By Matthew Marietta, Rakeback.com Executive Editor
Disclaimer: The information contained in this page has been pulled from various sources. Speculation in the form of logical extrapolation and educated guesses have been used. While meant to be as informative as possible, events are changing in real time. Please use your own discretion and judgment when deciding how you wish to proceed.
Please read on for the status of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, UB and Absolute Poker in the US.
While we are shocked and dismayed at the decision of the United States government to seize PokerStars, Full Tilt, UB, and Absolute Poker’s domain names, we urge a general calm regarding the situation.
First and foremost - it is not a crime for you to play online poker as an individual, even if you are a United States citizen.
While we cannot yet draw broad conclusions or predict how the current situation will turn out, one guide we can use is the precedent set by the events surrounding the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act in 2006. As with the issues in 2006 and the passage of the UIGEA, player funds remain safe at this time. Currently no player funds have been seized by any government.
No doubt solutions will be reached to allow players to continue enjoying online poker. When the UIGEA was passed, many Americans found themselves locked out of Party Poker. After the lockout of American players from Party Poker in 2006, the intelligent members of the poker community simply migrated to other poker rooms. Additionally, all player funds were returned in a timely fashion.
While this is a very different situation, the precedent set in 2006 should serve as some guide to how we should expect events to unfold.
Below is a FAQ sheet to help answer some of the main questions that may be on your mind. Many of the questions cannot be answered at this time, but this page will be updated frequently and as more information arises.
These rooms are operating normally and are ready to receive new U.S. players.
1. What should U.S players who have money on PokerStars, Full Tilt, UB and Absolute Poker do?
Don’t panic. PokerStars has issued a statement assuring players’ money is safe. A statement from the Cereus Network (Absolute and UB) is shown below.
[Update 12.21.2011 - 07:20 ET] Group Bernard Tapie in final steps to acquire Full Tilt Poker.
[Update 11.18.2011 - 04:23 ET] Groupe Bernard Tapie and the US Department of Justice have signed a deal where GBT will take over Full Tilt Poker.
[Update 11.03.2011 - 09:59 ET] Kahnawake Gaming Commission releases a statement indicating a plan to reimburse player funds at UB and Absolute Poker has been submitted to the US Department of Justice.
[Update 11.03.2011 - 03:27 ET] Groupe Bernard Tapic and the US Department of Justice reach an agreement over the purchase of Full Tilt Poker, players my get money back.
[Update 10.27.2011 - 12:05 ET] Alderney Gambling Control Commission overestimates Full Tilt Poker funds seized by the US DOJ to the tune of $200 million.
[Update 9.30.2011 - 21:02 ET] Full Tilt Poker conditionally sold to French business tycoon Bernard Tapie.
[Update 9.21.2011 - 10:39 ET] US Department of Justice calls Full Tilt Poker a "global ponzi scheme", Tom Dwan speaks out.
[Update 7.31.2011 - 15:54 ET] Phil Ivey reportedly borrowed $10 million to play on Full Tilt Poker over a two year period, repaid $5 million.
[Update 6.18.2011 - 19:44 ET] Full Tilt Poker's shortfall of $60 million stems from not being able to collect funds from customer bank accounts.
[Update 6.01.2011 - 10:05 ET] Phil Ivey files litigation against Full Tilt Poker and will skip the WSOP.
[Update 5.29.2011 - 03:45 ET] Full Tilt Poker reportedly has account unfrozen by the US Department of Justice.
[Update 5.07.2011 - 17:44 ET] PokerStars issues new FAQ Page - covers "Can I cash in my FPP's?"
[Update 5.05.2011 - 22:14 ET] Full Tilt Poker issues new FAQ Page for U.S. Players
[Update 4.26.2011 - 18:59 ET] PokerStars opens cash outs for American Players
[Update 4.21.2011 - 18:30 ET] Absolute Poker Issues Statement on Recent DOJ Action - some importatnt cliffnotes:
ST. JOHN'S, ANTIGUA and BARBUDA--(Marketwire - Apr 21, 2011) - Absolute Poker, including the UB issued the following statement today:
"... Absolute Poker is aware that on April 19, 2011, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York entered into separate agreements with FullTilt Poker and PokerStars. ...The US Attorney, in a press release dated April 20, 2011, stated that the government is willing to enter the same agreement with Absolute Poker and UB."
"At this time, Absolute Poker's top priority is... the refund of balances to its and UB's US players..."
The presser goes on to state that Absolute and UB's retained laywers must first review the legal implications before proceeding. No timeline was laid out.
The shutting out of American players should be temporary, and when players are allowed to log in again, funds *should* be available for withdrawal. [Update 4.20.2011 - 19:44 ET] PokerStars uploads FAQ Page regarding player funds, transfers & legalities.
[Update 4.20.2011 - 11:43 ET] Breaking News: Full Tilt and Pokerstars reach deal with DoJ to regain domain names. Full Tilt says, "first step to releasing player funds" PokerStars begins cash outs, Full Tilt to follow suit.
[ Update - 4.19.2011 - 13:12 ET] Cereus VIP support has told players that a press release is being drafted currently and will be released this week. Summary or full text will be posted here when available.
2. What should non-U.S. players who have money on PokerStars, Full Tilt, UB and Absolute Poker do?
Again, don’t panic. PokerStars has issued a statement saying it’s “business as usual” for all players outside the US.
That said, many European rooms have moved to acquire players and are offering a variety of upgraded deals.
