Apr 26th 2010
MasterCard, as most people know by now, has divorced itself from processing any online gambling-related payments in the United States, a move that could have been anticipated, and indeed was, by some, as the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) is scheduled to be enforced this June. The UIGEA prohibits United States banks from processing transactions where the money goes to an "illegal" gambling site, and MasterCard seems to be in a posture of compliance, in advance of this law having to be enforced. This action on the part of the credit card company has the potential to be a big blow to the online casino industry, and the effects can't help but be felt by poker, slots casinos and sportsbook websites who have U.S. customers.

Maybe another factor affecting the MasterCard decision was the recent ruling to uphold contempt charges against a Canadian businessman, Douglas Rennick, who was indicted last August for a number of alleged crimes related to internet gaming, and did not comply with a grand jury subpoena that had been issued for him.

Rennick was charged with bank fraud by the U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York, a result of his alleged actions in processing more than $350 million for internet gambling companies, through U.S. banks, and giving false information to these banks about how the accounts were going to be used, presumably in order to skirt the UIGEA, which would soon make it illegal for banks to facilitate those transactions.

In total, Rennick was charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to engage in money laundering, and conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business. If he's found guilty, he faces a maximum of 30 years in prison as well as a substantial amount in fines. The U.S. authorities are also seeking for the forfeiture of over $565 million, which they assert was the amount of money obtained as a result of "illegal gambling and bank fraud conspiracies."

MasterCard's decision understandably had a considerable affect on thousands of online poker players, many of whom experienced a big problem in processing transactions and getting paid.

According to some experts who observed the situation, many players who have tried to execute transactions using MasterCard have been billed, while the online gaming company they were trying to pay doesn't get the funds, meaning that money was intercepted. Some other players have not had a problem using their MasterCard, which might mean that the banks they have an account with haven't begun to enforce and/or block the transactions. MasterCard's position is pretty clear, however.

Not that the company necessarily has a moral opposition to gambling, but what they did have a beef with was being deceived. Certain transactions had used codes that were purposely false, made up to look like other types of transactions, and some of them had been declined using the code for gambling transactions. The word is that MasterCard actually audited tens of thousands of transactions, and did it manually, to come to its conclusions, and then took steps to close the account of any processor who was part of that kind of deception.

Because MasterCard has been a deposit method players have relied upon for years, it might be a while before the industry is able to catch up. Gaming companies that cater to U.S. customers are trying to get players to use electronic wallets instead, and new processors are expected to emerge, offering hope that this problem can be addressed successfully as time progresses. However, this will not happen overnight, and with the UIGEA on the horizon, some in the business feel that a period of trouble lies ahead.
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Mastercard Drops Gaming Transactions

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