PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker Closed to USA Players
On April 15th, 2011, a day that is becoming known in the poker industry as ‘Poker’s Black Friday’, the Federal Government of the United States shut down four of the largest online poker sites including PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. The Feds also issued eleven indictments, made three arrests, and seized assets that include bank accounts and domain names. The indictments all revolved around what the Federal Government says are violations of the 2006 U.I.G.E.A. relating to payment processing. It is alleged that the payment processors used fraudulent and illegal methods to circumvent Federal law. The poker sites and their payment processors are accused of creating a multitude of bank accounts and running the deposits through in a manner that made them appear to be purchases of items such as jewelry and golf balls. A partner of Sun First Bank in Utah was one of the people that were arrested based upon the charge that he used the bank to assist in the processing of payments in return for a $10 million investment in the bank.
All of this was a big surprise to almost everyone that was involved and the authorities were quite proficient at keeping this whole matter under wraps before everything came out last Friday. This is a fact that is actually pretty amazing considering the amount of effort that must have been put in to all of this, the amount of people that had to have knowledge of everything, and the scope of the entire indictment. With all of the recent talk of states like New Jersey and California trying to legalize online poker, it is difficult to truly understand what motivated the authorities to act at this time and in this manner. They are seeking to levy fines in excess of $3 billion and, at a time when the United States is faced with a massive budget deficit, this alone may be reason enough.
Actions are always followed by a reaction and this is certainly going to be true about the closure of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. The four poker sties that were shut down represented about 95 % of the online poker market in the United States. In addition to the revenue that will be lost by these online poker sites there will be many other businesses that are affected. PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker spent hundreds of millions of dollars annually in marketing and advertising money and this will be a loss to the television and other industries. Shows like ‘The Big Game’ on the fox Network, ‘Poker After Dark’ on NBC, and other shows will most likely disappear.
It is also safe to assume that the major live tournaments in the United States, like the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker will be significantly affected and will see a major drop in attendance. It can only be hoped that the United States Congress can come to their senses and recognize the public desire and demand for online poker.