Pokerstars staying, Neteller leaving (soon).

About a week ago, online poker players got some very good news. Pokerstars, which in my opinion is the highest quality online poker site, announced that they would continue to service US-based customers. In their announcement, Pokerstars stated that poker is a game of skill rather than chance and thus outside the reach of the legislation.

But today, some bad news came across: Neteller, the largest, most reliable offshore intermediary, announced that they would voluntarily comply with the new anti-gaming law once the law’s regulations are established.

For now, it is business as usual for Neteller and the players. But sometime in the coming months, Neteller will close its doors to us, and that is a big deal.

What will happen? Likely, some other smaller entities that are more comfortable with the risks involved will step into the breach. But will players like me feel comfortable using these alternate intermediaries? And will it scare off a high percentage of the US players and dry up the action? I guess we’ll see. But this news is ugly.

Firepay Flames Out.

Yesterday brought bad news for online poker players. Firepay, which after Neteller is the second most popular foreign banking intermediary, announced that they will voluntarily comply with the new legislation once it is signed by President Bush. In other words, online poker players who currently use Firepay will need to look for another way to fund their poker accounts.

This leaves Neteller as a crucial entity in the future of online poker. If they stay the course (as they announced they would on October 1st), I’m still convinced that things will remain relatively unchanged. If they follow Firepay’s lead, it will be a crushing blow as thousands of poker players, including myself, will no longer be able to move money into or out of their poker accounts.

Should Neteller cave, I’m sure some small daring international companies will fill the void, but will these companies be trustworthy? And more importantly, will it simply kill all the action before these companies can pick up the slack?

Prognosis: ominous.