Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I May Have Been Robbed by My Government

No, it's not hyperbole:

In an apparent crackdown on Internet gambling, federal authorities in New York have frozen or seized bank accounts worth $34 million belonging to 27,000 online poker players, according to representatives for the players and account holders.

In an operation that began last week, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York froze or issued seizure orders for bank accounts in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Arizona held at Wells Fargo, Citibank, Goldwater Bank and Alliance Bank of Arizona.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office had no comment.

The accounts are managed by Allied Systems Inc., and Account Services, which handle cash for popular online poker sites, including Full Tilt Poker, Poker Stars, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. Though the money belongs to the poker players, it is held for them in accounts managed by the two service companies.

Account Services, which had an account worth $15 million frozen in its San Francisco bank, doesn't accept deposits, but writes checks to players who are cashing out, said lawyer for the company, Jeff Ifrah. As a result, thousands of players receiving checks from the company won't be able to cash them, he said.

Emphasis mine.

I don't think "pissed" quite covers how I feel right now.

I love my job, but it's never gonna make me rich. I make extra money on the side by playing a game of skill for money. Even if it were clearly illegal, which it is not, it shouldn't be. Everyone plays voluntarily, risking their own money. On the whole, their skill level is the determining factor on whether or not it is a profitable venture. I fail to see how robbing me of my earned money is remotely related to the idea of justice.

This is bullshit on a stick.

UPDATE: I have just been contacted by my gaming provider. This is a redacted version of the email I received in response to my question about whether or not my money was safe:

Hello Jonathan,

Thank you for writing.

According to our records, you have made the following cashout requests recently:

June 01 [amount redacted] [electronic transfer]
June 09 [amount redacted] paper cheque (currently being processed)

In regards to your [electronic transfer] cashout, we are working with our [electronic transfer] processor to confirm the status of recently processed cashouts. Updates will be communicated to our players by email.

In regards to your paper cheque, [game provider] uses a number of processors and a variety of methods for players to cash out their funds. You can rest assured that your money is always safe in your [game provider] account, and you will always have access to your funds and the ability to cash out.

Please note that once your request has been approved, you may deposit your cheque at your bank as per normal.

If there is anything else we may assist you with, do not hesitate to contact us.


[name redacted]
[game provider redacted] Cashier Specialist


Jeremy said...

I am a reporter at the NY Post doing a story on players who can't get their winnings. My email is Would like to interview you. Best, Jeremy

JPB said...


While I am flattered by the media requests I have received, I am not doing interviews. Below is a letter I sent to another media outlet for my reasons for declination:

Given that [my blog] is public sphere, you may feel free to quote my blog post/link to it or whatever. But I have already turned down another interview request for a couple reasons, and I am inclined to do so again.

First and foremost, I am not positive I am one of the people directly affected. I have not been notified by my site and cashouts take a long time to process. Yes, its slower than last time I cashed, but who knows? There are considerably more than 27,000 poker players in the U.S. so I may be one of the lucky ones.

Second, there are personal and professional considerations. Obviously, it's not that I'm ashamed to be a poker player or publicly associated with it--but there are other issues I'd rather not get into.

As I said, though, the more pressing reason is that I want to be sure I am indeed a victim before I go on the record saying I am. (Hence my less-than-sure blogpost title.)

Anyway, I wish you the best of luck. I am glad that people are responding and reporting on this injustice. Hopefully this attention will get more people behind Barney Frank's bill to unambiguously legalize online poker.

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