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Offshore Money Transfer: Alternatives to Neteller...By Jay Graziani
On the heels of the announcement last week that Pinnacle Sports would immediately be closed to U.S. customers, another hammer was dropped on the e-gaming community this Monday with the arrest of two founders of Neteller, the money transfer company that has focused its business primarily on serving the online gaming industry. Once again, already-shaken offshore operators and players were thrown into a panic.
Yesterday, Citadel Commerce announced they would no longer provide "e-wallet" solutions to U.S. customers. Neteller shortly followed suit, announcing that it was blocking all transfers for U.S. account holders to and from offshore gaming sites. Later in the day, upstart operator SolidPay also closed business to U.S. customers. All of this was foreshadowed by the withdrawal of Moneybookers from the U.S. market back in October. Offshore bettors were left wondering what options might be left for transferring funds to and from gambling sites. On top of all the above, rumors are circulating about other sportsbooks pulling out of the U.S. market.
When the UIEGA passed, many (this author included) suggested moving money offshore instead of bringing it back to the states. The reasoning was that it would be harder to get money offshore to gaming sites than it would be to recover those funds from reputable operators, who could always resort to slow options like a check. With Neteller now blocking U.S.-based gaming transactions, many of those bettors are now separated from their money in their offshore accounts.
While the recent events will certainly complicate things for most offshore players, the fact is that the sky is not falling and the industry is not finished. The panic evident among the offshore bulletin boards is unjustified. First and foremost, the gaming sites will do all in their power to ensure smooth money transfers. There is too much money at stake for all of them to just fade quietly into the night. Many thought the online gambling industry would be in trouble when most major credit cards were blocked or when Paypal was sued, causing them to exit the online gaming arena. The industry evolved to face those challenges, and they will evolve to compete in the current atmosphere as well. We can expect new solutions to be implemented by the time football season rolls back around. But more importantly, there are other options out there now for resourceful bettors:
Sportsbook debit cards - Offshore operators have tinkered with debit cards on and off through the years. Perhaps the most infamous is the BetPanAm Flexcard. Others have tried it as well, but most of the existing cards have been taken out of operation by the issuing banks. However, BetJamaica announced yesterday that they will be issuing a new card. While details are still sparse, they claim their Transfer Card will allow deposits and withdrawals within 30 minutes, with a low $0.50 fee per transaction. BetRoyal has announced that they will also be unveiling a "RoyalCard" in the next month. Account-linked debit cards may prove to be one of the better post-Neteller funding methods, unless problems with issuing banks arise.
Player-to-player transfers - Neteller is still allowing "peer-to-peer" transactions, so this may represent a possible way around the gaming ban for U.S. citizens. There have been cases where sportsbooks, prior to being approved for Neteller "merchant" account, would have Neteller funds routed to employees' personal Neteller accounts. This would be similar to the current practice of sending Western Union deposits to individual "runners" who are employed by the sportsbook. Furthermore, since Neteller's ban on gaming transfer is not global, U.S. citizens could employ a friend or agent from outside the U.S. to accept a peer-to-peer transfer on their behalf and deposit it into their sportsbook via account-to-account transfer.
Western Union/Moneygram - Let's not forget the original method of choice for transferring money offshore - Western Union and Moneygram have been servicing the offshore gambler's needs for decades. Both are also available online for U.S. customers, adding to the ease of use. Fees are generally picked up by the sportsbook for deposits of more than a few hundred dollars. One downside is the need to provide identification at the counter prior to sending/receiving money. Another issue is relatively high fees if the sportsbook is not covering them. Of course, both have policies against gambling-related transactions, although most transfers slip through the system regardless. But with added pressure from Uncle Sam, we might expect new policies that crack down on sending money to gaming jurisdictions, making the use of these services more challenging in the near future.
Cashier Check/Money Order - Another old-fashioned deposit method is to just mail in a check. This can be effective, but slow, especially compared to other methods in the internet age. Checks also leave a "paper trail", while money orders are limited to smaller amounts, making them less than ideal for high-limit players.
Credit cards - Many books still claim high acceptance rates for credit cards. Depending on your issuing bank, you may be able to sneak a transaction through, or the receiver may be able to do some manipulation on his end to ensure the transaction is not flagged as "gambling related" (i.e. processing the charge through a non-gaming merchant account). Of course, this also leaves a paper trail and doesn't allow you to withdrawal winnings, so even if your charge is accepted, this is not the most efficient transfer method.
E-checks, EFTs, bank wires, and debit cards - Many sportsbooks allow E-check or electronic funds transfer, either through a 3rd party provider like Click2Pay and InstaDebit, or through their own software. However, this requires providing your banking information to the sportsbook in question. It also may violate the terms of service of your bank, causing your account to be closed. While most credit cards are blocked for gaming transactions, some VISA debit cards are still functional, particularly those from smaller "community" banks who have less stringent policies. If utilizing these methods, you may want to open a separate checking account which is only used for gaming-related transaction to provide an added level of security,
E-gold - While not widely available yet, e-gold transactions may see an increase as other services disappear from the market. E-gold provides heightened privacy and low transfer fees (around 1% or less depending on amount transferred). Unfortunately, the privacy features also mean that fraud can be a problem. There are no chargebacks or waiting periods, so if an account is hacked, it can be emptied immediately with no recourse for the victim. It also has been the subject of investigation by U.S. Secret Service agents, so in the current environment that may be a sign of impending trouble. E-gold is not currently accepted by a large number of books - BetRoyal and 5Dimes are two of the few that will take it. However, e-gold may become a viable option if more sportsbooks decide to utilize it.
