US Poker Sites Seized By FBIApril 17, 2011 8:43 am
Update – Check this page for up to date list of online poker sites accepting US players
Despite being considered illegal since the UIGEA was introduced in 2006, the US online poker industry still continued to thrive mostly due to the presence of the two largest sites in the world, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.
Prior to 2006, PartyPoker was the world largest online poker site and chief operator in the US market. However, since PartyPoker withdrew from the US and agreed a $105 million fine, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were quick to fill the online poker vacuum left behind.
The two sites then managed to capture around 70% of the US market share and 50% worldwide, earning $1 billion in revenue from the $30 billion gambled in illegal US online poker rooms each year.
Up to 15 million Americans are thought to have continued playing poker online for money but since what has now become known as ‘Black Friday’ in the poker world, PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker have now been shut down by the FBI, charging the sites with bank fraud, money laundering and violating gambling laws.
As FBI assistant director Janice Fedarcyk explains:
“These defendants, knowing full well that their business with U.S. customers and U.S. banks was illegal, tried to stack the deck. They lied to banks about the true nature of their business. Then, some of the defendants found banks willing to flout the law for a fee.”
“The defendants bet the house that they could continue their scheme, and they lost.”
The Department Of Justice is now seeking more than $3 billion in penalties and forfeiture alone from these sites, and have already arrested 11 individuals, as well as frozen 76 bank accounts across 14 countries.
This has also prompted many of PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker’s US customers to fear for the money they already have in their online accounts. This even prompted online poker prodigy and Team Full Tilt member Tom “durrrr” Dwan to write on his Twiter page:
“I’d guess ftp/stars is worth more than 93c on the $ (almost 100% u get paid but could take 2-3 mnths n worst case more).”
How this latest situation in the US online poker market plays out over the coming months remains to be seen, but in the meantime there are still a number of poker rooms still accepting US players, which can be viewed here.