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A Throwback To Black Friday And Its Consequences

Online Poker is bouncing back right now due to the coronavirus crisis shutting down bricks and mortar casinos


It is nearly 10 years since Black Friday changed the world of online poker forever.

Poker is bouncing back right now due to the coronavirus crisis shutting down bricks and mortar casinos, but it has taken a long time for the industry to recover from the events of Black Friday.

The question about regulated vs unregulated sites is still to be answered as online gambling regulations continue to shift in the USA, but brighter days seem to be ahead for online poker.

So what exactly happened on the poker world’s Black Friday – and what impact is it still having?

The state of online poker in America prior to Black Friday

Online poker was hugely popular in the United States prior to Black Friday, which happened on April 15 in 2011.

Sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were positively booming – poker professionals like Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu helped to promote them while playing in top tournaments – and it seemed like the glory days of online poker were here to stay.

That was not the case, though, as the federal criminal case of United States v. Scheinberg changed things in the industry for good.

The Scheinberg referred to in the title of the case was Isai Scheinberg, founder of PokerStars.

What exactly happened on Black Friday?

Leading poker sites were accused of bank fraud and money laundering, as well as violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act – or UIEGA as it is more commonly known.

UIEGA is a 2006 law that banned businesses in the gambling industry from “knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law”.

To put this into more simple language, it effectively meant that payments from customers were not legally allowed to be processed by online poker companies.

This was serious enough but a separate case at the same time aimed to recover some $3 billion from online poker companies such as Full Tilt and Cereus – putting their futures into doubt.

Eventually, a trio of online gambling sites were effectively seized by the U.S. Department of Justice, with customers seeing a takedown notice if they tried to log in for a game of poker.

How did poker players respond to Black Friday?

There was shock across the poker world following the events of Black Friday. Professional poker player Brandon Adams was among those to sum up the widespread concerns when he said: “Some players have literally millions of dollars in their online poker accounts.”

Barney Frank, who was at the time a Congressman, as well as a keen poker player, also spoke out against Black Friday’s impact on the industry. In an interview with The Hill, he said it was “an incredible waste of resources” to go after the poker world. Referring to the US economic crisis of the era, Frank added: “Go after the people responsible for empty houses, not full houses.”

Alfonse D’Amato, a poker player and a former Senator, added his voice to support the poker industry. Writing in an article published by the Washington Post, he described closing down poker sites as an “attack” and noted millions of Americans had been made “victims” as a result.

What happened next for online poker in America?

The effects of Black Friday were felt for a very long time in the United States. It is only over the course of the last couple of years that online poker has got back on its feet in America, with the coronavirus crisis providing an opportunity for growth in this sector.

Changes to online gambling regulations are being brought in across America – but change is slow. At the present time, online poker sites have only been legalised in Nevada, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Rules and regulations are complicated and a world away from a country like the United Kingdom, where online poker is freely available to play for the public.

While regulated and licensed online poker is only offered in a handful of US states, this does not stop Americans from trying their luck at virtual tables. There are a number of unregulated sites that operate under the radar in the US and they remain popular with a lot of online poker players.

The closure of casinos across the US due to the coronavirus crisis might just focus minds. Current online poker laws do not appear to make a lot of sense and changes seem certain.