Black Friday for Online Players
Online poker players had a pretty dull weekend as Friday federal law enforcement suddenly took a hand in the debate about online poker.
And in its current form, it’s pretty clear the feds are against it.
In what is now being called “Black Friday” for online players, the U.S. Department of Justice seized five online poker domain names and seized accounts and held money stored by players, which includes the bankrolls of a lot of online pros. The DOJ also accused 11 people of bank fraud and of illegally operating gambling websites.
Full Tilt, PokerStars and Absolute Poker were hit by the indictments, according to reports.
It’s pretty complicated stuff and has already set of a wave of repercussions, including the quick cancellation of deals between casino operators and online sites such as Steve Wynn’s recently announced partnership with PokerStars.
PokerStars, meanwhile has blocked U.S. players from its site.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “without warning (the feds) shut down a handful of poker sites, including the popular site Full Tilt Poker. The DOJ accused 11 people of bank fraud and of illegally operating gambling websites. The government also seized accounts run by the sites that held money stored by players.”
While the ramifications are complex, the issue is simple. U.S. law currently says online gambling is illegal, but poker sites such as Full Tilt have gotten around the law by operating outside the country. Full Tilt, for example, is based in the English Channel island of Alderney.
What’s more interesting is the timing of the move; just as the District of Columbia is poised to be the first U.S. jurisdiction to regulate online gaming. Of course, there may not be a connection since D.C.’s initiative can still be blocked by Congress.
The indictments may also lead to a revival of efforts to change the federal law and legalize online poker; efforts which floundered last year. Still, such attempts usually included clauses to ban offshore poker sites such as Full Tilt for violating the U.S. ban.
But perhaps the biggest effect will be finally driving online poker players into actual poker rooms against live players. While that should help every casino with poker in the country, Atlantic City could see a nice increase in action.
Update: here’s a good report from The AP.