United States residents who play on member sites of the Merge Gaming Network are down one funding method this week. As of October 18th, PIC Club and Merge ceased doing business with one another, leaving PIC Club customers scrambling to find another way to deposit and withdraw at poker rooms such as Carbon Poker and Poker Nordica. No reason was given by PIC Club management for the separation.
PIC Club, short for Players Investment Company, is a cleverly constructed online poker payment processing company. It was formed in 2006 by a group of poker players who were dismayed by the problems in online poker resulting from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). After reading through the UIGEA with their lawyers, they realized a couple things: a) it was not illegal to play online poker and b) certain types of business, namely trading companies, were exempt from the Act. So, they bought a trading company and got to work.
PIC Club members can deposit funds into their e-wallet in any number of ways, including VISA, Mastercard, AMEX, and Diners Club. When making a deposit, the member is technically buying “shares” of the commodities that the company trades. These shares are sold to the player at one dollar per share and placed in the player’s “Available Shares Account.” When the PIC Club member wants to make a deposit from his PIC Club account to an online poker room, PIC Club actually sells the appropriate number of shares from the Available Shares Account to the poker room. The poker room places the payment in the player’s poker room account and that player is then ready to play. From the player’s perspective, it looks like a normal cash transaction.
The big downside to PIC Club is that it is very fee-heavy. First, there is a one dollar fee assessed on every deposit into a PIC Club account. This is placed in the player’s “Common Shares Account” and actually earns interest. PIC Club paid out 10.5 percent in interest last year. According to the company, this fee is part of what makes it legal in the U.S. While one dollar is nothing to get too upset about, the credit card fees, should one decide to use that deposit method, are steep. Members who use VISA, Mastercard, or Discover are levied a six percent fee, while those who use AMEX, Diners Club, or JCB are hit with a seven and a half percent fee.
The Merge Gaming Network, while not big, was easily the largest network to use PIC Club. Others sites include Everleaf Poker, poker4ever, and the rest of the Everleaf Gaming Network, True Poker and Bet CRIS on the Yatahay Network, and DoylesRoom and Poker Host of the Cake Poker Network. It appears that the only poker rooms that have partnered with PIC Club are those that allow U.S. customers, which makes sense. Rooms and networks such as Party Poker, the iPoker Network, and the OnGame Network have no need for PIC Club, as their customers, none of whom live in the U.S., have a myriad of depositing options. The two largest poker rooms on the internet, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, which do accept U.S. customers, do not accept PIC Club. One might speculate that because they have so many customers who have obviously been able to make deposits, they do not need to cater to the small minority for whom PIC Club is the only option. If that is true (again, just my speculation), then we really should not expect large U.S.-unfriendly rooms such as Party Poker to accept PIC Club any time soon.
PIC Club members on the Merge Network rooms are not necessarily out of luck forever. PIC Club management has indicated that it will look to make deals with the individual sites on the network, apart from the network as a whole.

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