This past week saw the passing of the first anniversary of Black Friday. That was April 15, 2011, the day that the US finally got serious about eliminating the competition. Black Friday was the day that the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI and Homeland Security got together to the American public from the evils of online gambling. The domains of the poker companies that garnered over 90% of the U.S. online poker market were confiscated by the FBI on a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Unfortunately, their method of grabbing the .com domain names caused two of the largest online poker companies in the world to shut down, essentially stiffing tens of thousands of players. Until players finally got something out of the defunct BETonSPORTS company, we heard annually from players and message boards throughout the gambling community were flooded with messages regarding the event. But poker players largely remained silent on the 1st anniversary of online pokers’ darkest day.
A survey of over 8000 poker players run by USGamingSurvey.com showed that after Black Friday over 80% of current online poker players stopped playing online poker. Those that remain do play at smaller sites and companies like Bovada and BetOnline have done a good job of grabbing some market share. But there are no sites that come even close to the player levels when that the Big 3 achieved when they were offering games to U.S. players. Consequently, online poker play in the US has been reduced to a trickle of what it once was.
We fully expected to see a great deal of news coverage regarding the anniversary of Black Friday. After all, with so many people stiffed out of money and so many players who used poker as a means to earn a living, we incorrectly assumed that players would be up in arms. $150 million in American players’ money is still frozen in accounts on Full Tilt Poker – plus millions more in accounts on Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. Instead Black Friday passed without as much as whimper. There were no player demands or further lawsuits, no marches on the Capital and literally no coverage in the mainstream media. There was plenty of coverage in 2011 with the media blaring the DoJ statement that Full Tilt Poker was nothing more than a ‘ponzi scheme’, but online poke is now so limited in the U.S. that there was nary a peep regarding Black Friday on the Internet, print or TV, outside of several online gambling industry sites.
The one group that did get very involved with the anniversary was the Poker Players Alliance. The PPA had put up a new homepage for their website and asked players to get involved. Because of their campaign over 10,000 letters were sent to members of Congress. Though this is just a small percentage of poker players who are being stiffed by the US DoJ actions, 10,000 is a figure that should make someone stand up and take notice.
While licensed and regulated online poker in the post-Black Friday world appears to be a given, it still hasn’t happened. Online poker does make the news but the stories are of states looking to license, regulate and tax the industry or the fight over long shot bills in Congress. No one mentions the bilked players and the effects of the DoJ’s rampant actions against foreign companies.
Meanwhile at one year and counting the over 200,000 Full Tilt players who never received their funds after Black Friday sit and wait, apparently, quietly. And those that played at the Cereus network sites, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker, should just stop waiting. They will never see s dime not before next year’s anniversary, not ever. It would be nice if someone in the media took notice.