Recent developments in the US have shocked the online poker community. Within hours of each other, huge industry players PokerStars and FullTiltPoker, announced that they would be, in effect, withdrawing from the US market.
At present it is not clear whether this is a temporary or permanent move but industry experts seem to be in agreement that this is the end of the two companies in the US at least.
The pullout was a result of the revelation of an indictment by the US DoJ against several well known online poker operators and also the companies responsible for processing their payments. Absolute/UB Poker was also named in the filed indictment.
The US Government has also made a civil complaint against the companies who want billions of dollars in damages. There are also numerous criminal complaints stated in the filing.
Some rooms remain for US online poker players but the impact of the withdrawal of PokerStars and Full Tilt poker cannot be understated. With the exit of the three industry heavy weights some experts are saying that 95% of the market for players has disappeared. As a result $200 million dollars of advertising and marketing money has now vanished.
Another impact of the dramatic developments is that the type, size and amount of games that US gamblers can take part in has significantly changed.
The seizures had no affect on the game servers but both PokerStars and Full Tilt had to create new sites to replace the ones that had been blocked by the DoJ and the FBI. PokerStars moved to an eu domain whilst Full Tilt changed to a UK address. Confusion arose as many players believed the servers that host the games were the main website of the poker room.
There have been further legal developments. The poker star Phil Ivey, who was a former Full Tilt endorser, is now suing Tiltware who are the marketing and software provider for Full Tilt poker. The reason being cited is Full Tilt has not has not given back the money that was being held in player’s accounts at the time of the shut down. Ivey has stated his own personal embarrassment because of his involvement with the company and he believes that the company owes online players approximately $150m.
The future of the online US poker industry is currently uncertain as there is much speculation from various parties. It may take some time for the full consequences of these events to be realized.