posted on May 16, 2011 00:00
Sorry I missed you last week. I have very been busy. This rarely happens for me in this column, but I have too much to write about this week. I apologize in advance if this article rambles on a bit.
Black Friday Updates. The Poker World took a real hit on April 15, 2011. If you are exclusively an online player, you need no explanation. If you are exclusively a live player, you may think Black Friday doesn't affect you in any way. I am telling you here and now, you're wrong. If you are simply a fan of poker, even you will feel the impact of the day the U.S. Department of Justice shut down online poker for Americans. Gone are the TV poker shows and the pro sponsorships. These TV pretty boys are going to have to pay their own way now. UB has laid off it's entire pro team and 90% of it's site employees in Costa Rica. It is my opinion the World Poker Tour will survive, along with the NBC Heads-Up National Championship and most of the ESPN coverage of the WSOP. I think Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker are toast. The whole poker eco-system will suffer from the disappearing advertising dollars the sites spent in the U.S. market -- and the fields will be smaller across the board everywhere.
Frequently Asked Questions. Can Americans still play online? Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars have ceased offering cash play games to Americans. The software will not allow you to play. A handful of smaller sites were not part of the shutdown and continue to serve American players. Should I play these alternative sites that accept American and will I get paid if I do? My recommendation, considering the online poker climate for American players: DO NOT deposit in any online site at this time. If you are a PokerStars player LEARN MORE HERE This week PokerStars reported it has returned over $100 million dollars to U.S. players and the way Stars has handled the matter has been first-rate.
Full Tilt Poker (FTP) followed suit by announcing they intend to pay U.S. players and had made the same agreement with the Department of Justice as PokerStars. Full Tilt Poker HAS NOT made withdrawals for Americans available yet. FTP has hardly been impressive with the way they have handled this process. On April 26, Pokerstars had began processing payments for Americans and within a few days players were reporting they had been paid. Full Tilt responded on April 28 and announced they would announce more information the following week. Yes. I am not kidding. FTP announced they would announce the announcement of more information the following week. The FTP press release on April 28 stated "Full Tilt Poker is diligently working on return of U.S. players funds which is a top priority and will have a further update for US customers by early next week."
May 05 came and went, and the word is all FTP players worldwide have been affected. Bank wire payments are disabled and the maximum withdrawal by check is $2000 -- and checks for international players have been slow to be processed by Full Tilt. If FTP doesn't begin paying U.S. players this week, I would begin to worry. Last night (May 15) Full Tilt Poker made yet another announcement.
"Since April 15th and the days immediately following, Full Tilt Poker faced numerous challenges and hurdles to ensuring the smooth operation of its international business and the orderly return of US player funds. FTP has worked tirelessly to address these issues and has made significant progress on both fronts. FTP's international business operations are returning to normal while we focus on ensuring the safe and orderly return of US player deposits. We are absolutely committed to making sure that US players are refunded as soon as possible. We apologize for the delay and the fact that we underestimated the time it would take to work through these issues. We will update our US players when we have more specific information to provide."
Let me translate that for you...
"Because of the unusual high volume of announcements, some announcements may experience delays in being announced. Be aware that all announcements are safe and an announcement regarding our next announcement will be announced soon."
Absolute Poker (AP) and Ultimate Bet (UB) U.S. players continue to play on AP and UB, also known as the Cereus network. This is the company that brought us the cheating scandals which stole over $20 million (or more) dollars from unsuspecting players. When the Department of Justice announced indictments of eleven men on charges of money laundering, bank fraud and illegal gambling -- the indicted list included Tom Scott and his step-brother Brent Beckley of Absolute Poker. Tom is accused of being part of the Absolute Poker scandal (not to be confused with the UB scandal). Despite the fact the Kahnawake Gaming Commission required all individuals involved in the AP crimes not to be involved with the company, and despite the claim there are new owners at Cereus, Tom Scott continued to be involved in company matters after the fact, and according to the DOJ.
May 04, 2011 MSNBC reported:
"Madeira Fjord of Norway, which represents shareholders in the poker websites’ parent company, Blanca Gaming of Antigua, said in an email to shareholders this week that it planned to file for bankruptcy protection in Norway after being informed that the latter company had “no cash on hand and no prospects for any cash flow for the foreseeable future. Most importantly, Blanca Gaming has provided notice … that it is currently unable to make any payments toward its debt obligations,” it said. “Additionally, Blanca has further advised that there will be no future payments.”
Blanca Games is the company which bought AP/UB after the scandals. In response to the news report above, Blanca Games released a press release stating it had come to an agreement with the Department of Justice. Prosecutor Preet Bharara said "With this agreement, all three of the companies that allegedly engaged of the operation of illegal inter gambling businesses, as well as massive wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering, are moving forward with the process of returning the funds they owe to their U.S. customers. As with the other two companies we named in the Complaint, Absolute Poker has at all times been free to reimburse any player's deposited funds."
A few days later, Costa Rican authorities raided the headquarters of Cereus and PokerStars. PokerStars employees report the raid was simply a governmental formality -- the true targets of the raid were persons close to or named in the federal indictment. Tom Scott and Brent Beckley are reportedly in hiding in Costa Rica with the National Police on thier tails. Tune in later.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Learn more at SCOTTYS BLOG later this week...