The hour was late when a small, duplicitous group of guileful politicians took advantage of the shroud of night to gather in the desolate halls of congress with a single, premeditated purpose – to covertly approve a mysterious bill that would slip its way past the rest of congress (who were home, happily sleeping in their beds, copiously unaware of what was going on at the office after hours) and the president’s desk, undermining the very fabric of online gambling. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m referring to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, now simply known as the UIGEA.
The way the US government managed to sneak this bill into effect was shameful, to put it politely. They had a small group of politicians who agreed with its terminology gather together to sign it, using an inane clause that ‘other members of office were not available to participate’ (because it was 3am, they were sleeping!) To make matters just a little more reprehensible, they proceeded to attach the UIGEA to a completely unrelated Port Security bill. If you remember anything about 2006, the country was up in arms about ‘homeland security’ issues, hence the possibility of former President George W. Bush denying anything related to port security was about one in infinity.
When the UIGEA came to pass, and every citizen in the United States with an interest in playing poker over the internet went into a brief state of shell shock. Then after a few weeks, people started to realize nothing was actually changing. Poker sites were still open, Americans were still accepted and their funds were still being moved to/from internet gaming sites. Timidly, they turned on their computers, logged onto their favorite online poker rooms and went about their business.
The majority of online poker operators ignored the implications of the UIGEA as well. After all, there were high class lawyers dismantling the scripture of the UIGEA, calling it nothing more than an empty threat with no real bite to back up its bark. They pointed out that the act of wagering over the internet was not specifically questioned. The only criminal activity outlined landed on the head of any company facilitating fund transfers between online gambling operators and their American patrons. To put it bluntly, it was the credit card companies and e-wallets that would take the fall.
And then it happened… The US Department of Justice (DOJ) made its first of many daunting moves to come, using its typical bullying style of intimidation tactics. In January of 2007, they arrested the founders of NETeller while they were changing planes on US soil. NETeller is a prominent e-wallet company that was, at that time, the most popular processor of online gambling fund transfers throughout the entire world, including the United States. NETeller continues to function outside of the United States, but has lost billions in annual revenue, not to mention the millions more in fines paid to the US government when founder Steve Lawrence was browbeaten into pleading guilty to conspiracy.
Once more, the online poker community was jolted into an immobilizing fear. This time, it was the online payment processors and credit card companies who took notice. Immediately, one after another, e-wallets were dropping out of the US market like flies in a hail storm. MoneyBookers, ECOCard, EwalletXpress, ePassPorte and many others closed their doors to American account holders for fear of the DOJ rearing its ugly head in their direction. Some of these companies actually closed their doors permanently, sacrificing their entire business to avoid the possibility of persecution.
Credit card companies did not have the capability to cut off their customers from using particular websites, and argued that point clearly as the government threatened to come after them next. However, the credit card companies had a valid case. With millions of customers and thousands of online gambling operators, they simply hadn’t the manpower to do anything about it. Financial institutions would need to develop a blueprint program for halting payments between online gaming sites and American citizens. The government agreed, said you have X amount of time to do that, wished them good luck, shook their hands and walked out.
Once more, nothing really happened. Time passed, things got quiet, players took to their comfortable wheel-based computer chairs and went back to their poker games, their slots machines, their virtual sports betting slips. Finally, another anomaly outraged the online poker community. All of a sudden, the credit cards that had been accepted just days before were being rejected. The card companies had managed to block US players from using their cards in connection with any IP address known to facilitate online gambling. Players were outraged, but there wasn’t much they could do.
Throughout most of this, the largest real money poker sites held strong and maintained their stance that they were doing nothing illegal. They considered themselves untouchable, and for a long period of time they were. PokerStars, for example, succeeded in accepting major credit cards simply by changing its underlying data so often that financial institutions were not able to keep up with them to cut off their transfers (NOTE: PokerStars no longer engages in such practices). Several poker sites followed suit, while the majority just asked their US customers to use other deposit methods, or took more drastic measures to close all US accounts with little more than a brief, awkward apology and sorrowful goodbye.
As the situation progresses, American poker players found it more and more difficult to find a stable, trustworthy method of depositing their funds into a respectable poker site. It got to the point where most US-applicable deposits had an asterisk, sometimes two or three sets of them, explicating that the method may work, or it may be declined. If rejected, just try the next method. And of course that method held the same warning, as did its successor. This practice is still common to date.
Undoubtedly, the heaviest blow to the US online poker community came when the world’s largest, most distinguished operators – particularly PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, UB and Absolute Poker – were effectively shut down by US government. American players clicked to their favorite poker sites and stared in stunned fascination at the last thing they ever expected to see. They were not met with a login button or an advertisement for the next big upcoming tournament, but with a tawdry image of official DOJ and FBI seals, followed by a frightening warning that the site had been seized and disabled.
To avoid suffering the proven wrath of the DOJ, each operator agreed to pull out of the US market and never accept US players again.
Being such a resilient industry, as are all multi-billion dollar businesses, the online poker community survived once more. Old poker sites resurfaced. Some changed their names, reformatting their guidelines to skirt the government’s incessant supply of red tape. New operators hopped into action with the same idea.
