Many people knew this day would come – the day the U.S. federal government made a move against the largest online poker rooms. Though this has been years in the making, many people, including ourselves, were shocked by the speed and reach of the bans.
It began on Friday – what is now being called Poker’s Black Friday. One player initially reported on 2+2’s forums that Full Tilt had an “FBI confiscated” image posted on the homepage. While other forum visitors originally chalked this up as a joke by that particular player, it was eventually determined that the site had been brought down. Poker Stars, UltimateBet, and Absolute Poker had all followed in suit.
It’s a shame, really. Washington, D.C. had just recently passed laws allowing USA online poker in the District. It seems that this is too little too late, even as a symbolic move. The Department of Justice has indicted 11 people, shut down both the .com’s and .net’s belonging to these online poker rooms, and they have effectively halted the operations of these sites. Players who earn their entire living off of these poker rooms have seriously impacted, and many are now left wondering whether or not winnings will be paid out. Unfortunately, American gamblers cannot even sit down at tables anymore. Some had been able to withdraw, but most players have been left in the lurch.
The weekend hadn’t brought all bad news, however. PartyGaming had definitely been happy about the change. Bwin.PartyGaming shares soared by over 30% after news broke of these poker rooms being targeted. Gains of almost 50p per share had been witnessed, running the stock from GBP131 to GBP171 over night. PlayTech and 888 Holdings also stood to gain. Other poker rooms had absorbed the American gambles that had been left to dry by the closures. Bodog poker has apparently experienced a 20% increase in players, while Carbon Poker and other Merge Poker sites had experienced gains since Friday.
PokerStars and Full Tilt would have had 100,000+ players logged in last week. As of today, this number has been brought to 52,000 and 38,000 respectively.
There is no telling how long these sites will be defunct, but the Department of Justice is still pursuing the indictments in order to begin prosecution. Expect the Poker Players Alliance to eventually get involved in the legal affray that is likely to kick off because of this series of indictments. As the Department of Justice continues to urge that online poker is illegal, you will see that players, operators, and fans alike are all arguing that the element of skill required to play poker make this not a gamble, but a game of skill.
Regardless of what happens, one this is for certain – the government has taken away a source of entertainment and relaxation for many players, all under the pretext of a foolish law written by foolish fools to foolishly ban something that should be used to make money, not cost it. But then again, they have seized millions and are demanding billions in damages.
Write your senators and representatives folks – it is only through case work that these suits will realize what we want and how we want it. It isn’t as if we haven’t had several attempts already.