As the US government’s case against online payment processor NETeller has resolved, players can access the funds that were frozen in ‘evidence’ against the company. Founders Stephen Lawrence and John Lefebvre pleaded guilty to charges brought under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Although the company was not an online gambling site, it was used to process funds by online gamblers and as such ‘conspiracy’ charges applied.
Funds will be returned by electronic transfer or cheque, and must cover the entire amount in the account. There will be no charge for the transactions. However, customers are warned that with $94 million moving out, the site will be exceptionally busy. They are advised to be patient and simply try later if the site is very slow. Patience, after seven months?
The case itself caused shock, but the freezing of the accounts outraged many. Some online players feared that account holders’ details would be used as evidence for individual prosecutions. However, despite a justification of the UIGEA on the grounds that it prevents money laundering, none of the thousands affected have been charged. Instead a $136 million Deferred Prosecution Agreement was reached with the US authorities. Conspiracy theorists have accused the government of profiteering as it paves the way for entertainment conglomerates that missed the online casino boat to enter the market at a later date.
In spite of these dramas the company has survived. Shares resumed trading on the stock market last week, and though it has pulled out of the US, Canada and Turkey, where there may be some legislative uncertainty, its latest financial results are healthy.