GPWA Times Magazine - Issue 1 - May 2007

54 U.S. players struggling to deposit Pre-paid cards and gift cards hit or miss By Ryan McLane Get creative. That’s the mantra of the American online gambler and the online gambling companies who serve them in the post-NETeller era. ePassporte gained traction in poker rooms, including Full Tilt and PokerStars, when NETeller withdrew from the U.S. on January 17. But overall, the processor has not been able to fill NETeller’s shoes because it can’t match the Insta-cash option that made NETeller so popular. NETeller’s Insta-cash funding method worked within minutes. It was the type of transaction that appealed to U.S. gamblers who are typically looking for quick results, based on the popularity of the NETeller service. ePassporte deposits can take 10 business days to complete, meaning players might have to wait as long as two weeks from the time they request the funds to the moment the money hits their online account. The service also charges $5 per $100 deposited. ePassporte’s deposit lag time and service fees have created a large market for testing different ways to get around the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Virtual gift cards, pre-paid credit cards, money transfers, and player-to-player transfers all have taken their shot at becoming the American gambler’s new favorite deposit method. Pre-paid cards became an overnight sensation when online gamblers learned most sites were accepting their Virtual Visa option. The Virtual Visa seemed a savior, allowing successful transactions within two hours. But just when “Virtual Visa” started to gain momentum in early February, its main provider,, removed the “virtual” option, citing a “revamping of their fraud systems” as the reason. Three weeks later, the “Virtual Visa” reappeared. But within days, the card started to decline gambling transactions, dashing the hopes of American punters. Plastic gift cards and pre-paid credit cards also had their moments in the spotlight. Casino City tested a pre-paid MasterCard option funded through Green Dot Corp. that had successful trialswithUltimate Bet andAbsolute Poker. Two $50 deposits were made with this MasterCard, but the third attempt was denied. A phone call to the Green Dot company revealed that Green Dot does not process online gambling requests and subsequent attempts would result in the card’s cancellation. Stories of similar situations appeared across Internet forums, with players stating that their once viable pre-paid cards were being denied towards the end of March. Currently, few pre-paid cards are accepting funding requests from known gambling Web sites. The appeal of the pre-paid card was its availability. CVS, Walgreens and other chain- pharmacies all offered the pre-paid credit cards. Most versions were re-loadable by visiting any of the chains that sell them and buying additional funding cards. Some, like Green Dot, offered a reloading method tied to a player’s bank account that saved a trip to the pharmacy. Wire transfers The places a player might have to go in order to complete one of these transactions could make their skin crawl, but they work. Typically found in the shadier areas of U.S. cities, wire-transfer booths usually offer services like Western Union and MoneyGram — money transfer companies that will send a player’s deposit to their favorite gambling site. MoneyGram, a main deposit-supplier for PokerStars’ players, is a little different. Most Walmart Superstores offer the MoneyGram service, allowing online gamblers the convenience of depositing at a major brand-name store. A Casino City test successfully deposited $80 into PokerStars. The transfer cost was $9.95, but it appeared in the Casino City PokerStars account in less than two hours. Walmart isn’t the only place that offers MoneyGram, but it’s definitely the safest. “Other” methods, the self-proclaimed home of gambling degenerates, found another way for its forum members to get money onto their favorite poker sites. Using the player transfer cashier option, available at most online poker rooms, players post trade requests and trust that the person on the other side is not too much of a degenerate. In some cases, members exchange thousands of dollars, switching PokerStars money for Full Tilt money, or Ultimate Bet money for a little extra cash onAbsolute Poker. The transactions are done using instant messenger, email, and a great deal of faith. But it works. Players gather forum “credit” by conducting successful transfers then posting positive feedback, similar to methods used by E-Bay buyers and sellers. The most interesting type of transfer on this site is the PayPal transfers. PayPal, an e-wallet which left the online gambling market several years ago to avoid possible legal complications, is now being used as a fourth-party financial processor. forum members routinely exchange PayPal money for transfers on major poker sites, another creative way to get instant cash. Player transfers are the most creative form of “new depositing,” and for the most part, it is a viable option. But it’s also the most dangerous. Players never know who they are dealing with on the other side of the transactions and should be careful when transferring money via the player-to-player option. Conclusion None of these depositing methods are a sure thing. U.S. players should tread carefully in the current market, only using methods that make them feel comfortable. With depositing uncertainty comes a breed of person who will take advantage of the situation by stealing people’s money. began declining gaming transactions in March GPWA TIMES | DEPOSITS