Online Poker's Black Friday

The poker world was shocked today when the Department of Justice announced indictments against the top executives at the three leading online poker sites -- PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Ultimate Bet/Absolute Poker. The sites are going to fight back with a slew of lawyers, but by this evening, they had all stopped allowing Americans to play for real money, causing some panic and a lot of questions about what happened and what's next.

Rather than rehash the basics here, I'll direct you to Poker News, which has a good summary of the FAQ.

Several people have asked if Dennis and I are going to do a special edition of our Final Table show tonight, and the answer is no, we'll wait until our regular Tuesday broadcast, because we're waiting to see what develops in the next couple of days. We don't want to engage in idle speculation about the effects of the government's actions, both short- and long-term.

There are a few things that are certain, however:There's one interesting bit of media fallout to watch. Full Tilt Poker is the primary sponsor of "Poker After Dark" on NBC. PokerStars is the primary sponsor of "High Stakes Poker" on GSN and has its own shows, "Million Dollar Challenge" and "The Big Game," on Fox affiliates across the country. ESPN garners a huge amount of revenue from both sites for its coverage of the World Series Of Poker. Now that those sites have barred US players, it seems unlikely that they'd continue to spend the marketing dollars necessary to sponsor those shows. Can those networks find replacement sponsors elsewhere? If not, poker on TV may have to take a hiatus until the legal climate is cleared up.

Last year, during the lame duck session of Congress, there was a bill floated that would have begun the process of regulating online poker. One of its provisions was the existing sites would have to cease operating for a specified blackout period, after which certain operators would be licensed and the online action could resume. That bill never got out of committee, but the DOJ's actions effectively mean that the blackout period began this afternoon.