John Mehaffey Somerville CA poker demo

Jason Somerville joined Daniel Negreanu in Sacramento two weeks ago to give a demonstration on how regulated online poker would work in California.

The two star poker players showed California lawmakers how PokerStars operated and gave examples of how it would make online poker safe for the state’s residents, while at the same time generating tax revenue.

Californians are already playing online poker with no safeguards

The message was that tens of thousands of Californians already give action to offshore sites without any consumer protections. Somerville shared a personal experience to help make that point. He lost $100,000 at an offshore site that shuttered and never paid players.

Another example from 2015: Lock Poker, an offshore site that stole an estimated $15 million from its customers. The site was licensed by Curacao Egaming.

The regulator ignored complaints from players and inquiries from the press up until Lock Poker pulled the plug on its scam. Curacao quietly revoked Lock Poker’s license without ever intervening in the mountain of complaints or holding Lock Poker executives responsible.

Lock Poker operated until April 17. The company did not process a single payment to players in more than one year when the off switch was flicked on its poker server. The website remains live.

There were rumors that Lock Poker lost millions in the Cyprus banking crisis. Slow payments plagued the company long before that time. Even if the Cypriot banking crisis was the cause of Lock Poker’s demise, no legitimate gaming regulator would ever allow that type of investment with player deposits held in trust.

This example is but one of many

Two Plus Two user IHasTehNutz compiled lists of players owed money by Lock Poker in the year before its demise.

He listed nearly $1 million in pending withdrawal requests. Those players also reported $2.5 million in balances that could not be requested for withdrawal due to pending cashout requests that were not processed. Players could only have one pending cashout active at a time.

Lock Poker is an egregious example of an unlicensed offshore site not honoring cashout requests, but it is far from the only one. Sportsbook Review names dozens of offshore sites that refuse or fail to honor legitimate winners that still accept U.S. players.

Some of these sportsbooks also offer online poker rooms. Merge Gaming consists of Sportsbook.com, PlayersOnly, SuperBook and Carbon Poker. The group receives a D- grade at Sportsbook Review. The poker side of the business hovers around a C- to D+ in terms of payouts that take about three months at this time.

While Somerville and Negreanu traveled to Sacramento in conjunction with a hearing on AB 431, a shell bill pending in the California legislature to display why regulating PokerStars and companies like it would benefit California, the side story cannot be ignored.

Legalizing online poker in California would put an end to the scams perpetrated by companies like Lock Poker. As PokerStars pointed out at the demonstration, online poker already exists in California.

The only question is whether the state will afford those players the types of protection California is known to legislate in so many other industries.

John Mehaffey
John Mehaffey - John is a writer for multiple online poker publications and is the author of the popular Online Poker Payment Processing Report. Read more from John by following @John_Mehaffey on Twitter.