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Full Tilt players weren't so lucky. The company was cleared to offer returns but never did, because it doesn't have the money. It owes $150 million to American players alone. Several serious players in South Florida lost thousands in the Full Tilt crackdown, says Lou Stadler, president of the Miami Poker Society.
"Banks fail for not having sufficient revenue to cover customer deposits all the time," the company's lawyer, Jeff Ifrah, said at the time. "No one refers to such failures as Ponzi schemes. And there was no Ponzi scheme here." The court battle rages on.
This fall, the French company Group Bernard Tapie stepped in to buy Full Tilt for $80 million, promising to pay off the debts to international players. The feds are working to ensure the company pays back American players. They've announced no timetable for repayment.
Absolute Poker — formed by four frat brothers at the University of Montana — wasn't liquid enough to continue either. None of its players has been reimbursed.
In December, Absolute Poker cofounder Brent Beckley pleaded guilty to lying to banks about the nature of his transactions. He's expected to receive 12 to 18 months in jail.
His accomplice, Ira Rubin, ran a payment-processing company in Costa Rica that disguised gambling proceeds through fake merchants and suppliers. He pleaded guilty in January and is expected to receive up to two years in prison.
Rumors have been circulating that Absolute Poker will repay players soon, though payouts may be as little as 25 cents on the dollar.
"If you had a... state-regulated system, that wouldn't happen," says Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.). He's also pushing a law to legalize online poker. "This is one of those rare congressional bills that's not a Republican-Democrat issue. There are people for it and against it on both sides, but there are much more people for it. If it came up on the floor of the Senate on a majority-vote wins, it would pass. Whether it has 60 votes, I just can't tell you."
The general sentiment, from players to politicians, is that something will get done — eventually.
Sandy Becher, an attorney based in a penthouse along the Miami River, is among the nation's experts on online-gaming law. He had his own brush with federal crackdowns in 1998; back then, he was in-house counsel for SBD. Global, an early online-poker firm based out of Panama. In a move similar to Black Friday, the feds shuttered the firm; Becher eventually negotiated a financial settlement . Today, Becher says he thinks the Obama administration will create a framework for online poker in the near future.
"I have a very strong sense it will be regulated and taxed in the next 12 months," Becher says. "That comes from talking to legislators and operators and other attorneys, and seeing the trend from the Justice Department to the needs of states in this difficult financial time."
In the meantime, poker has gathered some powerful advocates. Casinos that once guarded their turf are hoping to get in on the online action. They're pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to get something done, but the prospect of new revenue sources is anathema to many Republicans. They squashed Reid's attempt to pass online-poker regulation in 2010.
It might come down to the states legalizing it within their borders (much like medical marijuana) and daring the feds to step in. Nevada has already begun issuing online-gambling licenses. Washington, D.C., passed a plan for running its own online-poker site. And in December, the Justice Department reversed its longstanding view that the 1961 Wire Act banned online gaming, a move many experts see as opening the door to state-regulated poker.
Eleven months after Black Friday, players are still adjusting to life without PokerStars and Full Tilt. Some, like Barros, have turned to live poker to fill the void. Last year, she won the Miami Poker Society's tournament, earning a berth in the Las Vegas World Series of Poker. Just last month, she won a $700 pot in a game at Calder Casino.
"I've learned there are advantages in live games you don't have online. I can use my feminine wiles, for one," she says, laughing. "Online, I'm a dude as far as anyone is concerned."
But the basic unfairness of being told she can't sharpen her skills on a worldwide stage sticks in Barros's craw. What's more American, after all, than using your God-given gifts and carefully honed talents to make a living?
"Poker isn't gambling; it's a skill you learn and you practice and you develop," she says. "There's a reason there aren't professional slot-machine players. I deserve to play poker again like the rest of the world does."
This is little more than an outstanding example of the American government bending to the demands of the few rich pricks out there that got their panties in a bunch because someone else came up with an idea first and was making money. God forbid people in "The land of the free" be able to have the choice between driving (which costs money) to a "local" casino to play poker and paying ridiculous house takes, and choosing to stay home and play at their leisure. With all the crap "we the people" have being crammed down our throat by our elected officials its not going to be a big surprise when one day we wake up and find that many people are fed up and will take violent action against these affronts by the fatcats. Mark my words, its coming and likely a lot sooner than later. This isnt a rant, if people are blind to whats happening in our society than thats your problem but dont act amazed when people just start snapping.
Next The Feds should concentrate their efforts in shutting down Wall Street Big Bank Crooks and Politicians that keep flagellating us with higher gas prices and rich bailouts ;(
Many unemployed people were able to pay their bills by playing in these sites. Shame, shame GOP. But the GOP act very similar like Fidel, trying to control every aspect of Americans.
The GOP also use the Bible like Castro uses the communist manifesto, to control, control, control and destroy DEMOCRACY.
Online gambling is illegal. Why am I supposed to feel sorry for people who made a living doing something illegal? sorry you don't get to indulge every vice including gambling while sitting in your underwear at home.The opportunity to play poker is readily available at licensed casinos and virtually every state including Florida has multiple casinos. If licensed casinos think there is sufficient demand for poker playing between players at separate locations whats to stop them from doing it? Incensed race tracks operating casinos and casinos operate simulcast horse racing betting don't they?
It would seem that shortly after the Feds shut down online poker, The world went bankrupted. Think about that.
Thanks for this informative article about online poker and what the government did to it. An entire industry was destroyed last year. This is the first article that really illustrates the situation. We need federal legislation that licenses and regulates online poker in the U.S. and brings back an industry.