USA Poker Deposit / Banking Methods
One of the biggest challenges the American poker player faces is funding their account. There are few options available to begin with, and most players could use multiple deposit options in case their first or second choice is declined. It's easily one of the most frustrating aspects of playing online within the US.
This article looks at why depositing is so hard for US players right now, as well as lists the few options that are still available to use.
Why is Depositing So Difficult for US Players?
Making a poker related deposit online is difficult for Americans because of the UIGEA. This bill passed in 2006, and it changed online poker for the foreseeable future. Not for the better, either.
What the UIGEA does is this; it prohibits banks from processing transactions to and from poker sites. So, whenever you make a deposit using your credit card, debit card or echeck, and your bank processes and clears it, that’s illegal. However, many banks don't realize who they're processing payments for or where they're going to. That's why you still see payments going through, even today. I'll explain this a little more in a second.
So once the UIGEA passed numerous things happened. For one, several poker sites left the US market, including Party Poker and 888. They have investors, and didn't want to participate in anything that could jeopardize their companies/stocks/images.
In terms of payment processors, several of them left the market, too. Some, like Neteller, just left the US and Canadian market. They still serve other (international) poker players.
Other processors were (eventually) shut down. One example is FirePay. Shortly after the UIGEA was passed, the DOJ went after Canadian companies Citadel and FirePay, giving them each warrants totaling about $13.5 million. It wasn't but 7 months later that FirePay shut their doors. Based on my research it was said that FirePay didn't really catch on, since they were supposed to be a PayPal alternative. They couldn't compete. But being as they were a struggling company I can't help but to assume that the millions of dollars in penalties helped in their downfall.
This is a more well-known example. But there are lots of smaller companies that seemingly disappear overnight. Either they are caught by the DOJ, or 100% scams and/or they don't receive enough support from operators to get off the ground and become sustainable. On top of it all, payment processing (for Americans) is really a game of cat and mouse. They process as many payments as they can, then disappear before the DOJ can get a lock on them. This creates a volatile, frustrating and very difficult situation for US players wanting to make a deposit online.
Black Friday – An Example of the UIGEA in Action
Earlier I mentioned that banks don't often know who they're (really) processing payments for. A good example of this is Black Friday, the event that shook the poker community in April of 2011.
In this situation, PokerStars, Full Tilt, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Poker, were all indicated on charges of money laundering and fraud, amongst several others. They conned other banks into processing payments, breaking the law (UIGEA).
How did they do it?
They created shell or fake companies. On the outside these look like your run of the mill businesses, like toy and sporting goods stores. These companies process payments that look like standard purchases, when they're really payments to/from American poker players.
But little did they know that the US government set up an undercover processing company called Linwood Payment Solutions. Over the course of 2 years they processed millions of dollars, all the while building a strong case against these poker sites. Then in April 2011 they indicted them, froze their accounts and websites.
Only PokerStars had the resources to pay back players, walk away and continue to do business like usual, just outside the US. They're also working on entering the US market again - legally. It hasn't been cheap for them, though, having to pay out just south of $1 billion dollars.
Everyone else folded. Full Tilt was purchased by PokerStars, and Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker shut down for good. Many of the top people indicted either ran or were charged/sentenced. For example, Ira Rubin received a sentence of 3 years in prison. That's in addition to the fines, payments owed, bankruptcy, etc.
Anyway, long story short -- depositing to a poker site within the US is difficult because of the UIGEA. From there, as the saying goes, s--t runs downhill.
Deposit Options Available to Americans
In despite of all the laws, indictments and operators leaving the market, there are still banking methods that Americans can use to fund their poker accounts. Here is a list of the best deposit and withdrawal options to use.
Credit / Debit Cards – This includes Visa, MasterCard and American Express. The upsides to using these options is that all poker sites accept them and your funds are available instantly. However, you'll have to deal with the occasional decline, and possibly worse, if your bank catches on that your trying to play cards online.
eChecks – These are virtual versions of paper checks. They still take 5-7 days to clear, but many poker sites will float you the cash so that you don't have to wait that long to play. To write an echeck you just need to have your checkbook handy, so that you can give the room your account, check and routing number.
Prepaid Cards – These are identical to credit and debit cards, except that they're not funded by your bank account. You buy these cards at the store and during that transaction put whatever money you want to spend on them. From there they spend like a standard debit/credit card, but without leaving a paper trail.
Western Union – Western Union is a money transfer service. You get some details from the poker site, take it to your local WU office, give them the details and money, and then they transfer your money. This solution also leaves no paper trail.
Wire Transfers – These are money transfers from one bank account to the next. You’ll need the poker site’s bank information, such as the account, routing number, bank location, etc. Then for a $20-$30 fee your money will be transferred.
MoneyGram – Nearly identical to Western Union, except that transfers directly to bank accounts aren’t allowed.
Paper Check – Paper checks are used for withdrawals, and is one of the only ways Americans can collect their winnings. The poker room will send you a paper check and you’ll have to take it to your bank or check cashing store before you can spend it.