Friday, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney charged the principals of three of online poker's biggest sites with bank fraud, illegal gambling and laundering billions of dollars.
In all, 11 defendants were charged, including PokerStars' Isai Scheinberg, Fill Tilt Poker's Ray Bitar and Nelson Burtnick and Absolute Poker's Scott Tom.
The Internet domain names used by PokerStars, Full Tilt, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet were seized and now redirect to a message from the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI.
In response, PokerStars issued a statement through a pop-up on its poker client saying it has suspended real-money play in the United States.
"As you may have heard, we have had to suspend real money poker services to people based in the U.S. due to legal developments there," the statement reads.
"The developments are confined to the U.S. and do not have any impact on your ability to continue using our services. Please be assured player balances are safe. There is no cause for concern. For all customers outside the U.S. it is business as usual."
The statement goes on to say the PokerStars website has been moved to www.pokerstars.eu and its support email address is now firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full Tilt Poker also released a statement saying it supports poker players and Bitar, the company's chief executive, but has been forced to pull out of the U.S. market.
"Full Tilt Poker is saddened by today’s charges against its CEO Raymond Bitar and offers its full support to Mr. Bitar and Nelson Burtnick," the statement reads.
"Online poker is a game of skill enjoyed by tens of millions of people in the United States and across the world. And, Full Tilt Poker remains as committed as ever to preserving the rights of those players to play the game they love online.
"Mr. Bitar and Full Tilt Poker believe online poker is legal – a position also taken by some of the best legal minds in the United States. Full Tilt Poker is, and has always been committed to preserving the integrity of the game and abiding by the law."
The statemet goes on to say Full Tilt Poker has decided to suspend real-money play in the United States until the case is resolved, but will continue to provide its services outside of the United States.
“I am surprised and disappointed by the government’s decision to bring these charges," said Mr. Bitar.
"I look forward to Mr. Burtnick’s and my exoneration.”
At press time, no public comments have been made by principals at Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet or the Cereus Poker Network.
For ongoing updates over the weekend, visit our Black Friday Bulletin Board.