It has been one year since the dreaded “Black Friday,” and it has nothing to do with shopping either. On April 15, 2011 the federal government shut down online poker in the United States and seized the domain names of pokerstars, fulltilt, and absolute poker. This was a dark day in the poker world and perhaps the biggest story in the history of the game.
Nobody expected such an event would ever come to pass, but it did and changed the lives of many pro poker players. When the federal government shut everything down, many players that had accounts on the sites were beside themselves as their accounts were now frozen. For the players who played and made a living exclusively online, they immediately lost their jobs so to speak. Some players had several hundreds of thousands of dollars in their accounts. Since the poker boom in 2003 when Chris Moneymaker won his seat at the Main Event by qualifying online on pokerstars, more and more people became poker players. Online sites flourished, providing players a 24 hour anywhere access to poker. Before its collapse in 2011 the online poker industry was valued at an estimated 9 billion + dollars! While online players can still play in other countries, the monetary magnitude of the industry has definitely declined with the banning of American players.
Pokerstars, Fulltilt, and Absolute Poker all had their CEOs arrested and assets seized. They were indicted on several charges including; money laundering, fraud, and illegal transfer of funds. Fulltilt seemed to get the worst of it when they had everything stripped from their possession and players’ accounts were frozen much longer than the other sites. In addition, pro players Chris “jesus” Ferguson and Howard Lederer were charged with illegally transferring funds to supplement their own accounts. Some estimated that it was in the millions. The company was recently bought by a company in Europe with the hopes of returning the money to the players which is still in process.
What has changed in a year? Not much legally has changed. However, the DOJ did change its interpretation of the Wire Act which was significant, but no substantial change to federal law has been made. However, state governments have begun to get involved. Nevada passed a statute allowing the licensing and regulation of online poker. On the reverse side, Utah passed a law prohibiting online poker or any kind of online gaming. The struggles with FTP and the DOJ continue, but the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) is working in conjunction with lobbyists to ensure the fair treatment of the players and their accounts when it comes to the U.S. based players. There has been talk that U.S. players may only see a portion of their winnings, which may be the only resolution to get this over with.
The states seem to have the control on whether they want to allow it or not. However, online poker in most states is not top priority, so don’t hold your breath on that one. It seems we have to wait a little longer here in the U.S. and keep grinding it out on the play money sites. Amazingly Pokerstars.net, a play money only site, can still see upwards of 40,000 players online at a time. I play on Pokerstars.net and have built my play money account up to 106,000. Take that Phil Hellmuth!
The players are still there and we await a decision that will once again allow us to play freely without the fear of getting a knock on the door from a federal agent demanding our laptop. Hopefully 2012 brings a promising outlook for online poker. If you would like to join the cause in the fight for online poker, check out the PPA website HERE. and follow the news daily. The future of online poker is still uncertain, but can change quickly just like the chip stacks in a no limit hold ‘em game.
Mike “Daggum” Krisle – Beat Writer – AGP