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Black Days for U.S. Poker Players

by Brendan Murray |  Published: Jul 01, 2011


And you gotta be careful when you pick fights
And that’s what I’ve learned in this business
You just never know…
Lil’ Kim, Black Friday

It’s over a month now since the world of online poker was rocked with the news that the U.S. Department of Justice had indicted some of the men behind the world’s top three online poker sites (see feature in this issue).
Eleven people related to the businesses of PokerStars, Full Tilt and UB/Absolute Poker were named in the indictment and, at the time of writing, four have been arrested.
The sites almost immediately pull out of the U.S. market after their dot-com domains were seized by the Feds. This left tens of thousands of poker players, both recreational and professional, without a place to indulge the great American pastime and just as many bewildered at the aggressive stance taken by the authorities in the land of the free.
However it was the news that fraud and money laundering were at the heart of the indictments that shocked most. Those who thought the argument that poker was a game of skill rather than chance were wrong-footed. That issue had its rug pulled right out from under its feet.
This was now very, very, serious business indeed.
While it’s a bit like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted to argue that online poker should have been regulated and licensed in the U.S. (like in much of Europe) a long time ago the simple fact of the matter is that it wasn’t.
And the financial black hole that it created in the U.S. was unlikely to be tolerated by government legal eagles there for ever.
Many millions of dollars in player balances remain stuck in limbo at the time of writing,
Confusion still reigns and no-one really knows what will happen next. How will the World Series of Poker be affected? What will happen to poker-related businesses in the U.S. such as agents, media, and affiliates? Will the DOJ try to have people extradited from overseas? Do they really want to put people in prison or will a big fat payoff suffice?
They want $3 billion, but is this realistic? And what happens if they get it from the online poker rooms? Will the operators have anything left or will this bankrupt them? Will they ever realistically stand a chance of operating in the U.S. again?
There are more questions than answers at the moment of course. But one little story sneaked quietly through the high decibel cacophony surrounding Black Friday.
Nevada’s International Game Technology made a bid of €77 million for the european-facing Entraction network and the board of directors at the publicly-quoted Swedish business recommended shareholders accept it.
The significance of this should not be underestimated. It will be the first online poker network wholly owned by a long-standing and very credible U.S.-based company.
It brings to mind the tale of the hare and the tortoise and perhaps the race for the pot of gold at the end of the U.S. rainbow will turn out to be a marathon rather than a sprint after all. ♠