In a sudden move that left millions of poker players appalled the world over, PokerStars and Full Tilt blocked real money games to several ‘tray market’ countries including Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan and several others. The over dozen countries that have got the boot are the ones which do not have clear poker regulating laws thus putting pokers legality into question. Both these poker giants that now come under the Amaya Gaming umbrella today abruptly blocked the players from Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Occupied Territory of Palestine, Pakistan, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Vatican City, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
In communication that we at OPN received from several players who tried logging in today but couldn’t, no one is sure of what happened. The message that popped up on the players’ news pages was brief, as follows:
Our management team regularly reviews our operation along with independent 3rd party professionals to assess the business risk and opportunities for our brand on a market-by-market basis. Following our most recent review, it was determined that we would no longer offer real money games in your country.
While PokerStars has asked the players to continue playing on play money chips no specific reason was stated for the sudden move. Poker pundits however say that it could’ve have something to do with the UK Gambling Act which comes into existence from November 1st, 2014. According to this law it will be difficult for gambling operators that continue to serve gray market countries to keep a license in the UK.
There was much controversy amongst poker communities today with the Indian poker community also showing concern. It should be recalled here that while poker is legal in India if played legally and TDS is deducted but the lack of regulations might put it into the ‘gray market’ slot too. Though we at OPN also tried to access our account at PokerStars and didn’t have any problem and there was no other communication about anything happening in the future but this does put the future into doubt.
Players are discussing with each other about whether they should go ahead and process their redemptions if any and if continuing to play might be safe. Indians though have one solace for them though that since the Spin & Go format was made available to them just a day back this might mean that blocking isn’t on the horizon for them.
We spoke to Ankur Dewani who is the country manager of Pokerstars and quote, “All markets except the one mentioned in the Press Release remain status quo.” Though that dispels some fear about India getting blocked, but uncertainty still remains till some clarity on the exit from the said markets is given.