This segment of taking a look back at Black Friday will walk through the events that have transpired over the past seven years since the days immediately surrounding the dark day of April 15, 2011. It will also give the readers a current view of the things currently going on in the world of online poker.
The Aftermath Continued
Even though they had remained virtually silent after Black Friday and left their doors open to U.S. players, the exodus of players and eventual closure to the U.S. in late April 2011, the first half of May 2011 saw Blanca Gaming of Antigua, the parent company of Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet, announced its intention to file for bankruptcy.
June 29, 2011, Full Tilt poker goes dark and is shut down worldwide, when the Aldernay Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) suspends their license to operate. Reports of a class action lawsuit against Full Tilt Poker by its players, and a rumor of a European group of investors looking to purchase the operator and help U.S. players recover their funds swirl heavily the following day. The rest of the summers saw stories of possible investors buying Full Tilt Poker, and additional explanations from representatives of the site about why players were not able to access their funds
On September 20, 2011, the DOJ announced it had made an amendment to its complaint against Full tilt Poker resulting int the biggest aftershock of Black Friday. The DOJ’s had amended its complaint to now include allegations that Full Tilt Poker and its board members that they had defrauded players, and that Full Tilt Poker was not a legitimate poker company, but was instead a global Ponzi scheme. Named in the amendment were CEO Raymond Bitar (who was named in the original complaint), Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson and Rafe Furst. Detailed in the amended complaint was the fact that Full Tilt Poker had only about $60 million on had to cover approximately $390 million to players worldwide, an amount that included about $150 million to U.S. players.
Over the course of the next week and a half the AGCC would revoke Full Tilt Poker’s license, the DOJ released an additional statement regarding player funds and the site sponsored “Poker After Dark” was canceled.
From Dim to New Flickers of Light
Conversation regarding the Full Tilt Poker story dominated the poker scene from late 2011 through the first three months of 2012. The biggest story would be when the French investment firm “Groupe Bernard Tapie” actually signed a deal, and Full Tilt Poker’s remaining assets were turned over to the DOJ. By the middle of July 2011, the deal falls through, with the French group stating a failure to reach agreement on a player repayment plan and unresolved legal complication having acted the deal. This coupled with the fact that by the middle of October the cashiers for Absolute Poker or Ultimate Bet would no longer be open cast an even longer shadow over U.S. poker players.
In the midst of what had been a year and a half of what amounted to practically relentless bad news for U.S. poker players came a ruling that will most likely have the greatest positive impact for online poker in the long run. On August 22, 2012, U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein issued a 120-page ruling in the case of the U.S. versus Dicristina. The defendant had been charged with violating the Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA), which was the same statute online sites were accused of violating on Black Friday.
Included in Weisnstein’s decision was that skill played a far greater role in determining the outcome of poker games than did chance. Weinstein made it clear that expert poker players rely on multiple talents including facility with numbers, knowledge of human psychology, powers of observation and deception. All of which by definition requires skill and not chance. There is little doubt that this decision will help with proposed legislation to separate poker from games of chance that are currently regulated under both the IGBA and the UIGEA. This decision was followed in December by the Nevada Gaming Commission approving regulations for interstate poker in the state of Nevada. This action is the first of its kind, and gives prospect to the possibility of a state regulated future of online poker.
Online Poker in the U.S. Immediately Following Black Friday
Black Friday’s impact on with regard to online poker in the U.S. took a major toll. It is estimated that roughly 80% of the U.S. market had disappeared over practically overnight due to the three largest sites being targeted and forced out of the U.S. on that ominous Friday. However, several choices for online poker still remained with several reputable sites still taking U.S. players. Taking out the top three sites also forced U.S. players into having to sort through what quickly became open season for less regulated unreputable sites.
Flag shipped by Carbon Poker, Merge Gaming quickly became the largest U.S. site once PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker were no longer accepting U.S. players. In fact, It exploded so fast that the company was forced to stop accepting new U.S. players on June 1, 2011, just six weeks after Black Friday. Existing players were allowed to stay and deposit during the needed stoppage. It reopened to U.S. players four months later.
