Absolute Poker and UB Filing for Bankruptcy

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Earlier today the parent company, Blanca Gaming, of the Cereus Network which owns Absolute Poker and UB sent out and email to their shareholders letting them know that they will most likely be filing for bankruptcy. Absolute Poker and UB ran their operations from a four story building in Costa Rica that as of this moment is closed and empty. Everything was removed and 95% of their workforce was let go.

Since Black Friday we have not heard much of anything from either poker site even though they continued to allow US players to play. Still the Network lost 70% of it’s traffic and has become an insignificant poker network. Players still cannot withdraw and many are starting to think they never will unless the U.S. DoJ releases the frozen funds. Currently non US players are allowed to withdraw a maximum of $250 every two weeks.

Things do not look good and as a result we’ve removed Absolute Poker and UB from Holdem Poker Chat. They had a great chance to do the right thing and make up for their past mistakes but as of right now it’s not looking like they will.

Below is a copy of the email that was sent to shareholders:

Dear Madeira Fjord, AS Shareholder,

Since the last meeting of shareholders, there have been a number of developments that affect our Company.

Most importantly, Blanca Gaming has provided notice to our subsidiary Avoine that it is currently unable to make any payments toward its debt obligations. Additionally, Blanca has further advised that there will be no future payments.

Over the past 60 days, the Company has accumulated current debts in excess of $250,000 which are increasing at $100,000+ per month. These obligations are primarily legal and professional fees in Norway.

With no cash on hand and no prospects for any cash flow for the foreseeable future, the Board of Directors is required by Norwegian law to enter the bankruptcy process. The Oslo court will appoint a Receiver who will review the affairs of the Company including the assets, liabilities, and its recent transactions. After a full assessment, the Receiver will make a determination how to enforce any applicable rights, obligations, and obtain the maximum value for its assets in the best interest of the Company.

As the Receiver is a court appointed 3rd party, we can be assured that the Receiver will evaluate all relevant options including any applicable soliciting proposals from interested parties related to the assets of the Company. Funds accumulated through the Receivers’ efforts will be disbursed according to Norwegian law.

As of the date of the filing, the Board of Directors is relieved of duty, and all future matters are in the sole control of the Receiver.

Madeira Fjord, AS Board of Directors

Update: Absolute Poker and UB have ceased all US operations and will focus on non US players. A company spokesperson said: “We regret that we have been compelled to take these actions.  We have worked tirelessly to create a truly amazing company that is filled with extraordinary people. We have always been and still remain fully committed to our employees and players. At the same time, we are confident that this restructuring will strengthen the company and its future.”

Update May 5, 2011: Blanca Gaming officially filed for bankruptcy in Norway this morning.

Blanca Gaming Issues Statement

Absolute Poker and UB Not Backing Down

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The owners of Absolute Poker and UB are not following the lead of Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker. All four online poker sites had their bank accounts seizured along with their domains by the United States Department of Justice. Absolute Poker and UB have decided not to agree with any offer from the U.S. Department of Justice including the return of player’s money because they are insisting that this seizure on their domain name and bank accounts is illegal.

Poker Sites Still Accepting Players from the USA

A spokesperson for Absolute Poker has stated that management is reviewing the offers made by the US government and has retained Blank Rome LLP as United States counsel to provide legal advice. They also have the backing of the Antigua Government if they choose to fight the charges brought against them. The Antigua Government has suggested that Absolute Poker and UB should not concede to the US Government so quickly and wait for the World Trade Organization to intervene.

Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker have signed an agreement with the US DOJ which includes the use of their domain name for returning players the funds that may be in their player accounts. The US DOJ is monitoring the sites so that no new players are registered or deposits taken. Absolute Poker and UB have so far refused to work with the DOJ and are looking for alternative solutions.

Online Poker the Day After

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Yesterday was quite the day for the online poker world with the US Department of Justice seizing the domains of the world’s largest online poker sites. There’s been many reactions and speculation as to what’s happening and what’s going to happen in the coming days. Many are angry that the US continues to go after online poker. This is not the case here; this isn’t about whether online poker is legal or whether or not it’s a game of skill or a game of luck. This is about money laundering and tax evasion that took place through the websites.

