Deja Vu With Neteller?

(Unfortunate thanks to Falstaff for bringing this issue to my attention first over at his blog.)

Neteller, we have a problem. And I'm not talking about the "I saw an ant on the kitchen floor" kind of problem, but rather more like the "I just saw every wall in the house fall in from termite destruction" kind of problem. Well, maybe it's not quite that serious. Yet. But it's damn close. And getting closer.

After reading all of Iggy's recent posts rehashing the whole Pokerspot debacle (fabulous reads btw, especially in light of what Neteller is now telling us), I cannot help but feel a strong (too strong) sense of deja vu as I read over the latest and greatest news from Neteller regarding how U.S. online gamblers can all get their deposits out of their now-useless Neteller accounts. Is it me, or do the following statements -- taken directly from Neteller's newly-updated homepage statement for U.S. poker players -- sound an awful lot like the statements made by one Russ "Dutch" Boyd a few years ago as the Pokerspot shizz was about to really hit the proverbial fan? Here is what Neteller has to say as of this weekend:

"How can I withdraw funds from my NETELLER account?

At this time, our ability to provide US members with withdrawals is significantly reduced. As a top priority, we are working to resolve all withdrawal issues, but in the meantime we continue to maintain these funds in trust on your behalf. Please check this page regularly for more updates.

Why can't I use my Gold NETELLER Card anymore?

The Gold NETELLER Card is not available as a withdrawal option at this time.

We are doing our best to restore our withdrawal options but don't know how long this will take. In the meantime your funds are safely maintained in trust accounts. We will communicate any updates as soon as possible.

Why can't I get a Gold NETELLER Card anymore?

We are temporarily not issuing Gold NETELLER Cards. The Gold NETELLER Card is not available as a withdrawal option at this time."

Both of these ideas are very troubling to me. Obviously, the inability to get any of our funds -- our funds -- out of Neteller in any way is angering to say the least. What's more, after a useless attempt at emailing Neteller support last week, and eventually having to call Neteller cusotmer service because of the ineptitude of the email I received, I was told by a nice English-speaking woman in Canada a few days ago that the Neteller card was the best and most reliable way for me to withdraw my funds as quickly as possible. Uh huh. Now, not three days later, no more Neteller cards are being issued (presumably including mine), and it wouldn't matter anyways because withdrawals are no longer being permitted via the Neteller card.

Where does this leave us? Nowhere. With nothing. And the worst part is, I swear if you change the name at the bottom of these announcements from "Neteller Support" to "Russ Boyd", I wouldn't even be able to tell the difference between the two sets of communications. Would you?

Department of Justice Targeting British Banks?

I ran across this article at CardPlayer.com and found it highly disturbing. Though we don't often quote entire articles, I do believe this one warrants it:

Department of Justice Wants Information about Poker Site's IPOs

The United States Department of Justice has expanded its war against online gambling across the Atlantic Ocean to the marbled floors of some of the world's largest financial institutions that have offices in Britain.

The Times of London reported Sunday that subpoenas have been issued against at least 16 banks to hand over information concerning their dealings with several online poker sites. It seems the DoJ is targeting online sites that trade their stock publicly on the London Stock Exchange. Online poker companies that floated on the LSE include PartyGaming, 888 Holdings, and Empire Online.

The subpoenas were issued by the Southern District Court of New York, which is the same district that's bringing a case of money laundering against two former NETELLER founders.

According to the London Times, the subpoenas were issued only days after President Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act into law in October, and were recently reissued.

A representative of the court would only say he could neither confirm or deny the reports.

A few of the banks targeted are HSBC, Dresdner Kleinwort, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank. The subpoenas asked for communication documents such as emails and telephone records concerning the online poker sites.

The original article can be found via the link below.

Source: CardPlayer.com

The Beginning of the End

bodog girlsNeteller is closing up in the USA, and I have to agree with Bill Rini: this is the beginning of the end for online poker in the USA.

I'm in shock, to be honest. I don't see how online gaming hurts ANYONE or does ANYTHING that is bad (mmmkay) and I just don't understand the jihad my idiot government is waging against online poker, while horse racing, dog racing, and state lotteries are still A-OK for anyone.

