Last weekend a popular online poker site operating in the United States was outed by a well known poker player for asking him to lie to his bank regarding the nature of the transaction after his deposit to their site was declined.
No, this isn’t a story about Full Tilt Poker and the circumstances leading up to Black Friday (April 15, 2011). This is a current story about one of the larger offshore online poker rooms still operating in the U.S., America’s Cardroom.
What makes this story so worrisome is according to the DOJ indictments, this is precisely how Full Tilt Poker and other online poker sites were getting around UIGEA legislation in the lead up to Black Friday. But this is even worse, as America’s Cardroom appears to be openly telling their customers they are sidestepping U.S. laws.
Perhaps the most unbelievable part of the story, and the ultimate act of hubris, is America’s Cardroom later admitted to the attempted subterfuge.
Payment processing issues rarely end well
It didn’t take long for word to spread and for the online poker community to start drawing their own conclusions over what was happening at America’s Cardroom, and virtually none of it was positive.
This isn’t too surprising, considering since 2011 the poker community has seen these types of situations play out a number of times, and almost every time processing issues arise it’s only a matter of time before poker players find their money has disappeared – usually after a prolonged period of excuse making.
A strong case for online poker regulation
Here are three reasons why the current policies in place at America’s Cardroom (and other unregulated online poker sites) should be concerning to online poker players:
- Full Tilt Poker.
- Lock Poker.
- Everleaf Poker.
At one point in time all of these rooms were considered solid choices for U.S. players. But that’s the thing with unregulated sites – when things are going good these sites seem terrific.
But when unregulated sites run into trouble they tend to go completely off the rails, since there is nobody in place to make sure the players’ money is being safeguarded and the company is doing things the right way.
What we’ve learned over the years is some companies are trustworthy and others are not, but it’s hard to tell which is which in real time. It’s only after a full autopsy that the red flags generally appear.
This isn’t the case in a regulated market.
In a regulated market, operators aren’t given the opportunity to put player funds in jeopardy.
If you need proof of this, simply compare the demise of the aforementioned sites to the demise of Ultimate Gaming.
Case #1: Full Tilt Poker
It took over four years for U.S. players to receive their Full Tilt Poker funds, and that only happened because PokerStars purchased the company from the DOJ.
Had PokerStars not paid the DOJ for Full Tilt, the U.S. online poker community would still be out $150 million.
Case #2: Lock Poker
By all accounts, Lock Poker hasn’t paid a player in over a year and owes millions of dollars to players. Amazingly, people are still playing at this site.
Case #3: Everleaf Poker
Everleaf’s executives have been taken into custody for their crimes, which includes lying to their customers regarding how their funds are handled.
Case #4: Ultimate Gaming
And then there is Ultimate Gaming.
Ultimate Gaming has the honor of being the first regulated online poker site in the U.S. when it opened in Nevada, and the dubious distinction of being the first casualty of the regulated U.S. market.
Ultimate Gaming went belly up much like the sites noted above, but unlike the unregulated companies they had to adhere to the regulatory procedures put in place when they applied for their license, and one of those procedures was to segregate player funds from operating money.
So, when Ultimate Gaming shut down their site, every single player deposit was refunded in full in a matter of days – every single penny.
Part of a larger systemic problem
Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg for U.S. online poker players who still feel the need to frequent these unregulated sites.
The America’s Cardroom revelations made by Mike McDonald are coming to light at a time when Carbon Poker (another offshore online poker site still operating in the U.S.) withdrawal times have slowed considerably.
These are not isolated incidents. This is an ongoing problem in the unregulated market. And keep in mind that these were among two of the more trusted black market sites still available in the U.S.
There is no upside to unregulated sites
Yes, regulated sites certainly have their issues, but I’ll take less liquidity, a few software glitches, and the annoyance of divulging my Social Security Number, if it means the safety of my money is 100% guaranteed.
When it comes to unregulated online poker rooms there is simply no oversight.
Whatever regulatory bodies are overseeing these companies are either paper tigers or have no effective way to oversee the operation even if they wanted to.
Because of this, unregulated online poker sites are actually self-regulated, and trusting these sites with your money is like trusting the fox to guard the henhouse.
Absolute Poker, UB Poker, Full Tilt Poker, Lock Poker, and Everleaf Poker players found this out the hard way, and it’s starting to look like players at other online poker sites may be on their way to learning the same lesson.