After reading the Civil Complaint it became apparent that the US Government had every right to do what they did. Here’s an excerpt that helps to better explain the crime:

“For example, defendants ISAI SCHEINBERG and PAUL TATE of PokerStars, RAYMOND BITAR and NELSON BURTNICK of Full Tilt Poker, and SCOTT TOM and BRENT BECKLEY of Absolute Poker, arranged for the money received from U.S. gamblers to be disguised as payments to hundreds of non-existent online merchants purporting to sell merchandise such as jewelry and golf balls.”

“By late 2009, after U.S. banks and financial institutions detected and shut down multiple fraudulent bank accounts used by the Poker Companies, CHEINBERG and BITAR developed a new processing strategy that would not involve lying to banks. PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and their payment processors persuaded the principals of a few small, local banks facing financial difficulties to engage in such processing in return for multi-million dollar investments in the banks. For example, in September 2009, ELIE and others approached defendant JOHN CAMPOS, the Vice Chairman of the Board and part owner of SunFirst Bank, a small, private bank based in Saint George, Utah, about processing Internet poker transactions. While expressing “trepidations,” CAMPOS allegedly agreed to process gambling transactions in return for a $10 million investment in SunFirst by ELIE and an associate, which would give them a more than 30% ownership stake in the bank. CAMPOS also requested and received a $20,000 “bonus” for his assistance. In an e-mail, one of ELIE’s associates boasted that they had “purchased” SunFirst and that they “were looking to purchase” “a grand total of 3 or 4 banks” to process payments.”

They knowingly bought banks or bribed banks in order to circumvent UIGEA. We agree that UIGEA is ambiguous but it is still a law.

Andrew Feldman of ESPN has reported that the US DOJ is trying to shut down the sites globally. We don’t know how this can be done. Full Tilt Poker and Pokerstars operate in a jurisdiction where online poker is legal. They are both licensed in countries like the France and the UK. We suspect the only way this could happen is if the US DOJ has proof of money laundering or tax evasion in those countries and is sharing this information with countries world wide.

At Holdem Poker Chat we’re being optimistic about the whole situation. This is in fact exactly what the Las Vegas casinos wanted. They are now on a level playing field with online poker and can now make a strong case for legalizing and regulating online poker in the USA. In fact we expect this to happen rather quickly now that their competition is out of the way.

Black Friday Recap

Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and UB we’re named in an indictment by the U.S. Department of Justice and their domains were seized and replaced with a warning page.

PokerStars has suspended real money play for US players. Players can log in but can’t play at the real money tables. The PokerStars website can be accessed by going to pokerstars.eu and player support is available at support@pokerstars.eu.
Steve Wynn has cancelled his partnership with Pokerstars for PokerstarsWynn.com
Pokerstars has already lost 25% of its traffic.
PokerStars dropped some of their guarantees, including Sunday Storm (from 300K to 200K) and Sunday Million (from 1.5M to 1M)

Full Tilt Poker has left the US market until further notice, and is ensuring that the money is safe with them. Players may send inquiries to support@fulltiltpoker.co.uk.
Fertitta (Stations Casinos) has ended their partnership with Full Tilt Poker
Full Tilt Poker will lose 40+% of its traffic.
Full Tilt Poker has Cancelled the Onyx Cup

Sources have told poker news organizations that UB and Absolute Poker will likely stay in the US.
As of this morning April 16, 2011 players could still play real money games on both sites.

We do not at this time think that this will trickle down to other online poker sites that accept US players like those on the Merge and Cake networks. There are many rumors flying around that other sites including sportsbooks will be next but those are just rumors. Again, this is about money laundering and tax evasion. Not about whether poker is legal or not. We’re slowly updating our review pages to reflect the changes. If you’re looking for a new place to play, we suggest you try Lock Poker where we’ve secured a very nice bonus for all new players.

Stay tuned to Holdem Poker Chat for all the latest Online Poker News.