Though more than a year has passed, it’s worth looking back at Black Friday in order to see what effect it has had on the online gambling community since it happened. Though Black Friday affected U.S. online poker sites specifically, the effect was on more than U.S. residents.
There were many players in other countries that were personally affected, of course, and as gambling legislation in the States evolves there are also broader implications for the online gambling industry as a whole.
Prior to Black Friday, the U.S. was a messy free zone of antiquated law and unreliable methods of transactions. The Wire Act of 1961 apparently made internet gambling illegal and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 made it nearly impossible for banks to process any funds associated with gambling. However, poker was not (and still is not by many) considered the same as pure gambling because it requires a degree of skill and technique to play well. Online poker sites were extremely popular, as one of the only online gambling sources available, and raked in millions of dollars. Because gambling online was illegal, hence unregulated as an industry, and processing the funds was therefore also illegal, these companies had to get ‘creative’ in terms of how they conducted transactions. Moreover, they could get away with little business transparency because there were no formal rules to govern their practices.
Though the poker companies were eventually charged with money laundering and fraud, in a country with no firm distinction between poker and gambling, no rules governing online transactions conducted for one versus the other, and no legal body controlling the people and companies who could operate such online companies, something like Black Friday was bound to happen eventually. Millions of players were hit economically by the event, and many players have yet to receive the money that was rightfully theirs in casino bankrolls. Anti-gambling proponents have used Black Friday as a means to justify banning all gambling, citing it is an industry of criminals and damaging to society.
However, more good than bad has probably come from Black Friday in the end. For one thing, it became very apparent, even to the public outside of the gambling world that some kind of Federal ruling needed to be made on the subject. This was a classic example of what happened if you did not regulate a large and growing industry. The 1961 Wire Act has since been re-evaluated and the original ruling that it disallowed online gambling has been revoked. Now there’s a possibility for U.S. States to offer online casinos, if they so choose. Many U.S. politicians have come out in favor of online gambling as a means to rebuild the economy and generate much needed revenue. This means that the industry can be more tightly regulated, rogue casino operators can be properly identified, and winnings can be taxed. Taxable winnings means lighter regulations on banks, who will now be more readily able to process these funds (at least in states where gambling will be offered).
This has an impact on everyone outside the U.S. as well. A newly regulated jurisdiction means a greater amount of international business, as U.S. customers join the global market and foreign companies align themselves with U.S. developers. Existing companies will now better be able to serve both the new customers and the old, assuming they make wise choices in the next couple of years. Of course, some companies may be swallowed up as the industry continues to evolve. Still others may choose to forego joining in the U.S. market completely; especially as it appears that initially the market will be small and states will have the ability to form their own regulations and rules, which may differ from one state to the next.
Could this ultimately hurt or help the industry? Many other countries are also reforming their own laws. Some are becoming more open and accepting of online gambling, while still others are becoming even stricter. In the end, U.S. policy is going to have an impact on how online business operators conduct themselves and promote their casinos, but regional and country laws will vary for the rest of the world as well. Those will quite naturally take precedence.