Bankers find positives in latest US action against cash processors

The latest action by the US Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York against US online gambling cash processors could have a beneficial side-effect on Euro-centred online poker operations such as Party Poker and Playtech, reports The Times newspaper in the UK.

The newspaper quoted Deutsche Bank analysts who pointed out that US-active online poker companies like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker are the real targets for the actions against the processors. One of the major advantages these sites have over their European-focused rivals is the continued, if risky, access to a huge US market still playing despite the UIGEA.

This gives the US-facing sites greater player liquidity and the ability to mount more aggressive promotional and marketing initiatives, attracting many European and Asian players to their action.

However, should those legions of American players become insecure or concerned about their deposits in PokerStars or Full Tilt, and be "forced off the Web" by this sort of enforcement action, it could mean that the liquidity advantage would decrease, and European and Asian players would gravitate back to the non-US operators where there was less hassle and risk.

Deutsche Bank analysts said: “If this action is the start of a bigger move by US authorities to clamp down on those sites, then this should be materially beneficial for the next-largest providers of poker liquidity, Playtech and PartyGaming, as we would expect to see non-US players migrating away from PokerStars and Full Tilt.”

The analysts pointed out that the current action, which involves about $33 million in deposits belonging to some 27 000 players being frozen, was not in and of itself critical in a financial sense to major companies like PokerStars and Full Tilt. However, “....player trust is critical and you don't need to freeze all player funds in order to have a material impact on confidence and liquidity. Even if this doesn't lead to a full crackdown, anything which affects the players' confidence in the US-facing sites is a clear positive for the listed online poker operators in our view”, the bank said.

The market seemed to have been of the same view this week, with shares in the big European online poker groups going up between 5 and 6 percent as news of the US enforcement action sank in.

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