Since the actions of the United States Department of Justice on “Black Friday,” where the owners of the major U. S. facing online poker operations and several payment processors were indicted on several violations of federal law, online poker has essentially dried up in America.
With PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and the CEREUS Network sites Absolute Poker and UB.com dropping Americans from their player rosters, U. S. poker players are faced with a difficult choice: patronize the smaller sites still serving the American market (Bodog, Cake Poker, Merge) or move to another country to continue their online poker pursuits. An article from the Off Shore Gaming Association (OSGA) points out the decision to leave may not be as easy as it appears.
The article, written by Hartley Henderson for OSGA.com, details a discussion that Henderson had with a friend who has become an online poker professional. Facing the removal of his livelihood by the actions of “Black Friday,” the player states that the remaining site options open to U. S. players do not provide him enough ROI to play on the sites. He then goes on to state he is considering the option of leaving the U. S. to continue to pursue his chosen career path. Mexico is out for the player, Henderson writes, due to the language barrier, but Canada is very appealing because of its similarities to the U. S. in weather and lifestyle.
The idea of moving to another country has been the thought of many in the American online poker community. At Two Plus Two, a 241-post thread has developed since April 15, with nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Costa Rica and (oddly) the Philippines being mentioned as likely destinations for those who choose to leave the U. S. For those that make the difficult decision to move to Canada, however, Henderson points out that there are several obstacles.
First of all, online poker players in Canada are taxed on their winnings, something that perhaps many Americans had not done previously. Henderson writes, “The only real negative living in Canada from a poker player’s point of view is the individual tax rates, which approach 50% at the highest tax bracket.” Henderson also points out that the cost of living in Canada is a bit higher than what most Americans might be used to experiencing.
The true problem with moving to Canada, according to Henderson, is the requirement that those seeking to move to Canada have skills that would make them a viable part of the Canadian culture. Canada accepts 150,000 immigrants yearly but, according to Henderson’s discussions with a Canadian immigration lawyer, those players that list “poker player” as their occupations don’t stand much chance of being accepted into the country.
Henderson states another option for those looking to move to Canada would be on a “tourist visa,” which would allow the player to set up shop in Canada with a new acceptable address for online poker play at the formerly verboten online poker sites and a bank account outside the United States. As time passes, the “tourist” could be able to apply for Canadian citizenship and, if denied, simply goes back to the U. S. for a spell without issue.
Henderson finishes the article by stating, “Moving countries is always a difficult decision but, if online poker is truly “the only choice” as my poker playing colleague said, then the sacrifice may be worth it.” With that said, how long will it be before the online tables of PokerStars, PartyPoker or 888 are once again flooded by former American online players looking to regain their livelihood, or when will the tables in Canada’s hottest casinos become a haven for former American poker pros?