At some of these US-facing poker sites, credit cards are not only accepted, they are the recommended form of deposit for US customers. Although it is not a 100% guaranteed method of depositing for all Americans, there are several poker sites that have a very strong record for credit card poker deposits; that is to say their customers receive the least amount of “declined” notices.
How to Make a Successful Credit Card Poker Deposit
There are three major reasons why a US credit card may be declined when attempting to deposit at an online poker site. (No, insufficient funds is not one of them. I am going to assume your credit is in good standing.)
- 1. Your bank does not permit transactions at online gambling sites.This one is my favorite, because according to the UIGEA, no bank is supposed to permit these deposits, but the vast majority of them do because they cannot be expected to regulate all of cyberspace. I think Cake Poker said it best: “Please note that some banks prohibit cardholders from making transactions at online gaming sites. If your transaction request is rejected, it is more than likely due to your card issuer following such regulations.”
- 2. Your credit card is not authorized for international transactions.If you’ve never used your credit card to make a deposit or purchase with an international vendor, and it is declined during the deposit process at an online poker site, chances are it is not designated for international use. This can be easily remedied by calling your card issuer and asking them to open the card to international transactions.
- 3. You are trying to use a MasterCard, AmEx or Discover.It is simple fact that it is all-but impossible for an American to make a deposit at an online poker site with a MasterCard credit card. Nearly all MasterCard deposits are declined by the bank that issued the card. Even though all US-facing poker sites advertise MasterCard acceptance, it’s virtually useless to try. Depositing with an AmEx (American Express) card will be even harder because most poker rooms do not even accept it, and of the very few that do, the rate of decline is astronomical. Discover cards are not currently accepted by any known US-facing poker sites.
Best Solution to Credit Card Rejection – Purchase a Visa Gift Card
If you are facing any of the above problems, all is not lost. In fact, there is a very simple way around the problem. Using whatever payment method you wish, you can purchase a prepaid Visa Gift Card and use it to make a deposit at any US online poker site.
Using a Visa gift card is just like using a Visa credit card, and also requires “international” designation. Before you purchase a Visa gift card, ensure that it can be used internationally by reading the fine print on the back of the card.
Visa Pre-Paid Gift Cards can be acquired in multiple ways. They are often sold by convenience stores, grocery stores, department stores, check cashing depots, banks and cash wire transfer agents like Western Union and Money Gram.
Solution for MasterCard Holders – Deposit with an E-Wallet
If your only option is to use a MasterCard credit card, you can sign up with a viable e-wallet, such as MyPaylinQ, that accepts MasterCard deposits. Use your credit card as an intermediary to deposit funds into the e-wallet. Then make a deposit at the online poker room using the funded e-wallet account. MasterCard holders can also use their card to process a Cash Wire Transfer via Western Union or Money Gram (see “Other Poker Deposit Solutions – Cash Wire Transfer” below.)
Solution for Discover or AmEx Card Holders – Apply for a New Credit Card
There are currently no online poker sites that accept US players and Discover cards. Very few accept AmEx either. AmEx deposits are declined as often as MasterCard deposits, making it a highly unreliable choice. Most e-wallets also disallow funding via Discover or AmEx cards. Even cash wire transfer agents, Western Union and Money Gram, will not accept AmEx or Discover, so it’s just not a viable option either way. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a Visa credit, debit or gift card.
Other Poker Deposit Solutions – Cash Wire Transfer
If the above solutions are not acquiescing to your needs, there is one other option that everyone should have viable access to. You can prepare an online poker deposit via Cash Wire Transfer. This does not refer to bank wire transfers. Banks are, after all, the very institutions that are not permitted to facilitate such transfers, thus the chance of your bank condoning a wire transfer to an online poker account is markedly slim.
How to Make a Cash Wire Transfer
A cash transfer can be made through any cash wiring agent. The most prominent catalysts of cash transfers in the US are Western Union and Money Gram. Wiring money with this method is a little more involved, but the speed is decided by its user. The following steps will guide you through the process.
Step 1: Gather Information
To make a Wire Transfer, you will first need to get the recipient details from the poker site. When an online poker room accepts cash transfers, you can find the required information on its banking page. In some cases, you may have to request the details be instantly emailed to you, or provided in a live chat window with customer support. Be sure to note minimum/maximum deposit allowances. Copy down this information on a piece of paper and double check it for errors.
Step 2: Locate an Agent (In Person, Online or By Phone)
Go to the nearest cash transfer agent of your choice, Western Union or Money Gram. Provide the recipient details, your personal details and the amount of the desired transfer. There will be a fee associated with the transfer, the size of which varies by agent company and transfer amount.
The same procedure can be followed over the internet. Visit www.westernunion.com or www.moneygram.com, sign up a free account and follow the instructions to send money. When signing up your account online, a live agent may be required to contact you to verify your identity.
Note that payments can be made online or over the phone with a Visa or MasterCard (AmEx and Discover not accepted). Online payments with Money Gram can be processed directly from your bank account via ACH debit. When paying in person, cash is also accepted.
