US Government Shuts Down Four Major Online Gaming Sites

In 2006 the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act caused chaos in the internet gaming industry. Players were locked out of their accounts and many major gaming sites banned American players. Gaming stocks plummeted on global stock exchanges and thousands were thrown out of work just before the worst recession since World War 2. Eventually things cooled down and American players continued to gamble at websites that still accepted American players. Many thought the madness would end with the election of Obama who has a reputation as a skilled poker player. Unfortunately this was a miscalculation.

Last Friday the entire gaming industry was shocked by the seizure of three domains owned by major internet poker providers. 11 indictments were issued charging defendants with fraud, money laundering and other offenses. Players were stunned when trying to access their accounts and thousands of players found themselves with no way to access their accounts. Bank accounts connected with the online poker operations were also seized. Many industry observers believe that players may never see their funds again. A US district court issued an order restraining approximately 76 bank accounts in 14countries and the DOJ is seeking $3 billion from the operators of the poker sites. Several defendants have been arrested but fortunately many defendants are located outside of the US. Despite the fact that a clear majority of Americans support online gaming the government continues its heavy handed actions.

Currently there are several online bingo sites that accept players from the US. It remains to be seen whether more bingo sites will exit the US bingo market.  Making online gambling illegal has had some unintended consequences. Keith Furlong of the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) stated “In the guise of protecting vulnerable Americans- minors who want to gamble and adults who can’t control their gambling – Congress has actually heightened the risk to these groups. It has driven away the operators who followed the most socially responsible practices. It has also increased the possibility of online gambling being used for money laundering, because it has outlawed the most easily tracked methods of payment.”

So far there have been no reports of problems at bingo sites accepting US players. Ironically the District of Columbia has just implemented legal online gaming for residents and several states are considering similar measures. At the present time online poker players have no options but to wait patiently and see what develops.

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