Playing Internet poker is supposed to be a gamble, but not like this.
After federal prosecutors late last week shut down the country’s three most popular online poker websites, millions of players wondered if the money stored in their online accounts — in some cases tens of thousands of dollars or more — would ever be seen again. The web domain names for PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker are now seized and frozen by the U.S. government.
Authorities have taken control of more than 75 company bank accounts in 14 countries, and are seeking $3 billion in fines and restitution. Frozen player accounts alone amount to billions of dollars — money that for the past few days has been in legal limbo.
The good news: the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York on Wednesday announced a deal with two of the affected sites that eased players’ concerns somewhat — PokerStars and Full Tilt would be allowed to resume operations, but only to refund player accounts.
And the U.S. Attorney’s office said it would be willing to strike a similar arrangement with the third affected website. It may be weeks or longer, though, before players have their money in hand.
In poker circles, last week’s federal raid has come to be known as “Black Friday.”