Offshore banks - For the truly dedicated, opening an offshore bank account may relieve a lot of money transfer problems. This is a more complicated solution whose details are beyond the scope of this article. However, many Caribbean nations have offshore banking solutions that would nicely fit the needs of the U.S.-based gambler.
Clearly, transferring money will not be as simple as it was even just days ago for U.S. players. The days of moving money in and out of books daily at low or no cost are probably gone. The sportsbooks, however, will adapt. This is a competitive industry, and while some may sink, others will figure out how to swim - there is too much profit in online gaming for it to just disappear. Some will begin offering free withdrawals by other methods; others will come up with innovative solutions like account-linked debit cards. Competition will drive offshore operators to come up with innovative and efficient solutions for deposits and withdrawals. The bottom line is: while this may be a temporary setback to the online gaming industry, sportsbooks, poker sites, and casinos will continue to thrive in cyberspace.
Not that I didn't enjoy the article, but I've been hearing a lot of this refrain lately, i.e., things have looked bad before, things will improve. What nobody mentions is that bettors lose money every time things go bad, and that never comes back. Oh, they nailed BoS, but don't worry, things will come back. Yeah, fine, except BoS kept a bagful of my money. Will that come back? I don't think so.
In a similar vein, we continue to talk about how to deposit in new and different ways, but nobody mentions anything about cashing out. According to pokerjoe, more than one book has suspended handling withdrawals and another is finding that US banks won't cash the checks they're sending out. A friend who works in CR told me he expects the feds to try to prevent players cashing out (presumably by instructing banks not to honor checks) and to hold up players' funds indefinitely (presumably for tax-related issues). What's the value of finding a workable way to transfer money out when you can't get paid? Show me how to get paid, then I'll be interested in how to post up.
I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming in terror like his passengers.
"you are one sharp son of a bitch" - Yzerman #19 (11/15/2005)
On a more serious note InstaDebit is already a no go at many books. Sure the same with the others.
Doesnt matter though. All is well.
Ill put up my printer against someone's DVD player on the Pats game. Any takers?
How about I mow your lawn in the summer if Pats lose and you shovel my driveway if they dont?
Thats the future of offshore
It appears with the tremendous uncertainty of the current availability of fund transfer options books are “stone walling” client’s withdraw requests...not to mention request status changes from accepted to pending with Neteller accounts on requests issued PRIOR to their non-service gaming announcement.
“Governments’ should NOT encourage nor profit from any social vices while passively acknowledging their existence amongst all societies and cultures.” -HWM
Just got email reply from NETeller w/re transferring funds.
Has no bearing on my funds now tho as I contacted Sportsbook and they simply sent me a check once NT reversed & redeposited the funds.
What we suggest you do is contact the merchant about your funds. If they processed it already the funds should hit your NETELLER account eventually and you will be able to withdraw it when available. If not then you will have to go through the merchant and work things out with them.
Unfortunately, due to recent legislation and related events, US members will no longer be able to transfer funds to or from any online gambling sites effective January 17, 2007.
All other NETELLER services remain available to US members. As a US member, you may continue to hold funds safely in your NETELLER account until such time as you decide to move these funds. The change in gambling merchant transfers does not affect your ability to maintain funds within your NETELLER e-wallet account.
NETELLER protects all members’ funds (all deposited, in-transit and un-cleared funds) by holding the value in independent trust accounts. NETELLER is authorized and regulated by the Financial Services Authority in the UK.
NETELLER will continue to allow US members to transfer funds to non-gambling merchants. Additionally, NETELLER offers a member-to-member transfer service that will allow you to instantly send money to friends and family around the world.
US member NETELLER accounts will NOT be closed. Your funds will continue to be securely held, and you will remain having full access to the funds held by NETELLER.
Currently NETELLER is experiencing unprecedented volumes through our withdrawals department. Due to this volume, there may be delays of up to two (2) weeks for an EFT withdrawal to your bank account, and six (6) to eight (8) weeks for a check withdrawal. NETELLER Cards continue to provide the quickest withdrawal option.
For more information, please visit NETELLER - Member News
Thank you for choosing NETELLER.
NETELLER Customer Service
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Toll Free: 888.258.5859
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AL 29:11 Just Win Baby
what I don't understand is why this is such a big surprise. The SAFE port act aka UIGEA was signed into law in October, and gave 270 days for banks, etc to comply. We knew Neteller was done, we knew EFT was done. This may have been a couple of months ahead of schedule, but it is not like it is a total surprise
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