The flow of US citizens leaving the country due to the ban on online gambling has not dried up for the seventh year in a row. Professional gamblers began moving to neighboring countries-Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, and even more distant routes-in 2011, when the United States authorities launched a decisive offensive against companies that violate the UIGEA law (“to combat illegal gambling”), adopted in 2006, but until now ignored by almost all operators of gambling on the Internet.
This was especially painful for online poker players. “Black Friday” April 15, 2011 was marked for them by the fact that American intelligence agencies organized raids into offshore jurisdictions where the servers of the largest poker rooms were operating, and forcibly disconnected them from the network for allowing US citizens to play at their homes.
Gambling sites were able to resume operation only after they blocked the accounts of all American players, forbidding them to register and play from the territory of the United States in the future.
In October 2012, the alleged owners and major agents of the leading online bookmaker Pinnacle Sports were arrested in several cities in the United States. Although this bookmaker’s website stopped accepting direct bets from US residents back in January 2007, they could continue to play there through agents. The crackdown forced Pinnacle to abandon all methods of working with American citizens, and even a simple visit to its website from the United States leads to the automatic blocking of your account.
As a result of such measures, the inhabitants of this country, who earned their living by playing, were forced to emigrate. Who knows, perhaps soon their example will have to be followed by Russian professional players, to whom the authorities of the Russian Federation are increasingly tightening the screws, trying their best to cut off such Russians from the sources of their earnings.
One way or another, someone else’s experience will be useful. Atlas Obscura portal tells about the communities of professional American poker players who have settled in Costa Rica.
The life of professional players here may seem like a fairy tale. During the day, they play poker online, and in the evenings and weekends they gather for parties: eat, drink, travel around the country, raft, ride down the mountains on steel ropes, ride Quad bikes. New players keep coming and coming. “There must be more than 50 American poker players living here in the vicinity of a couple of miles,” says Ryan Garrita, one of the first settlers who emigrated here from the US back in 2011.
Similar communities were formed everywhere. “Playing professional poker can provoke some degree of seclusion and loneliness,” says Kristin Wilson, who founded Poker Refugees, a company that helps players move. – “Players like to settle in the same area.”
As Wilson flipped through the Black Friday news, she kept wondering: what are all these thousands of professional poker players going to do? They are not going to give up poker, which is their main source of income, and is what they are best at doing. They’ll have to move.
Having lived in Costa Rica for six years, Kristin knows from experience that it takes time to get used to the customs and difficulties of life abroad, and decided that the players do not need to waste it. After all, it can help them move, and quickly. Other groups of professional players have settled in Mexico, Canada,and even on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean.
Although the move was a forced measure, many of them soon fell in love with their new place of residence. “I know I had to leave the country to continue living my dream,” says Chris Haniken, a very high – income player who moved to Costa Rica with a group of friends. “At first I was scared and nervous about what my new life would bring.”
But these fears were soon dispelled. Haniken and company initially planned to stay in Costa Rica for three months. Six years have passed and they are still living here, moreover, having convinced even more friends to join them. “I think we’ve become local celebrities,” Haniken grins. – “Parties and women we have in abundance.” He is married to a Costa Rican woman and they have two children.
Every year, starting with Black Friday, the Wilson company helps hundreds of people move, and this flow does not stop. Some players since 2011 have turned to it repeatedly, having lived in one place and imbued with the spirit of adventurism, asked to move them somewhere else in order to try out different countries.
Elena Stover had just started her poker career when Black Friday happened, and she didn’t have the money to emigrate yet. Only after 2014 did she save enough money to fully devote herself to the life of a professional player and move abroad. After living for a while in Mexico and Malta, Elena eventually settled in Berlin, where she can safely pursue her poker activities, and from where it is also easy to get out to live tournaments all over Europe. By the way, she has a degree in cognitive neuroscience and is also studying how different parts of the brain interact when people make decisions based on risk.