Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Poker refugees

April 15, 2011 has come to be known as Black Friday by online poker players in the U.S. On that day, indictments were issued against major offshore sites, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, for violating U.S. anti-gambling laws. An unknown but nontrivial number of Americans had made their living playing on those sites. Now, if they wish to continue playing, they must do so from overseas.

Consequently, a new class of migrant workers has developed, and a service has grown up to help them relocate: Poker refugees.

Here's a story about it: US poker players turned into refugees by online gaming ban

"American card players are hardly a high priority for humanitarian organisations protecting the rights of the world's imperilled communities. But such is the current plight of professional poker players in the United States, where online poker has been all but illegal since April, that a new service launched last week offering to relocate beleaguered card players to "poker-friendly countries" around the world.

"The service, called Poker Refugees, was launched in response to the US Department of Justice's clampdown on online poker operators earlier this year, which effectively enforced prohibition on online poker in the US. On what has become known in the industry as "Black Friday", the three biggest poker sites in the world were closed to US traffic and their executives indicted by the FBI on numerous charges, including money laundering and bank fraud.

"The operators have since either ceased trading or closed their doors to American customers, leaving thousands of professional players without income unless they dramatically change their circumstances.

"They're not moving outside of the US because they want to go on vacation, or because they want to pay less taxes," said Kristin Wilson, a real-estate agent based in Costa Rica, and a partner in Poker Refugees. "They're moving because they have to keep their job, keep their career and support their families."

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