I'm back; both from my longest blog break in years (3 weeks) and my family vacation trip out east which took up most of it. As usual I took my laptop along, but in a first in years I didn't open it once for work. Even when I used my smartphone to try to stay connected, many of our destinations didn't receive regular or reliable reception so I accepted and embraced the idea that my time was meant for family exclusively.
We covered a lot of ground, flying from Portland to Philly on our way to Spring Lake on the Jersey Shore. We then visited Short Hills, New Jersey. We next drove down to Charlottesville, Virginia on our way to pick up our daughter in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. We drove back to Charlottesville before heading to Williamsburg, Virginia for a few days. The last few days were spent in Charlottesville before flying out of Richmond back to home. The family get-togethers were wonderful and chaotic as only can be expected when three generations of a family of 15-17 people gather.
After a long busy day yesterday of unpacking, cleaning, mail/bills, shopping, mowing, laundry, watering etc., I was ready to re-integrate myself into the connected online world. And what a day it was with the major announcement of a resolution for Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars in their indictments with the U.S. Department of Justice.
After many twists, turns and delays, PokerStars shrewdly negotiated to assume the Full Tilt ROW assets and liabilities as part of their settlement. The goodwill that move created along with paying a sizable $574 million DOJ fine that U.S. players will be able to access for reimbursement is a large boon for the long suffering poker community.
Some initial thoughts as we move forward:
Petition for Remission - It sounds ominous, doesn't it? Unlike "rest of world" players who will get their funds back within 90 days or U.S. PokerStars players who saw their funds returned swiftly in the aftermath of Black Friday, U.S. players "shall have the opportunity to file a petition for remission with the U.S. Department of Justice, Asset Forfeiture Money Laundering Service (AFMLS)."How delayed and cumbersome will the DOJ process be? Will there be declaration, verification or tax implications that some players might fear?
Shot in the Arm - Will the collective $335 million that PokerStars and the DOJ, in theory, redistribute to the poker community on behalf of Full Tilt Poker be a big boost to the overall online poker economy? Will players re-invest those funds in the new Full Tilt Poker or its parent site PokerStars? Will a trickle down occur for affiliates and other sites that formerly depended on the relationships between marketing and recruiting players to sites return?
The Principles - While the August 1 announcement brings to a close the civil proceedings against Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, it doesn't address the individual criminal and civil complaints against the principals from Full Tilt and PokerStars who were responsible for putting their companies and their assets in harm's way. What will happen to Full Tilt's Ray Bitar, Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer, Rafe Furst, and Nelson Burtnick or PokerStars' Isai Scheinberg and Paul Tate? Does the public care much what happens to them comfortable in the knowledge that they will be getting back their own funds?
Where do we go from here? U.S. poker players remain unable to play fully legal online poker in the U.S. Many established online poker pros have relocated and remain uncertain about their future. While there are both state and federal initiatives pending, hard timetables or secure concepts of fully licensed and regulated open online poker for U.S. players remains elusive. The European poker market is increasingly balkanized as individual states legislate and regulate online poker. Some recent discussions between Italy, France, Spain and Portugal regarding cross-border co-operation leading to possible shared liquidity is somewhat encouraging.
Short term, the reintroduction of hundreds of millions into the poker economy should come as welcome news, but the long term health and viability of online poker continues to be in doubt. As Isai Scheinberg indicated earlier today "We continue to encourage jurisdictions all over the world to introduce sensible online poker regulation." Long term, jurisdictions that are mindful of protecting players while developing steady growing taxable revenue will want to prioritize security and the inclusive customer experience.