I'm worried, because though I don't make a ton of money playing online poker, I do make a significant portion of my monthly income writing about it and even though I'm not as good or well-known as everyone else on Team PokerStars, I've been a proud member of the team, and I've worked hard to be an ambassador to normal, every day players who don't play in the hard core 40-80 games. Now that the US market is rapidly closing up, I have this looming sense of inevitability that I'll lose that, too, and eventually I'll lose the ability to enjoy my evenings playing some low-limit SNGs or cash games.

See, I really like poker, but I'm not rich, and while I'm entirely comfortable risking the price of a night out for dinner and a movie to play cards and maybe even leave with more than I started, I don't see myself driving to Commerce or the Bike, or making a special trip to Vegas to play in a B&M room for higher stakes, with the associated
costs of travel and the extra investment of my time.

There are a lot of reasons to loathe my idiot government now, and this is right up there in my top five: they're telling me what I can do in my own home, and they're negatively impacting my ability to support myself and my family . . . and for what, exactly? So Bill Frist can pander to a minority of ultra-conservative whackos, and then not even follow through on his presidential bid?

This sucks. It makes me angry, and it makes me depressed.

(BoDog Girls tearfully included to remember the good times.)

Party Gaming Acquires Empire Online

Apparently it is official, the Internet is full of the news that Party Gaming has purchased online gaming sites Empire Online as well as Intercontinental Online Gaming for approximately $66.3 million USD in shares.

The acquisition will include Empire Online's gaming sites Noble Poker and Club Dice Casino, as well as Intercontinental Online Gaming's sites which include Swiss Casino, Sunshine Bingo, Magic Box Casino, and Casino King. Personally I have never heard of most of them, but maybe that is just me - I stick pretty close to just the poker end of things.

For more information on the acquisition, I recommend heading over to Professional-Poker.com as they have one of the better write-ups on it that I have seen.

Dallas Police Raid Poker Games

For those of us who play in home games or privately-run live touneys, it's easy to forget that, in a lot of cities, playing poker is illegal. Sure, there are varying degrees of illegality, with some cities making it illegal to wager any amount of actual money, while others only make it a crime if the house is taking a rake.

In Dallas, Texas, poker's popularity is exploding, and if a recent series of police raids is any indication, so is the local law enforcement effort to stamp out illegal games.

Over the weekend, Dallas police busted over 100 players and operators, in one location taking $43,000 in cash, in a series of raids across the city. The police spent some time putting the raids together; one of the locations was under video surveillance prior to this weekend, and the SWAT team participated in at least one of the raids.

I'm sure the citizens of Dallas can sleep well tonight, knowing that this is where their taxes and law enforcement resources are being invested.

Casinos back study of UIGEA, PPA says prohibition helped defeat Leach

Echoing the sentiments of, well, everyone who isn't named Bill Frist or Jim Leach, MGM/Mirage executive Terry Lanni said that it was ridiculous that the UIGEA was attached to an entirely unrelated port security bill, and passed in the middle of the night before congress recessed for the election.

Lanni said "It makes no sense whatsoever . . . prohibition didn't work, this isn't going to work."

Great, dude. Tell us something we don't already know; now what are you going to do about it?

"We're looking even in the lame-duck session to reintroduce this bill with some of our compatriots in the House and Senate to study (Internet) gaming . . . we think it can be taxed, we think it can be regulated, we think it can be licensed."

A study is the first step down a very long road to repeal the UIGEA, if I understand how congress works.

In a related story, the Poker Player's Alliance did a telephone poll in Iowa, where Jim "click the mouse and lose your house" Leach was narrowly defeated by his Democratic challenger Dave Loebsack. While one in 10 cited Leach's stand against Internet gambling as a strong influence in their vote for him, a greater proportion, nearly one in seven, cited it as a strong reason to vote for Loebsack.

Pollster Thomas Riehle said, "It looks like on balance, Leach's position on Internet gambling hurt him more than it helped him."

Life in a post-UIGEA world. What's the word on the street?

In the immediate aftermath of the UIGEA's passage, there was a lot of confusion, anger, depression, and resignation from players and bloggers . . . but now that we've lived in this Brave New World for a month, what's the reality on the ground?

With Party Poker pulling out of the US market, Full Tilt and Poker Stars have exploded, and I've heard from lots of people that the games are incredibly easy to beat now, even on PokerStars, which has a reputation for tougher competition and stronger players. Anyone experience this firsthand?