3. How does this affect U.S. players who have money on sites not named in the indictment (Black Chip, Poker Nordica, Carbon Poker, Bodog) which still accept U.S. players?
The U.S. Department of Justice has been building the cases against the sites named in the indictment for years, therefore the opinion of the author is that it's very unlikely the smaller rooms will be targeted any time soon. If they haven’t been shut down by now, it is unlikely to happen in the near future.
Business is going on normally at these sites, and players may still download and play. As far as the logistics of payment processors, it has yet to be determined if the smaller U.S. facing rooms have payment processors in common with the larger sites that have been shut down. More updates on that coming soon.
[Update - 8.11.2011 - 13:54 ET] Merge Network rumored to open doors to new US players in the near future.
[Update - 6.03.2011 - 02:09 ET] Merge Network to temporarily suspend new US player poker accounts.
[Update - 5.24.2011 - 14:06 ET] Merge Network to stop accepting new players from New York, Washington DC, Washington State, Maryland, Missouri and Louisiana.
[Update - 5.24.2011 - 03:47 ET] US Department of Justice seizes additional domain names including Doyles Room.
4. What should non-U.S. players do if they have money on sites which still accept U.S. players but were not named in the indictment?
See question 3.
5. What should non-U.S. players on sites that do not accept U.S. players do?
Nothing – all operations normal. Only companies accepting U.S. players have been affected. All non-U.S. sites are business as usual and are accepting new players and processing cash outs normally.
[Update - 9.07.2011 - 05:39 ET] Newly merged bwin.party lining up US based partners for eventual return to the US once online poker is legalized.
6. What will happen to my rakeback payments from the sites indicted today?
The honest answer is that we do not know. [See updates below] However, the wording of the announcements from Full Tilt and PokerStars would seem to indicate rakeback will be safe with all other player money, however it is very likely that rakeback (or VIP rewards) payments will be frozen with the rest of player funds until this issue is resolved.
[Update - 4.22.2011 - 11:51 ET] Full Tilt issues a statement to the Director of Rakeback LTD stating:
"...we have made rakeback payments to your non USA players earlier today (April 22nd, 2011).
Your USA based players will receive their payments sometime next week."
[Update - 4.18.2011 - 23:33 ET] The owner of Rakeback.com has sent priority correspondence to each room asking about the status of payments. More information will be provided as soon as possible. As for now it's a "wait-and-see" approach.
7. What will happen with any bonus money I have from sites indicted today?
Again, the wording of the statements seem to indicate all monies are safe, however bonuses that require play to clear would seem to be lost if players from the U.S. are shut out permanently. However, if the situation is temporary, we expect all bonuses to be waiting for American players upon their return. Players will need to contact the individual room support for queries. Be advised though, as all rooms are experiencing massively increased correspondence due to the events that have unfolded.
8. What will happen with rake races and other contests at sites that were indicted today?
To be determined. Updates will be available later this week, sometime before May 5th, 2011.
9. What will happen with tournament $'s I have from sites indicted today?
Again, players should contact specific rooms regarding this issue, but one could infer that most T$ could be converted to cash, and once cash outs begin to get processed, the money could be claimed in that fashion.
10. What will happen with steps tickets I have from sites indicted today?
Players should contact the specific rooms regarding this issue.
11. What will happen with frequent player points I have from sites indicted today?
The answer to this question would seem to depend on the level of access players are allowed (if any) when they are eventually able to sign in. Logistically, if the affected sites are permanently banned from the U.S., it would seem impossible for them to ship goods into the country.
[Update - 5.08.2011 - 19:00 ET] PokerStars now allowing players to use FPP balances to purchase cash bonuses for withdrawal.
[Update - 4.17.2011 - 22:36 ET] Confirmed reports as of April 17th (see image below) that U.S. players have been able to convert Full Tilt Points to tourney tickets. While still not playable, it's hopeful that the tickets could later be converted to cash when a settlement is reached and funds are released. No word yet on physical merchandise.
12. Other News and Information
[Update - 01.03.2012 - 10:59 ET] New Jersey Senator advocates online poker.
[Update - 12.28.2011 - 10:54 ET] DOJ flip flops on the Wire Act.
[Update - 12.24.2011 - 09:22 ET] Road paved for Nevada intrastate online poker.
[Update - 12.10.2011 - 21:50 ET] Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson opposes online poker.
[Update - 12.01.2011 - 08:19 ET] Facebook in talks to possibly issue a limited number of real-money gambling licenses.
[Update - 11.22.2011 - 08:11 ET] Nevada to start accepting online poker applications soon. Intrastate online poker would become a reality.
[Update - 9.01.2011 - 05:49 ET] New Jersey's second attempt to pass legislation legalizing online moker moving forward.
[Update - 8.27.2011 - 03:55 ET] Nevada is taking steps to have rules in place when online poker is eventually legalized in the US.
[Update - 8.25.2011 - 12:19 ET] Bill to create and legalize California intrastate online poker rooms shelved for the rest of 2011.
[Update - 5.12.2011 - 22:18 ET] All Team UB members released from their sponsorship contracts.
Please stand by for more information, or tune in to the Rakeback.com Poker News Page for breaking developments as they happen.
Disclaimer: This information page contains speculations and inferences based on logic. Situations are changing every minute, and while updates will be provided, we urge you to use your own judgment and discretion when forming opinions regarding the situation at large and/or any issues presented here.
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