Neteller paying out $60 Million
The good news is that players with frozen Neteller accounts finally are getting their money back. The deadline is Jan. 26, 2008. After that, your account is forfeited.
Poker players and online gamblers in the United States are busy collecting $60 million but not all of them are thrilled. The money, you see, was theirs to begin with and has been held for six months.
Until the 30th July, that's when electronically deposited funds frozen by a U.S. Department of Justice investigation finally were released for distribution. The release was part of an agreement reached with Neteller, the world's largest independent money transfer business.
The probe followed passage in Congress last fall of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which doesn't make playing online poker illegal, but aims to disrupt the funding of accounts at online gaming sites. The UIGEA certainly worked in the case of Neteller.
Neteller suspended transactions with online gambling sites for U.S. customers on 18th January, two days after DOJ investigators charged two of the company's former executives and founders with money laundering. On the 8th February, Neteller officially froze all U.S. customers' accounts. The company's shares were suspended from trading on the London AIM exchange.
Recently Neteller entered a deferred prosecution agreement with the United States Attorney's Office. If the company complies with the agreement, in two years all pending charges related to transactions between online gaming merchants and U.S. residents will be dismissed. Neteller also forfeited $136 million to the United States, including the seized $60 million.
"We know that for some of you, lack of access to your funds has been very frustrating," Neteller CEO Ron Martin said online last week. "This has been difficult for our staff, too. Return of the funds has been our highest priority."
The future of online poker remains uncertain. The deadline for government agencies to decide how to enforce the UIGEA expired two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, there are several counter measures in play, such as the grassroots Poker Players Alliance, which has grown to about 500,000 members. Headed by former New York Senator. Al D'Amato, the group seeks to overturn the UIGEA in favour of a law that controls, licenses and taxes the industry.
More recently, the new non-profit Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association filed a restraining order in U.S. District Court in New Jersey to prevent implementation of the UIGEA until a pending court challenge is decided on the constitutionality of the act itself. A hearing is set for Sept. 4.
IMEGA claims the UIGEA unconstitutionally restricts gambling on the Internet as a form of consensual private conduct, that its prohibitions do not constitute the least restrictive means to regulate online gambling and that it is inconsistent with both state laws and international treaties.
Success by either the PPA or the IMEGA would be great news for online poker players, but neither effort is a sure bet.