Black Friday’s international impact on online poker
Internet poker is international, and most online poker rooms reflect that global gaming pool, despite all the confusing regulations each country throws up to tax or police the activity.
So, even though April 15’s online poker shutdown by the FBI technically only blocked American players from those leading online poker sites — PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, UB.com and Absolute Poker — the effects are definitely being felt worldwide, and in a big way.
The most obvious example of this: The sudden absence of a large number of American players from a poker site makes that site seem a lot less appealing to the remaining players, and they’re likely to leave, too.
“While non-US players can still play poker on the banned sites, the disruption and seizure of funds could make it difficult for the operators to continue and may drive some punters to rival operators,” The Guardian explains. “In the world of online poker, the more players a site has, the more attractive it becomes to new players, as it is easier for them to find games with the appropriate level of stakes and payouts.”
Last week, we explored how the changes will likely help the European market. Another likely winner is Canada. First, there’s the gut reaction of many pro American players to simply move to Canada, where they can once again play legally. Since many players do need to play every day, legally, to make their living, that’s probably not just an idle threat.
Seizing the opportunity to toot its own horn, Poker.ca is among those reporting that Canadian players are already shifting away from the “Black Friday” sites and migrating to others, like 888 Poker and PartyPoker.
Poker.ca’s owner explained that “players in Canada are now concerned with keeping their money in online poker rooms that haven’t been charged with fraud or other illegal activity. Online poker in Canada is legal, giving Canadians a variety of reputable companies to choose from, so why risk trusting their bankrolls with poker rooms that can get shut down by the FBI?”
Antigua and Barbuda are claiming that the U.S. government’s blocking of international online poker sites on April 15 was a violation of trade agreements.
It’s not the first time the Caribbean nations have made the complaint, but it’s much louder now. “It contends U.S. crackdowns against foreign betting sites are illegal and protectionist, since gambling for money is permitted in U.S. casinos and since online betting is allowed for state-regulated horse racing in the United States,” reports Reuters.
“I don’t think there’s another country in the world that puts people in jail for engaging in trade that’s lawful under international law,” Mark Mendel, the Caribbean government’s legal advisor, told Reuters. “It’s as if Antigua would put Americans in jail for selling pineapples.”
What may seem like a trifle in the U.S. is a huge deal in the Caribbean: Online gambling is estimated to be Antigua’s second-largest employer, after tourism.
The Sydney Morning Herald is speculating on the fate and likely whereabouts of Daniel Tzvetkoff, the guy who may have caused this mess. The Aussie entrepreneur who created the poker-friendly online payment processing company Intabill “is likely to have entered the FBI’s witness protection program and could be housed in a jail facility on the US east coast.”
That’s because Tzvetkoff is believed to have provided prosecutors with the information that led to Black Friday’s 11 arrests of Internet poker owners, executives, and associates.
”He’s in a lock-up somewhere,” said James Wedick, the Morning Herald’s source, a former FBI special agent who reportedly specialized “in handling confidential informants and co-operating witnesses”.
Wedick said that if Tzvetkoff had indeed become a government witness, he still wouldn’t have been released from custody.
Probably the biggest impact on the shutdown is on the many international poker tournaments sponsored by the targeted sites. We’ll explore that topic in more detail tomorrow here at the Casino Affiliate Programs Blog.