Some quick facts. The UIGEA doesn't make payments from poker sites to players illegal. Only deposits.
Playing online poker is also not illegal in most states and whether or not online poker constitutes "illegal internet gambling" also hasn't been tested in a court of law.
Keep in mind I'm not an attorney, I'm not an industry insider and the following is going to just be my opinion based on what I've been able to determine from my own research.
Should US Poker Players Receive Their Funds?I don't see why we shouldn't. As I mentioned. There isn't anything illegal regarding withdrawals as far as the UIGEA is concerned.
Even though the money was (or is in the process of being) seized for criminal activity, that criminal activity was not perpetrated by the poker players.
The counts in the indictment involve bank fraud and UIGEA violations.
Players who made deposits were not willing participants in any of the claimed bank fraud incidents. Even though the bank codes made it look like charges came from various web merchants, it's not like PokerStars told us to go to some website and buy 5,000 golf balls when we wanted to make a deposit.
We went to the poker client and clicked the deposit button and followed the instructions. Whatever happened behind the scenes happened without our control or knowledge.
Even though withdrawals are exempt from the UIGEA, I just wanted to make it clear that the money isn't being confiscated for anything the players did.
Why Aren't US Players Getting Our Money?Recently, some banks have been giving poker players a hard time when they do make withdrawals. Some players have reported having their bank accounts closed. I'm not sure why this is happening but banks are either unwilling or being instructed to not handle withdrawals in some cases.
The big reason though is that the DoJ/FBI has seized a lot of accounts owned by the payment processors and the poker sites.
The way I understand how things work, payment processors open bank accounts for handling the transactions of the poker sites. They process both deposits and withdrawals on behalf of the poker sites. The payment processor earns a fee for processing these requests.
Since the payment processor handles money coming in and out they hold funds in their bank accounts to handle these transactions without constantly needing to transfer funds back and forth between them and the poker sites.
So you make a $100 deposit, it's going to stay with the processor. The processor isn't immediately going to send the money to the poker site. Where the money actually belongs is basically tracked in a spreadsheet. (Hopefully more sophisticated but you get the point.)
The gaming commissions that regulate these sites also have provisions that require player funds to be segregated from operational funds. Meaning that player bankrolls aren't supposed to be in the same bank accounts that the poker sites use to pay their bills, payroll, etc.
Our money is out there somewhere. The DoJ/FBI has put a freeze on it and it seems someone in government has incorrectly instructed banks to not allow players to receive withdrawals in some cases.
Who Owes The US Poker Players Their MoneyThe poker sites are responsible to return the money to their players when they request a withdrawal. I think it's pretty clear.
What's holding it up is that the bank accounts may have been frozen and the poker sites, even though it seems not all the accounts have been frozen, are a little less liquid right now.
Even with the loss of the US Market, they're still raking in millions of dollars a day so even if the accounts aren't released we should expect them to start saving up to pay us back. If not there will likely be legal action against them by the players.
In the case of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars I don't think that will be necessary. They intend to remain in business outside the US and have invested a lot in their brands. Stiffing their players would tarnish their reputations too much.
It would make things easier if the DoJ/FBI would unfreeze the accounts in excess of the amounts their seeking in fines so that PokerStars can pay their players. It would be helpful if financial institutions were instructed to not give players a hard time if the receive checks or wires from these processors.
Like I said previously. That's our money and we didn't commit the crimes for which that money is being held. Think of it as if you parked your car with a valet and the valet decided to get drunk and drive your car through a store window. The car may be held as evidence by the authorities but you didn't participate or authorize the crime. You should get your car back as far as I understand or at the very least are entitled to seek compensation from the valet or his employer for the loss of your car. Forfeiting assets like this is meant to punish criminals. In the case of the car, you're not a criminal and shouldn't be punished.