Due to some of poker’s biggest online presences being given the axe in the U.S., along with the turbulent political scene currently raging there in regards to online poker, some had speculated that ESPN would forfeit broadcasting TV coverage of 2011’s World Series of Poker. However, fans of the felt can rest easy in the knowledge that these rumours are unfounded, for this year at least. In confirmation, Andrew Feldman, Poker Editor for ESPN, yesterday tweeted: “I’m relaying a very important message from the poker team at ESPN. Just so that its clear, ESPN will still be covering the WSOP.”
Currently, the U.S has frozen the bank accounts of three online poker giants (PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker) in fourteen countries. A total of five poker sites now display messages saying they have been seized by the FBI, and many players have found they are unable to remove funds from said sites. “We are looking at the funds and accounts to determine if they are the profits of an illegal enterprise,” said Kelly Langmesser, a spokesperson for the FBI. “The funds won’t be available until a determination has been made…These funds are currently being reviewed by the U.S. as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, and we are looking at the funds and accounts to determine if they are the profits of an illegal enterprise.”
The U.S. have also criticised ESPN for not acknowledging that they make significant advertising and sponsorship revenue from the three aforementioned companies. As such, ESPN announced recently that they plan to depart from the poker broadcasting business. The reason being, naturally, that without sponsorship deals from sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, TV poker will not be able to fund itself. “The World Series of Poker Main Event is a big enough brand where it can make it, but don’t count on much else” said New York-based journalist and poker player Andy Wang.
Having cost the poker world billions of dollars, tens of thousands of jobs, crippled her online presence and now virtually obliterated her future TV prospects, the U.S. looks to squeeze the online poker lemon until the pips squeak. No wonder she’s packing up and moving to Canada.