As poker rooms across the industry are surveying the new landscape, evaluating their own policies regarding American players and jockeying for position for new players.
Two of the companies named in the indictment — PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker — have shut down their U.S. operations. The third, Absolute Poker, was still allowing U.S. players with existing balances to play real-money games as of yesterday afternoon, but was not allowing new American players to sign up or existing players to make deposits or withdrawals.
Victory Poker CEO Dan Fleyshman, who was not named in the indictment, announced that his site is voluntarily leaving the U.S. market, and all of the site’s American players will be migrated to Cake Poker. Fleyshman said one-third of Victory’s players were Americans.
“(Cake has) blocked U.S. players (on Victory Poker) already and are working on the switch now,” said Fleyshman in an e-mail. “(Cake Poker) will continue to accept U.S. players as a network as long as they like, but I have made a personal choice not to have Victory continue.”
Fleyshman is one of just a handful of identifiable online poker executives in the industry. Since his site’s launch in February, 2010, he has aggressively promoted his brand through online videos, advertising and professional player sponsorships. Despite recent actions taken against online poker site owners, Fleyshman says he is not concerned that he may become a target of law enforcement officials.
“I don’t have XYZ shell companies or shady processing,” said Fleyshman, referring to the bank fraud and money laundering charges facing the big three online poker rooms. “Victory is a poker skin on a network, so we have no access to merchant accounts, credit card processing, wire transfers, etc. The second I heard that the government was crushing the top three, I blocked U.S. players for Victory even though none of the other skins on the Cake, Merge, Everleaf and Yahatay (Networks) did. It’s a personal choice. I don’t want to battle with the government; they are relentless and almighty.”
Fleyshman had been in talks with the CEREUS network about a possible move to join what had been the third-largest network to allow U.S. players, but has stopped those talks and looks to be staying with Cake for now.
In addition to Cake Network sites, Merge and Yahatay Network sites as well as Bodog continue to accept U.S. players. Over the past few days, I asked customer service representatives from a variety of sites whether they still accept American players. Here are some of the responses I received:
Bodog Poker: “We are not licensed in the U.S. and are therefore unaffected.”
Cake Poker: “Cake Poker is not party to any ongoing U.S. legal proceedings and it’s business as usual.”
Carbon Poker (Merge): “We are taking U.S. players without any problems on the site. Regarding the recent news of some Internet Gaming Companies encountering legal issues, we can inform you that we have not been affected by these recent events. We will continue to provide a safe and secure gaming experience for our players. Do not worry about this, you will be able to deposit/withdraw without any problems on the site.”
Doyles Room (Yahatay): “Our network is fully opened for US players. You can deposit, cash out, play ring games and tournaments and we can assure you will find no issues at all.”
The indictments have also had ripple affects in online gaming beyond poker, as 30 online casinos owned by Bonne Chance NV, including Superior Casino, Vegas Regal Casino, Tropica Casino, This is Vegas, Paradise 8 Casino, and Pantasia Online Casino, voluntarily opted to disable the ability for U.S. customers to sign up for real money games.
Meanwhile, sites that have not allowed U.S. players since the UIGEA passed in October, 2006, are rolling out promotions in an effort to take advantage of the weakened position of the former market giants, PokerStars and Full Tilt.
Party Poker’s home page now boasts a large graphic reading “Prompt Payments Guaranteed” in what could be considered a jab at the two online sites being unable to pay American players, and having some temporary issues with payouts to players in other jurisdictions as well.