the DOJ has spent so much time and money trying to shut down a game. Wouldn’t their time be better spent trying to crack down on some of the truly destructive crises in our nation like terrorism, drug dealing, and crime?
We will be entering a critical post-indictment juncture during the next month, which will determine the direction of online poker in the United States, according to Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas.
"There are two ways this can go," Pappas said. "One way, Congress becomes too scared to deal with this issue. Or Congress will realize that, to millions of Americans, this is their hobby and sometimes livelihood, and they need to make it legalized for them to play. The next month is going to be our month to either seize or lose."
It’s been seven days since the proverbial bomb dropped on thousands of poker players, so with an entire week to stew over last Friday’s news about the indictments by the U.S. Department of Justice, and the world’s two largest online poker sites pulling out of the U.S. market, players have had time to contemplate their uncertain futures.
Some players are looking at this news as a “blessing in disguise.” It’s a forced early retirement and a hard shove into other endeavors that had previously been put on the back burner. For years, brothers Hac “Trex313” and Di “Urindanger” Dang had ravaged the highest stakes no-limit hold’em and pot-limit Omaha games online while living in their hometown of Fairfax Station, Virginia. Without online poker, their main source of income was abruptly stripped from them. Known for his unwavering positive attitude, Di responds with optimism and empathy for his fellow players.
On Black Friday, the entire American poker community went to Twitter and Facebook to voice their opinions about the indictments handed down by the U.S. Department of Justice. Most of these messages were panicky, and some of the more popular hashtags on Twitter included, #pokerpocalypse, #pokerpanic and #ggonlinepoker. Some players had reason to fret; others were unnecessarily adding fuel to a white-hot fire. Now that it’s a week later, we thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at the infamous day and examine whether the community’s hysteric reactions were warranted.
With the recent development of poker's Black Friday, many in the world, especially in the United States, have been glued to the media to see what would develop with the Top Three online poker sites that were indicted by the U.S. Southern District of New York on April 15th, 2011. Statements were released regarding the indictments of their licensees: PokerStars - the Isle of Man Supervision Commission, and Absolute Poker - Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC), on Tuesday April 19, 2011. The poker world waited to hear from Full Tilt Poker and the following statement was released on the 20th by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission:
While online poker players in the US are still reeling from the shock of losing their jobs and income, and the freedom to play poker online from the privacy of their homes, there is a glimmer of light in knowing that Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars have struck a deal to regain the use of the respective .com sites. US players are still not permitted to play for real money but the rest of the world will be able to play at those sites without any issues.
During the first few days after the shock of the allegations levied in indictments against the 'Big Three' - PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker - players were trying to regroup and searched frantically for any information available on what was going to happen to their online poker accounts and what the next step was going to be with the online poker sites, would online poker be available from those sites again in the United States. Both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker issued statements regarding the allegations and their primary concern was returning players' money that was held in their poker accounts - they also closed all access to US players to cash games on their sites. During this time, Absolute Poker remained silent, although they allowed US players to access their site and play poker, they could not cash-out or deposit.
“Black Friday” is not associated with hysterical holiday shopping anymore.
A new “Black Friday” was christened on April 15, and this was a day there was nothing to be thankful for if you were an avid online poker player.
It was a day when the Department of Justice, long known for its brilliant ideas—holding the 9/11 terror trial in New York?—decided to put a full-court press on poker that John Calipari would have been proud of.
It's not the first time the tiny island nation of Antigua has gone to war with the United States and their controversial laws on what constitutes legal gambling, and it appears Antigua is ready to step back up to the plate to possibly seek more sanctions against the United States. Antigua's actions are a reaction to the poker outrage that occurred on April 15th, (Black Friday), when the DOJ revealed the contents of indictments against the three biggest online poker sites - PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. Included with the indictments were warrants for the owners behind the companies, confiscation of the poker sites’ .com names, and freezing 75 bank accounts that held poker player's money.
Absolute Poker's hot streak was about to come to an end.
The online poker site was the creation of four Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers. One of them grew up in St. Petersburg and tapped his family's wealth and network of well-heeled friends for startup cash. The pitch back in the early 2000s: Get in on the ground floor and hit the jackpot.
The site, one of the first of its kind, grew like wildfire. Soon nearly 30,000 players were logging on at once, trying their luck at games like Texas Hold'em. In just four years, annual revenues rocketed past $200 million.
Online poker won't go away any time soon, and placing artificial obstacles in its way is bad for players and worse for government, which wastes scarce resources in pointless regulatory pursuits.
By its nature, gambling is an uncertain proposition for the player. But here's a bet you can't lose: If a U.S. gambling regulation is on the table, put your money on the side that says it will be confused, hypocritical and costly.
Case in point: "Black Friday."
Online poker: Legalize it!
It's not often that opportunity arrives in the form of a federal indictment. But that's exactly what's happened in the world of online poker.
Online poker is currently illegal in the U.S. and, as a result, the $6 billion industry has developed overseas, catering to the wishes of millions of Americans playing from their homes in Ohio, California, Mississippi and every other state. That's crazy.
Earlier this month, the federal government cracked down on foreign online poker operations — the FBI charged 11 people with fraud, including the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. That move has produced a unique opportunity to bring thousands of jobs home to America, to generate revenues that benefit Americans rather than foreign companies and to bring clarity to the current ambiguous set of federal laws. We should seize the moment.
When the U.S. Department of Justice charged the executives of Full Tilt Poker (FTP) and PokerStars (PS) with bank fraud, money laundering and operating illegal gambling businesses on April 15, hundreds of professional poker players began wondering how this action will affect their sponsorship agreements with these companies.
At this time, neither company knows exactly how it will deal with the agreements it’s made with the sponsored professionals, but I think it’s safe to say there will be significant changes to the sponsorship landscape.
I wouldn't be shocked if I crashed mail servers last week after I tweeted that I wanted poker players whose futures were affected by "Black Friday" to email their stories to my account. Hundreds answered the call, sharing at length the dire circumstances they face in the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice's actions against poker industry entities and the subsequent departure of those entities from America's digital space. People are hurting. A lot.
"You have these tens of thousands of U.S. players and millions of casual players who want to play on occasion and these people have money tied up and are suffering more than [PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Ultimate Bet] ever will," said Michael D, one of the affected. "I don't know the reasons behind the DOJ's actions, but it seems like there might be broader ramifications than they considered. They didn't have the foresight to see how people would be impacted by what they did."
As you read through these news pieces, please keep in mind that the only way to initiate action to return the freedom of choice to play online poker at this time, is to contact your state and federal representatives, put as much pressure on the government as possible to make them understand that we are citizens of the United States and as such, one of our freedoms has been compromised. Many people oppose gambling. Poker is not gambling; poker is a game of people played with cards. The choice to play cards should be each person's, not dictated by the government. Please write and call your representatives today - and every day until we have our rights returned to us.