The regulation of online poker in some US states last year was a huge step forward for America’s card gaming community. Considering the government’s stance against internet gambling in recent years, many of today’s players were shocked at the change in opinion. Those regulations generally frown upon brands that broke US gambling laws in the past; a fact that still has online poker fans wondering how Neteller managed to get approved as a payment processor in New Jersey.
Optimal Payments Plc., the parent company of Neteller, received approval for a license to operate in New Jersey back in October of 2013, a month before regulated iGaming went live in the state. In March of 2014, Neteller was integrated on Harrah’s online casino and 888 Poker NJ as a viable deposit method. The nascent iGaming market continues to attract new players on a daily basis, and many of them have been outraged to learn that Neteller is offering its services on US soil once more.
The brand’s history starts out with a shining testimony, once the most popular online payment processor in the internet gambling industry. In the early days, players could easily transfer funds to and from online poker accounts instantly with no fees, or between gaming sites and/or other people for a nominal processing charge. It was the online banking method of millions of users around the world. To top it off, being located offshore, a player’s winning were considered untraceable, therefore the majority went unclaimed on US tax filings.
The US Department of Justice took notice of Neteller at a GIGSE conference in the early 2000’s when the company was a highlight of the event, which happened to be attended by a speaker from the DOJ. Neteller officials bragged about their anonymity for online gamblers, which drew the attention of the DOJ’s speaker, who responded, “so there’s a huge pot of money that is untraceable and can be passed around to websites and other people without detection? That’s certainly something we’ll be interested in.”
Nothing came of it at first, and Neteller continued to flourish, but when the UIGEA was passed in 2006, the US government stepped in. Neteller was prepared to back out of the US market to abide by the new law, but asked for time to repay its American customers for fear of losing the rest of the global market. The DOJ responded in January 2007 by arresting the company’s co-founders, Stephen Lawrence and David Lefebvre, and charging them with money laundering.
Many US online poker players were unable to retrieve their funds before the shutdown took place. It took 6 months for the US government to begin refunding some of the money it had seized, but many players felt they were better off taking the loss than suffering possible repercussions for gambling online and neglecting to report their winnings in the first place.
John from Trenton, New Jersey is one of a multitude of online players who was furious to discover Neteller operating in the US. “I can’t believe that the U.S. government treated Neteller as vultures and made us who gambled offshore jump through hoops to get our money back that they seized,” John wrote in a letter to The Insider’s Hartley Henderson, “and now they are welcoming them with open arms? That’s total B.S.”
John, who lost $800 in his Neteller account all those years ago, went on to explain negative position towards the Neteller brand. “Imagine having an account with a bookmaker who you win with but won’t pay you your winnings. He later turns himself into police and you find out that he’s turning over the names of his clients, the amounts they wagered and won and so forth and you’re left biting your nails just wondering if the police are going to show up at your door. And then a few years later when you’re finally over it you find out that the same bookmaker who screwed you and a lot of other bettors has been welcomed by your local government to take wagers. That’s pretty much how I feel about Neteller. They are slime balls and always will be.”