A big online poker score is a thrilling moment for anyone, especially if it comes in a major event.
That’s why a 29-year-old Italian player known as “RuiDeck” was ecstatic when he finished third in the PokerStars Micromillions Main Event, one of the biggest low-stakes tournaments around.
In a tournament that only cost him $22 to play, RuiDeck walked away with $59,480.98, enough for him to dream of changing his life permanently.
There was only one problem: he didn’t actually have the money yet. And when he talked to his bank, it became clear that he couldn’t quite count on his winnings yet.
The player is based in Dresden, Germany, where he has been working as a waiter. Once he scored the big win, he returned home to tell everyone about his good fortune and planned on making some big life changes.
“As soon as I won, I booked a flight to go home to Sicily to celebrate with my friends,” he told ItaliaPokerClub, an Italian media outlet. “Then, in the following days, I also resigned from my job to start a new adventure as a poker player.”
Anti-Money Laundering Laws Lead to Delays Before Bank Denies Withdrawal
However, it soon became apparent that his money wasn’t arriving as soon as he had expected.
When he went to his bank, Unikredit, they told him that they would not allow him to cash out his money because the bank viewed online poker as illegal in their jurisdiction.
“Initially, I have been told that my withdrawal would take approximately one week, as the policies against money laundering impose strict control on withdrawals of a sum bigger than €10,000 ($10,700),” RuiDeck said.
“Then, my bank told me that my request could not be processed because poker is illegal in Saxony, the [German State] where I reside.”
RuiDeck also contacted PokerStars about the situation.
The company said that while they could not directly compel the bank to give him his winnings, they could send a letter confirming that the money was won legitimately through online poker, which would help if there were concerns over money laundering.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the issue in this case, leaving RuiDeck with little recourse at the moment.
“It’s absurd to find myself in this situation,” RuiDeck said. “Since I have an account correctly registered as a customer I feel deceived. I do not understand where the responsibilities lie between PokerStars or the existing legislation in Saxony, the fact is that I am unable to collect the win and what’s more I do not have a job.”
German Online Gambling Laws Can Be Confusing to Players and Operators
Germany has traditionally had some of the most stringent controls over online gambling in the European Union, policies that have put the country at odds with European courts and have left players confused for some time.
Recently, a German online blackjack player lost his winnings after a money laundering investigation; combined with Unikredit’s decision not to pay winnings to RuiDeck, such a situation could dissuade German players from attempting to gamble online even as they are confused by the current state of gaming laws in the country.
The state of Internet gaming laws in Germany has also proven scary to some operators. In recent months, groups including Mansion and Playtech have exited the country rather than risk being targeted by law enforcement in the country.
At the moment, only sports betting can be regulated under a federal treaty agreed upon by all German states.