Collateral Damages

by , Apr 18, 2011 | 3:30 am

Jon Katkin


The DOJ dropped an A-bomb on the online poker industry Friday, and, as you’d expect, the impact was devastating. Within hours of the DOJ’s indictments, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker had shut down real money gaming in the US, effectively killing online poker and leaving millions of customers with nowhere to play.

And while the sites are scrambling to readjust to a world where approximately 40 percent or more of their business just disappeared and mount legal defenses for themselves and their executives, the fallout from Friday’s bombshells continues to spread far and wide from its epicenters in Dublin and the Isle of Man.

I could go on, but I’ll just end up depressing myself and that’s no fun.

While Full Tilt and Stars were certainly the two biggest poker sites operating in the states, their reach extends far beyond the virtual felt. Until Friday, these sites were the drivers of a whole industry that revolved around their players, television programs and live tournaments around the world. With the sites gone, the poker economy they supported is sure to follow.

As I write this, a number of my friends are getting trashed on Pisco Sours down in Peru, where they’re covering the end of an LAPT event for PokerStars and PokerNews. The sad fact is, though, this may be the end of poker reporting as we know it.

Providing live tournament coverage is expensive and resource-intensive, and sites like PokerNews can’t exist without financial underwriting provided by sites like Stars and Tilt. With those players now out of the US market, there’s no reason for them to be spending resources on tournament reporting when that money can be better spent on the high-priced legal teams they’re undoubtedly going to need to put in place. Bottom line – that WSOP coverage that everyone has been gearing up for next month probably isn’t going to happen.

Of course, that may not be the worst thing in the world as today’s crackdown will surely impact the size of this year’s WSOP. All those online qualifiers that send thousands of hopefuls to Vegas every summer? Yeah, they’re gone. And online players who were thinking of raiding their bankrolls to finance this summer’s live shenanigans in Vegas? They’re not going to be seeing that money anytime soon.

Who else will fell the impact of Friday’s bombshell? How about the folks who produce all of the great poker programming we like to watch? Do you really think there will be any new episodes of Poker After Dark or The Big Game? Don’t you think that ESPN is suddenly rethinking their plans for their coverage of this year’s Main Event? You can bet that the production companies and TV networks are all going to be hedging their bets and looking for new programs to fill their production and broadcast schedules.

Let’s not forget the poker mags like Bluff and CardPlayer who live on advertising revenue provided by the big online sites. With no US players, there’s reason for the sites to spend money on new ad buys, which means those publications will probably make it to press a few more times before their money runs out.

Other folks who will probably be scrambling for new revenue streams are the people who run online poker training sites like CardRunners, PokerVT and the like. Their US customer base just disappeared along with the ability to sit at real money tables. While I’m at it, I should probably mention folks like the agents at PokerRoyalty who just saw their commissions go down the drain. And the players who make their living by spending their days grinding online all day. I’m sure there’s a whole group of 20-somethings in Panorama Towers who are all learning how to say “Would you like fries with that?”

I could go on, but I’ll just end up depressing myself and that’s no fun. So, I’ll leave you all with this thought; What happened [Friday] was most definitely bad for poker in the short term, but if it prompts Congress to finally take a serious look at the regulation of online poker, then there may be some long-term benefits.

Katkin’s opinion piece first appeared on his personal blog, Chaos Theory. Follow his real-time laments @JaKatkin.

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