I wrote that the UIGEA would adversely affect more than just players, including bloggers with affiliate links and authors. Dr. Pauly, who is our generation's Andy Glazer and Hunter Thompson rolled into one, has one of the most popular poker blogs on the Internets, and even he lost sponsorship in the wake of Frist's pandering. Is anyone else losing income, too?

I will admit that when I took a bit of my bankroll out recently to do some shopping (it's my anniversary next week) I was a little nervous that I'd get flagged and enjoy a visit from some Goons. Is anyone afraid to play online, or cash out?

I haven't had much time for poker since Bill Frist rolled back the clock to 1920, so I haven't been able to experience the new online poker world firsthand, but I'm sure some of you have; how has it affected you?

Poker Players Plan Peaceful Protest in Pwashington

A grassroots organization is organizing a peaceful protest in the nation's capital tomorrow and Friday, to rally for online poker player's rights.

According to the website, the march will meet up at the Washington Monument or MacPhearson Park (uh, guys? You probably want to have that figured out by now) and head over to Pennsylvania avenue, where they'll march in front of the White House, temporarily replacing those Free Mumia guys.

While the website is clunky and filled with seizure-inducing animated .gifs, their heart is clearly in the right place. They say,"This protest is not only about internet gambling, online poker, or government wire tapping. This is about the United States government taking away personal freedoms that were guaranteed to us in the Constitution.

This protest is about Americans who demand that we get our personal freedoms back.

They have taken away our ability to use our own finances in whatever way we please. They are taking away are freedoms one by one and this has to stop! "

Amen, my bothers. Whether you're an online poker player or not, this is such a blatant case of government intrusion into private lives and such obvious pandering to a tiny minority of would-be morality policemen, an effort to repeal the law should draw people from all over the political spectrum.

I'm not sure how many players will show up, as the thing seems hastily-organized and the PPA doesn't appear to be involved, but any time people exercise their Constitutional rights (the ones we have left, anyway), it's a good thing.

More information on the protest can be found via the link below.

Downsize DC is the latest group to speak out against UIGEA

Downsize DC, whose mission statement is "We believe the federal government has grown too large, too intrusive, and too expensive. We believe in constitutional limits, small government, civil liberties, federalism, and low taxes," has weighed in on the passage of the UIGEA.

Downsize DC appears to be a Libertarian organization, and like, well, everyone who isn't in the tiny ultra-minority of nanny-state fascists social conservatives Dobson-worshipping rubes is appalled that this blatant pandering would be attached to something as serious and important as port security.

The organization hopes to pass a bill which would require every congresscritter to actually read and be aware of the full text of each bill that was presented to them for a vote. Believe it or not, most congresscritters don't read the full text of every bill they're given, and in fact the Republican Rubberstamp Congress of the last six years has frequently taken advantage of that fact to force odious and unrelated amendments, like the UIGEA, onto important bills and into law.

I'm hopeful that Frist and his allies have grossly misplayed their hand here. I'm hopeful that there just aren't enough Bob Jones University graduates in the population to outweigh the rest of us, and I'm hopeful that Frist and his allies pay a serious electoral price with this move.

The fact that liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and formerly-non-political poker players have all united against this intrusive prohibition and its sponsors should mean something, especially at at time when half of the country hates the other half.

If you'd like more information, or to get involved with Downsize DC, you can find what you're looking for in the link below.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

NYT Op-Ed: Frist's UIGEA Could Cost Conservative Votes

At Poker News, Amy Calistri has an analysis of an op-ed which recently appeared in the New York Times, written by conservative and controversial author Charles Murray.

According to Murray, Frist's transparent efforts to pander to a very small minority of anti-gambling religious conservatives, and the craven and cynical way he amended an important port security bill to do it will cost Frist -- and all Republicans -- dearly when conservative voters enter the voting booth in just under three weeks.

Amy writes, "Murray points out that the UIGEA not only erodes the Republicans chances this fall, but also will damage American's respect for the rule of law. He points out that the bill catered to the few Americans that had an issue with online gaming without taking into account the millions they have now outraged; millions, he speculates, that are disproportionately Republicans and Reagan Democrats."

Amy's entire article is worth a read; it's linked below.

Neteller plans to comply with the Act

In a press release issued today, Neteller has announced their intentions to comply with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 and will cease accepting certain payments from US customers.

As we have mentioned before, we try not to copy entire releases here on CS, but this one is best read in it's entirety. It continues on beyond the jump, or you can click here to read the original PDF version.

