In a statement received by CanadaPoker.com, Blanca Games, who is the ownership behind the CEREUS Network sites Absolute Poker and UB.com, affirmed that the network has made the decision to deny action to U. S. players “due to recent legal developments in the United States.” Blanca Games, however, says it is still providing action for those players in the international community while undergoing a restructuring of their operation.
The spokesperson said in the statement, “We regret that we have been compelled to take these actions. We have worked tirelessly to create a truly amazing company that is filled with extraordinary people. We have always been and still remain fully committed to our employees and players. At the same time, we are confident that restructuring will strengthen the company and its future.”
Addressing reports that the CEREUS Network was facing bankruptcy, the spokesperson denied that the actions taken recently by Blanca Games were due to such a move. “The company is currently restructuring and is focusing its resources on consolidating its non-U.S., rest-of-the-world operation and software business,” the spokesperson said. “In order to have a more efficient and successful future business, an immediate need to downsize and streamline operations significantly at both online poker rooms has been required.”
The downsizing that Blanca Games refers to are from reports that approximately 95% of the Blanca Games workforce – personnel in the customer service and marketing departments – have been laid off due to the indictment of Absolute Poker founders Scott Tom and Brent Beckley. The downsizing by Blanca Games “comes after considerable review and analysis of the impact that “Black Friday” has had on the business as a whole. The workforce has been liquidated, and the process of rehiring approximately 20% of staff in key positions has commenced. All affected employees have been informed of this necessary restructure.”
Where the bankruptcy talk comes into play is during discussions by Blanca Games with a company allegedly for shareholders in Absolute Poker. According to the Blanca Games spokesperson, “(We) recently informed a debt holder, Madeira Fjord, that it was terminating debt payments to, and its relationship with them. As a result, Madeira Fjord apparently filed a notice of bankruptcy in Norway. This notice has no negative impact upon Blanca, the operating company, or its brands.”
“As stated previously, Absolute Poker and UB continue to operate their non-U.S. facing business around the world,” the spokesperson concluded.
Madeira Fjord is allegedly a company where the shareholders of Absolute Poker parked their shares as a “firewall” against being directly involved with the operation of Absolute Poker and being legally tied to the company. A St. Petersburg Times article from last Sunday detailed out the travails of the shareholders of Madeira Fjord, the tax issues facing the shareholders in Norway, where Madeira Fjord is incorporated, and how said shareholders will probably never see any return on their investment in Absolute Poker.
As a goodwill gesture – or perhaps due to complaints over their cash out restrictions – Blanca Games announced that, for its non-U. S. players, maximum withdrawal limits have been increased on Absolute Poker and UB.com. The maximum limits for withdrawal requests have been raised to $1000 for Visa withdrawals and $500 for all other methods, but players are still limited to one withdrawal per week. The Blanca Games spokesperson stated, “The number of transactions being processed per day has significantly increased, which could cause delays. We are working to return non-U.S. withdrawals to normal service levels as quickly as possible.”
As far as U. S. players with funds on the site, Blanca Games states, “(Blanca Games’) legal counsel is in continuing discussions this week with the U. S. Attorney’s office to formalize an agreement that would facilitate the return of funds to U.S. players.”
The CEREUS Network sister sites Absolute Poker and UB.com have been the hardest hit by the April 15 indictments by the U. S. Department of Justice. PokerScout.com has reported that cash game traffic – the respected measure of popularity in the industry due to the constant rake – has declined on the network by 75%. Once ranked as one of the Top 10 networks, the CEREUS Network currently is the 27th ranked poker operation in the online poker industry.
By EARL BURTON