Step 3: Provide the Poker Site with Transfer Minutiae
Return to the online poker site and open a live chat window with customer support. Tell them you have made a cash transfer. You will be asked to provide some specific minutiae regarding the transfer. They can all be found on your transfer receipt.
- Transaction ID Number
- Your Full Name
- Transaction Date and Time
- Amount of Transfer
Once these details are provided, the deposit will be visible in your online poker account in a few moments. This process can take anywhere from 1-15 minutes.
US-Facing Poker Sites Accepting Credit Cards
The number of US-facing poker sites that accept credit cards from American poker players is a rationed commodity these days. The following is a detailed list of online poker rooms accepting credit card deposits from American poker players.
BetOnline Poker is the most pronounced US-facing poker site due to its prominent growth rate among American players. This fact has been attributed to multiple aspects, ranging from reliable deposit methods and generous incentives to its distinctly soft competition and sponsorship of numerous high caliber poker pros. BetOnline Poker currently draws the highest number of American online poker players of any US-facing poker room worldwide.
The online gambling site has been in operation since 2004, headquartered and licensed in Panama City, Panama. By 2006, BetOnline was recognized among the top 60 sportsbook operators and has since grown to become one of the largest online sportsbook, racebook, casino and poker rooms in the world.
The company’s shining moment occurred in 2009 when, in pursuit of innovation, they hired expert climber Tim Rippel to scale Mount Everest to become the first internet wagering site to accept a bet placed from the summit; the highest geographical elevation in the world. Although Rippel did not succeed in placing a wager from the peak, he did place a winning bet from a location known as Base Camp 4. As a result, BetOnline donated $20,000 spread across the three top charities voted on by users of Facebook and Twitter.
BetOnline.com accepts the following methods of US poker deposits:
- Visa Credit Card
- Visa Debit Card
- Visa Pre-Paid Gift Card
- Visa Person-to-Person
- Money Orders / Cash Wire Transfers
Note: In the Banking>FAQs section of the BetOnline.com website it lists MasterCard and American Express as viable credit card deposit options. However, the Banking page only lists Visa deposits. RMP.org contacted BetOnline customer support regarding this error and it was confirmed by support representative ‘Hutch’ that “Visa and Cash are accepted deposit methods”, but that “MasterCard and American Express are not being accepted at this time”.
Bovada.lv is the fresh new look of its former glorification, Bodog.com. Its predecessor was founded in 1994, one of the earliest internet wagering operators to hit the world wide web. The company has strived to provide Americans with a reliable online wagering client ever since.
Shortly after the UIGEA was scribed, the operator initially withdrew from the US market but quickly found a way to reinstate its services to Americans by transferring its licensing from Antigua to the Mohawk Morris Gaming Group in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, Canada. Americans were immediately able to deposit and play once more, and continued to do so all the way through 2011. When the DOJ seized control of the domain, it was transferred to Bodog.eu, again permitting US poker players. In December of the same year, the site was rebranded Bovada.lv, continuing its license agreement with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.
Bovada remains one of the top American resources for online poker, casino and sports wagering.
Bovada.lv accepts the following methods of US poker deposits:
- Visa Credit Card
- Visa Pre-Paid Gift Card
- Visa Debit Card
- Rapid Transfer / Cash Wire Transfer
- MyPaylinQ E-Wallet (can be funded by Visa or MasterCard)
Though only a few years old, Lock Poker had a phenomenally successful launch that awarded them a top spot on the list of US-facing poker sites within less than a year of operation. The poker room is operated by the Merge Gaming Network, licensed in Curacao and by the Lottery & Gaming Authority of Malta.
Lock Poker was established at a pivotal time for the online poker industry, when many US-facing sites were being targeted by the US government and effectively forced to eliminate American player accounts. Lock has maintained it stronghold in the US market ever since. Lock’s most notable innovation was its development of the first downloaded casino platform compatible with Macintosh operating systems.
LockPoker.com accepts the following methods of US poker deposits:
- Visa Credit Card
- Visa Pre-Paid Gift Card
- Visa Debit Card
*MasterCard deposits are permitted, but US players are consistently met with notices of declination. If your attempt at a MasterCard deposit is rejected, please try using a Visa credit/debit/gift card instead.
Cake Poker, launched in 2006, is powered by the Cake Network and is licensed and headquartered in Curacao. The Cake Network is the driving force behind more than 50 other poker sites, resulting in a considerable player base.
Cake Poker presents its members with the most common online poker games including Texas Holdem, Omaha and Omaha Hi-Lo in both cash game and tournament formats. The operator’s most notable innovation occurred in 2009 when Cake Poker became the first site to introduce a mobile poker room.
CakePoker.com accepts the following methods of US poker deposits:
- Visa Credit Card
- Visa Pre-Paid Gift Card
- Visa Debit Card
Now that the USA’s stance on the Wire Act has changed, onlinepokerrealmoney.co.uk will be following closely the new proposed legislation on a federal level and how it could affect Credit Card deposits from US and international players.