Press release
19 October 2006
NETELLER PLC

Update on US position

Further to the Company's announcement on 12 October 2006, NETELLER Plc today announced the following update in the light of the action on 13 October 2006 by US President George W Bush to approve and sign into law the SAFE Port Act incorporating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 ("UIGEA" or the "Act") which includes certain provisions to prohibit "unlawful internet gambling" by restricting gambling sites from accepting certain payments from US residents.

Continue reading Neteller plans to comply with the Act

Full Contact Poker Staying in US Market

In regards to staying in the US market, Full Contact Poker has issued the following statement:

The Ongame Network, owned by bwin, has announced that it will block service to players with U.S. addresses. Full Contact Poker, however, is committed to providing its poker services to all of its existing players and to any new customers in the U.S. or around the world.

As a result of Ongame's announcement, Full Contact Poker is partnering with a new poker network provider that shares its desire of offering poker software to legally aged players in the U.S. In the unlikely event that your service is interrupted during this transition time, contact our 24/7 player support team. We promise to keep our players informed of any new developments and appreciate your continued support.

They are also offering the following deposit and redeposit bonuses:

First time deposit bonus - receive a 100% first time deposit bonus up to $500 for a limited time. (Normally up to a maximum of $200)

Redeposit bonus 100% up to $500 - between now and 11:59 PM ET on Saturday, October 21st, you'll receive a bonus of 100% to a maximum of $500 on your first redeposit of the period.

Their bonus releases at a rate of $1 for every 9 bonus points. As always, for full details on this or any other bonus offer, you can check out their website via the 'read' link below.

(Source & image: FullContactPoker.com)

Illegal Gambling Houses Raided in Ottawa

One of our readers sent in this link about police busting 68 people last night during a poker raid in Ottawa, Ontario. (That's Canada, for those who may be confused.) Apparently four separate illegal gambling houses were raided after police obtained search warrants to search the establishments.

According to this article, the Poker Loft, the Ottawa River Club, the Uppercut Club and the Royal were all investigated and 68 people were subsequently arrested, eight of which for 'keeping a common gaming house' and the remaining 60 for just simply being found there.

The article further claims that police seized the chips, tables, cards, drugs and an excess of $12,000 of cold hard cash, among other things. To read the full article, click on the 'read' link below.

(Thanks, Matt!)

PokerStars Will Stay in the US

Poker StarsPokerStars (where I am a proud member of Team PokerStars, and host my weekly Tuesday tourneys) has decided to remain in business in the United States. They sent out the following message earlier today:

As you are probably aware, the United States Congress recently enacted the Safe Port Act which contains provisions relating to Internet gambling.

PokerStars has received extensive expert advice from within and outside the U.S. which concluded that these provisions do not alter the U.S. legal situation with respect to online poker. Furthermore it is important to emphasize that the Act does not in any way prohibit you from playing online poker.

Therefore, our business continues as before - open to players worldwide including the US. You may play on our site as you did prior to the Act.

PokerStars believes that poker is a game of skill enjoyed by millions of players and we remain committed to providing you a safe and fun environment in which to play. We value your loyalty to PokerStars, and look forward to continuing to serve you with the best online poker experience, as we have for the past five years, six billion hands, and 40 million tournaments.

(Emphasis mine.) This is really good news, and I hope it leads to a realistic dialogue between the online poker industry and the US Congress, so we can trade prohibition for a sensible, realistic, regulated industry that could potentially pour millions of tax dollars into our economy.

Online Poker Ban Updates

For those of you looking for further information on the online poker ban, I highly recommend checking out Otis, CJ, and G-Rob over at the Up For Poker Blog. Some of their recent posts include information on Firepay calling it quits in the US, Q&A regarding the Online Gambling Bill and the corresponding effects it is having on the gaming market, as well as additional informative, educational, and always poignant views on the general subject.

I've noticed the amount of active players drop a bit on some of the various online poker sites, but unfortunately didn't record the numbers to be able to compare week-to-week. So for the record, at Noon ET today there were 38,600 players at PokerStars, 36,600 at Party, and 9,200 at Full Tilt. Obviously the numbers jump substantially at night, but I find it surprising that there are only that many currently playing at FTP. I'll take a look at it again in a week or so and see if there are any drastic changes.

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