GAME OFF: Geolocation Error Briefly Locks Out US Online Poker Players

Sean Chaffin October 23, 2020
A geolocation error shut down the country's online poker operators for an our on Oct. 23.

A geolocation error briefly affected all three legal American online poker operators on Thursday. The service errors caused some players to be frozen out of tournaments as well as with plenty of frustrations.

The problems began around 9 p.m. (ET) and lasted about an hour. The geo-error affected

GeoComply, which legal gaming sites use for geolocation services, was able to correct the problem. However, many players missed out on tournament play as blinds increasing during the lockout.

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What caused the issue?

Per state regulations, anyone gambling online in legal jurisdictions must be located within that state. GeoComply uses software to track a player’s location to make sure he’s complying with state laws.

When a player registers on the service as outside a legal jurisdiction, that player is locked out of the platform. That appears to be the problem in this case and many players in tournaments weren’t able to play.

The company reported that the interruptions were part of “an issue that temporarily affected the communication systems within our datacenter.”

“Last night we encountered an unexpected network communications error, which our team responded to and remedied immediately,” GeoComply Vice President of Government Relations Elizabeth Cronan told USPoker. “We have alerted all affected clients and they are aware of the issue and the steps that were taken to resolve it as quickly as possible.”

The issue affected other forms of online gaming as well including sports betting. The issues affected players not even near a state border.

Similar errors were an occasional problem in the early days of regulated online gaming. However, those issues have mostly been resolved and these types of service interruptions are now rare. PokerStars players in Pennsylvania reported not ever experiencing this kind of outage.

How did the error affect play?

For many poker players, the interruption meant not being able to play at all. Those in a tournament or sit and go saw their avatar dealt out of the action as play continued.

The poker client informed these players that they couldn’t play because they weren’t in a legal jurisdiction.

 

Brandon Patterson of Altoona, Penn., was playing deep in a $10 turbo with a $1,500 guarantee and a $5 tournament on PokerStars.

When play resumed, he min-cashed in the two tournaments. However, the service interruption may have kept him from winning even more.

“I was right in the middle of the field right before the money and got blinded out,” he says.

Operators react to the geolocation issues

The service errors certainly led to some frustrations, but play resumed within an hour. Partypoker US Network as well as its BetMGM poker and BorgataPoker.com skins suspended tournaments once site officials became aware of the problem.

“We have paused tournaments as we investigate possible geolocation issues that appear to be impacting NJ sites,” the company noted on Twitter right after the interruption. “We appreciate your patience.”

The pause allowed players to resume action at the tables shortly with minimal adverse results.

“After confirming the geolocation issues that impacted NJ sites and tournaments being paused over an hour, all tournaments are in the process of being auto settled per our tournament cancellation policy,”  partypoker noted shortly afterward.

PokerStars and WSOP.com didn’t pause events however. In a reply to a player on Twitter, PokerStarsUSA asked others to send a direct message about any issues with payouts. As of Friday morning the direct message option wasn’t available.

However, Stars reached out to players and offered some assurances of players refunds.

There were no references to the problems on the official WSOP.com or World Series of Poker Twitter or Facebook accounts.

GeoComply resolved the issues and play is back to normal. Players seeking tournament refunds can contact customer service. Here’s some information to help:

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