Germany: Online Poker Player Denied $60K Cashout by Bank
Online poker’s neverending war against overzealous regulatory control was back on display this week in Germany, where a small-time online player thought he’d collected the cash of a lifetime, only to have his bank refuse to allow him to cash out of his online poker winnings.
The strange affair comes to us from the German state of Saxony, one of sixteen such states (Bundesländer) in Germany. German states are similar to states in the United States of America, in that they retain a certain measure of autonomy and sovereignty in certain legal and social matters, and that’s where the unfortunate online poker player’s legal adventure begins.
The saga’s central character is a 29-year-old Sicilian with the onscreen nickname “RuiDeck,” who pulled off a Moneymaker-style double parlay on his way to a supposed big win. RuiDeck, who reported to an Italian poker forum that he was living in Dresden, Germany and working as a waiter, and had only about US $11 in his PokerStars account. He spent just 10 of his accrued Stars Frequent Player Points in a big FPP satellite giving away a handful of seats to last months PokerStars Micromillions event, then parlayed that seat (a $22 value) into a third-place showing in the big Micromillions tourney, for $59,480,98.
Then RuiDeck acted rashly. He quit his waiter job in Dresden and awaited the arrival of his nearly US $60K in his Dresden-area bank account, unmindful that Saxony is one of the German states that has the most restricted state-level laws regarding online gambling, laws that are often contradictory to those at the federal level, where online gambling is allowed and PokerStars is fully licensed.
Such overlap and contradiction between state- and federal-level laws is a major problem for online gambling in general, though that leads off to other discussions. In RuiDeck’s case, he hoped for the quick arrival of the $60K to pursue a dream as a professional poker player, but discovered too late that all financial transactions over €10,000 (about $10,900 USD) are reported to the German government and can be blocked by the bank if deemed suspicious.
Had RuiDeck withdrawn his money in a series of smaller installments — and whether or not that would qualify as a form of money laundering under the Saxon statutes the bank cited in its seizure is another matter — he likely wouldn’t have had the trouble he’s currently facing.
And trouble indeed looms, even though PokerStars confirmed the authenticity of RuiDeck’s win and noted its own proper federal licensing in Germany. In a follow-up post on the Italian poker site which first published his plight, RuiDeck wrote that note only is his $60K win being subject to seizure proceedings, there’s a chance he may also face a fine or even a stint in the clink, should Dresden-area authorities decide to make an example.
Wrote RuiDeck, as translated via Google:
“Based on these rules if the thesis of ‘gambling’ is confirmed I risk at best confiscation of the win and a fine of €2,000, while in the worst case the law provides for six months in jail. This is absurd because I know that he acted in good faith and I am the victim of a system unclear. PokerStars I should have informed from the beginning of this case, because the current state of things play online is legal but apparently win it is a crime!”
PokerStars has yet to issue a formal, corporate statement on the incident, though that support RuiDeck in his pending legal battle against Saxon officials is clear. Here’s what Stars wrote to the unnamed Dresden banking institution (again, via Google Translate):
“We confirm that his win is legitimate and [the] funds should be released to his bank account. If you wish, we can provide a letter of confirmation of his winning via email but kindly note that the letter can not be sent to your bank or financial institution and can be addressed only to [him]. Please let us know if this is acceptable and we’ll [send] that letter. Besides this we also ask that you confirm in which language you want your letter to be sent. Feel also free to contact us at any time if [you] should need any further assistance.”
RuiDeck isn’t too pleased with Stars at the moment, either, based on other excerpts and quotes in the two Italian stories. RuiDeck has also announced his intention to seek legal assistance in repatriating the funds from his online win, a situation which may present a challenge over the wording of the Saxony statue under which the bank directed the seizure of RuiDeck’s funds.