Also, staying in the U.S. market was Canadian based Bodog, which was at one point indicted by the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office. The included of Bodog included three of the sites offices, including its founder Calvin Ayre. Ayre never turned himself in, nor has ever been picked up by the DOJ, even after being on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list for about a year. Bodog.com moved all its operation to Bodog.eu in a move to avoid possible seizure of their site name, Shortly thereafter Bodog rebranded its U.S. operations into Bovada. Bovada in turn eventually became Ignition Casino, which is now by far the largest U.S. poker site.
Remaining in the U.S. was also the Winning Poker Network which at the time was known as Yatahay. The network included Bookmaker, True Poker and DoylesRoom. Doyle Brunson was able to have his name removed from the brand, which became Americas Cardroom, a brand used earlier by the company until 2007. On May 23, 2011, the Winning Poker Network was indicted by the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office under what has become known as the Blue Monday investigation. The Network never missed a beat and pays players quickly to this day.
There were poker sites that came into the market after Black Friday. BetOnline, which had not accepted U.S. players since 2006, created a skin on the Action Poker Network and is still operating in the U.S. today. An example on the darker side of the fallout for the U.S. market was Locker Poker when it entered the U.S. market, and then left after only a short period, going offline in mid-April 2015 taking all player’s funds with it.
States Begin to Legalize
The first state to legalize online poker was Delaware in 2012, shortly thereafter Nevada followed suit. New Jersey became the third state to legislate online gambling in 2013, issuing a handful of licenses. With each of the three states marketplaces being independent of each other the growth on online slow once the initial honeymoon period was over.
PokerStars Returns to the U.S. in 2016
Just shy of five years of being out of the U.S. online poker market, PokerStars returned the U.S. launching PokerStars.nj on March 21, 2016. The site is regulated by the state of New Jersey, and players must be within the boarders of the state of New Jersey in order to play the real money games that are available.
Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreements
Building partnerships with other states was always going to be a necessity for a state with less than a million residents. So, during the legislative process, Delaware placed itself in a position to the hub for interstate gaming. As a part of the agreement with the state of Nevada in March 2015, the state’s governors signed a deal to share online poker liquidity basing the individual state’s revenue on the players location with everyone playing in the same pool. Though only two states made up association, this was the first multi-state agreement of its kind for the U.S. The agreement had little effect on the revenue for either state, but it did establish a framework for further expansion with other states.
In October 2017, New Jersey joined the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association (MSIGA) when Governor Chris Christie added his signature to the agreement which created a three state pact. In April 2018, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) announced plans to launch its multi state platforms on May 1, 2018. As expected, the announcement and the timing allows players to participate in four online bracelet events for the upcoming summer for the 2018 WSOP, Though it is far too early to know what the exact benefits will be for the three markets, total liquidity should see a significant increase.
The Future for Online Poker
Online poker for real money never completely left the U.S. market after Black Friday, and is still available for all but about 2% of the population in some fashion. Though the current U.S. market is much smaller than when online poker was booming prior to Black Friday, its is once again growing. Additionally, late in 2017 the world of poker got a pleasant surprise when the state of Pennsylvania pass a sweeping online gambling package, making Pennsylvania the fourth state to pass online gaming legislation. Will Pennsylvania join the MSIGA is the biggest question regarding poker. The table is set for it to do so, and current internal workings point that it is highly probable that it will.
Playing online poker for real money has never been illegal in the U.S. When a couple of lawmakers schemed their way to passing legislation for their Lobbyist in an effort to destroy online poker, they did so to avoid facing their constituents knowing they didn’t have their support to actually make online poker illegal.
The court ruling in late 2012 has strengthening online poker’s legal position by stating that online poker, and poker in general is far more a game of skill than it is a game of chance. The ruling also pushes legislating online poker back to the individual states and state law, with most states not having laws that cover online poker.
For players outside the fours states that have already passed legislation the biggest hurdle regarding online poker is sorting through which sites are reputable, and the limited deposit methods available to them to play on those sites. Fortunately there are several reputable online poker sites that are available to U.S. players. A list of which has been put together for our readers, along with site reviews for each. Please check them out on our U.S. poker sites page.
If you have any questions, please email me direct at email@example.com and as always I welcome your comments below….