PokerStars has halted the offering of real money poker games in Israel, according to both an e-mail that was sent to customers and a pop-up message that was presented to Israeli players upon attempting to login. The ban took effect Monday, June 27th. In a somewhat ironic side note, the founder of PokerStars, Isai Scheinberg, is Israeli.
It appears that this decision was made because Israel is what is considered a “grey” market in the online poker world. That is, online poker is not explicitly illegal in the country, but it isn’t legal, either. Israel does, though, bar most other forms of gambling and has typically used those laws to cover internet gaming, as well.
PokerStars has been withdrawing from grey markets over the years. It is generally understood that the decision to do so is to make its parent company, Amaya, look as squeaky clean as possible as it applies for operating licenses in various jurisdictions, the United States, in particular. Amaya doesn’t want any potential blemishes on its record when trying to apply for access in the States. There are a lot of customers to be had if Pennsylvania and California open up to internet poker and Amaya doesn’t need to die on the grey market hill.
Below is PokerStars’ e-mail to its Israeli customers, as shared on Two Plus Two:
Our management team regularly review our operations market-by-market to assess commercial opportunities and business risks for our brands. Following a recent review, we regret to inform you that we have decided to stop offering real money games to players who are physically located in – or have a registered address in – Israel from June 27, 2016. We apologize for this inconvenience and hope you’ve enjoyed your experience – we invite you to continue playing with your existing account on our play money site here.
Player balances remain safe and secure, and players are able to withdraw their real money balances at their convenience.
You will be able to withdraw to your Visa card or WebMoney account providing you have used them to deposit within the last 12 months. If you have not, you will need to deposit with them before June 27 to be able to do so. The wire transfer option may also be available for withdrawals. Note that if you do deposit with WebMoney you will need to wait 48 hours from your last deposit before you are able to withdraw your funds.
A full question and answer page has been provided for affected players.
Any outstanding tournament tickets or T-money will be converted to cash. A $1 VIP Cash Rebate has been added to the VIP Store that can be purchased for 100 StarsCoin in order to facilitate players who would like to convert their StarsCoin to cash. Players who have made progress on their current VIP Step will receive the full prorated value of their current Step credited if the amount is 250 StarsCoin or more.
Please allow up to 72 hours from June 27 in order for these credits and conversions to be made, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.