When PokerStars was forced out of the American market by the US Department of Justice after Black Friday, many poker players in the United States looked for ways around this restriction.
PokerStars itself was willing to keep service Americans if they would take up residency in another country, with many choosing to do so in Canada, Mexico and other locations.
But others have tried to find ways around PokerStars’ restrictions without leaving their current homes. Many of these players have been caught and booted from the site over the last three years.
However, with PokerStars perhaps on the verge of re-entering the US market in New Jersey, they’re redoubling their efforts to keep players out, threatening far harsher penalties than they ever have before.
Essentially, the new policy puts the burden of proof on American players who circumvent efforts to stop them from playing on PokerStars
PokerStars now says that rather than just confiscating the winnings made by players who have illegally participated in games on the site, they have now taken the step of confiscating all funds from a player, including their initial deposits.
The move doesn’t seem to be directly related to PokerStars’ purchase by Amaya, and doesn’t represent an entirely new policy for the site. Rather, it’s a matter of changing the site’s default position on what it expects Americans to know about the current situation regarding online poker in the USA.
“Earlier this year, we increased the severity of our punishments because [it is] no longer credible for the vast majority of players to claim that they didn’t know that they can’t play from the US,” wrote PokerStars Head of PR Michael Josem on the Two Plus Two Forums. “Our previous policy was, by default, to only confiscate net winnings (except when we were convinced the player was malicious, in which case we would confiscate their whole balance).
“Over recent months, by default, we have been confiscating the whole balance (except when we are convinced that the player was non-malicious and had no knowledge of this restrictions, in which case we only confiscate net winnings). We made this decision earlier this year, and [it] has no relationship to any other recent announcements.”
Essentially, the new policy puts the burden of proof on American players who circumvent efforts to stop them from playing on PokerStars. While it’s possible that a player could get on the site without purposely trying to do so fraudulently, the steps taken by the site to lock out American players (and the notifications that Americans are not allowed to play for real money on the site) mean most players are likely aware that they are not supposed to log in from the United States.
Josem also outlined the background to these efforts in his post. After Black Friday, PokerStars made an agreement with the DoJ to no longer allow real money play from the United States.
“As a result of this agreement, PokerStars introduced a whole range of complementary measures to prevent players from accessing our services from the United States — and to take action against players who tried to circumvent those restrictions,” he wrote.
While that DoJ oversight has since stopped, the efforts to keep American players off the site have actually expanded, Josem said.