When the Congress passed the infamous Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006, online poker service providers either withdrew from the US market or continued to offer real money poker games to US players as if nothing had happened. The UIGEA was quite vague; besides, it did not clearly ban online poker gaming from the US or make it illegal for US poker players to play online poker. However, it came down heavily on banks and financial institutions, making it illegal for them to process funds related to online gambling.
This encouraged online poker players and online poker companies alike to allow a wide range of games to get around the law. US poker players continued to play online poker and online poker sites kept funds of at least $16 billion generated by the wagering activities of at least 1.8 billion US poker players in circulation. This was done by creating fake business fronts, a huge network of payment processing companies, and bank accounts, which facilitated free flow of gambling money. Accordingly, funds moving into checking accounts from online poker gaming accounts weren’t shown in bank statements. It was this that made it easy for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to come down heavily on Full Tilt, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker.
On Friday, the DOJ issued an official 52-page indictment against the chief executives of Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and PokerStars, seized their domains, and shut them down in the US, shocking millions of US poker players who had registered accounts at these online poker sites. The US authorities also slapped money laundering fines of $3 billion against these companies besides freezing 75 bank accounts around 14 countries and indicting a number of people on charges of bank fraud and money laundering.
As a result of this, Absolute, Full Tilt, and PokerStars can no longer offer real money games in the US. Since they sponsored a number of poker players and live poker tournaments and qualified many of them to prestigious events such as the World Series of Poker, their withdrawal from the US market will have a serious impact on the online poker gaming world. Wynn Resorts, which struck a deal with PokerStars last week, announced after the indictment that the deal was off. The only silver lining to the cloud is that players have been assured that their money is safe and can be withdrawn anytime.