Even if you do not have your ear to the poker ground like I do, you probably have heard that three of the world’s largest online poker companies–Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker–have closed their doors to United States players due to an FBI crackdown on internet gambling. With an overnight blackout, many players were worried that all of their earnings would be lost. However, those fears have (somewhat) been put to rest as the federal prosecutors involved in the case have given Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars access to their domain names. With restrictions to these websites lifted, both companies can start processing withdrawals.
The online poker ban happened on Friday when eleven people, including the founders of the various poker companies, were charged with bank fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to violate the unlawful gambling enforcement act (UIGIEA). Along with these charges, the federal government issued restraining orders against 76 bank accounts associated with the online poker companies. Once the domain names were seized, all of the poker gaming clients associated with the federal case were effectively shut down. Users could no longer buy into a game, withdraw funds, or even log-in. If you attempted to access the poker websites to discover what was going on, all you would see is:
But for the first time since Friday, there is at least a ray of hope for poker players in the United States. In a statement by the government, the domain names have been restored to “facilitate the return of money”, which means that in the coming days and weeks withdrawals from Full Tilt and PokerStars will finally be possible. Unfortunately, Absolute Poker was not included in this agreement, but the government is offering them the same option if they so choose. As of press time, I have been able to log in to Full Tilt Poker account for the first time since Friday, but my funds are still restricted. I imagine it will take quite some time before transactions will be processed, but in the mean time, all three poker companies assure their players that their funds are “safe and secure”. Even though player’s earnings are not immediately transferable, at least there is some light in what looks to be a dark time for the online poker community.