In the past couple of years it has already become something of a challenge for many online players to finance their accounts. Many major credit card companies block online gaming transactions, and even if you are fortunate enough to still be able to deposit funds in your account via credit card, few companies will nowadays permit transactions in the opposite direction. For a time, PayPal, the secure online payment service, was an almost ideal workaround for many players, enabling them to circumvent credit card restrictions by making credit card deposits at PayPal, and from there simply transferring the money to their online gambling accounts. According to Brian McWilliams in an article at wired.com, by June 2002 PayPal was associated with over 1,000 online gambling merchants who, paying higher than standard fees, accounted for as much as 8% of PayPal’s total income.
However, events move quickly in the online world, and by July eBay had announced that once its planned $1.4 billion acquisition of PayPal had gone through, it would no longer allow Internet gambling transactions due to an ‘uncertain regulatory environment surrounding online gaming.’ Then in August, following an investigation by the New York State Attorney General into Paypal’s service to online gambling merchants, PayPal agreed to pay a $200,000 penalty to the State of New York, and at the same time cease processing such payments from its New York members almost immediately. Although this action was taken in voluntary cooperation with the Attorney General, with no admission of having violated the law, it was by now inevitable that PayPal would soon cease allowing online gambling-related transactions altogether, which they did in November 2002.
With the demise of PayPal as a means of funding their accounts, many players have now switched to the Canadian-based NETeller as an alternative payment processor. Like PayPal, NETeller does not charge its customers for transfers to and from cardrooms (although it does charge for credit card deposits). Transfers from your NETeller account to a cardroom are instant, but it can take 48 hours or more to move money in the opposite direction, and transfers from your bank or credit card to NETeller can also take several days. In general, NETeller is an ideal place to store some of your bankroll, to either use as a top-up if your funds run low at a particular site, or to use for reload bonuses when they become available.
Although most online poker sites do now offer the facility to fund an account via NETeller, the overall range of merchants who accept NETeller is still quite limited compared to PayPal, so it is less convenient as a payment method for non-gambling-related transactions. Naturally, this relatively high reliance on gambling means that NETeller would be particularly vulnerable to any future regulatory intervention.
One possible solution to the problem of payment processing is the concept of a central online poker bank. Such a bank would allow players a completely portable bankroll, allowing them to immediately buy-in and cash-out whenever and wherever they wished to play. From the cardrooms’ point of view, a central bank might also be an attractive option, since they would stand to make substantial savings on their transaction processing fees.