Author’s Note: After this article was written, we did confirm that the rumors of an UB/AP Bankruptcy are rumors, not confirmed fact. Any reference to a UB/AP Bankruptcy in this article are currently in question, pending legal proceedings in the US and Norway. For more information, you can find a copy of the Blanca Games, Inc. statement for May 5, 2011 here.
The May 5th, 2011 Official Statement for Blanca Games, Inc.:
Absolute Poker and UB to Focus on Non-U.S. Business
St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda (May 5, 2011) — hk prize Games Inc. (“Blanca”), operator of online poker rooms Absolute Poker and UB, issued the following statement today:
As previously stated, Absolute Poker and UB ceased their U.S.-facing operations due to recent legal developments in the United States. The company is currently restructuring and is focusing its resources on consolidating its non-U.S., rest-of-the-world operation and software business. In order to have a more efficient and successful future business, an immediate need to downsize and streamline operations significantly at both online poker rooms has been required. Absolute Poker and UB continue to operate their non-U.S.-facing business.
This decision comes after considerable review and analysis of the impact that ‘Black Friday’ has had on the business as a whole. The workforce has been liquidated, and the process of rehiring approximately 20% of staff in key positions has commenced. All affected employees have been informed of this necessary restructure.
A company spokesperson said: ”We regret that we have been compelled to take these actions. We have worked tirelessly to create a truly amazing company that is filled with extraordinary people. We have always been and still remain fully committed to our employees and players. At the same time, we are confident that this restructuring will strengthen the company and its future.”
The Company spokesperson also addressed erroneous reports that Blanca has filed for bankruptcy. The apparent confusion over this issue stems from the fact that Blanca recently informed a debt holder, Madeira Fjord, that it was terminating debt payments to, and its relationship with them. As a result, Madeira Fjord apparently filed a notice of bankruptcy in Norway. This notice has no negative impact upon Blanca, the operating company, or its brands. As stated previously, Absolute Poker and UB continue to operate their non-U.S. facing business around the world.
For non-U.S. players, Absolute Poker and UB have increased their maximum withdrawal limits to $1000 for Visa withdrawals and $500 for all other methods. The number of transactions being processed per day has been significantly increased as well. Players are still restricted to one transaction per week, but we are working to return non-U.S. withdrawals to normal service levels as quickly as possible.
As confirmed earlier this week, the company’s legal counsel is in continuing discussions this week with the U.S. Attorney’s office to formalize an agreement that would facilitate the return of funds to U.S. players.
Let’s just say for a moment that you are an online poker player who was in some way affected by the events of Black Friday (and I’m guessing that this is most of you, actually). You went from enjoying your favorite online games everyday to having the entire thing shut down in a matter of one day, and yet if you played on Pokerstars, the news still isn’t all bad. Sure, you have no place to play for now, but at least you’re with a site that has been able to process withdrawals by the thousands already. If you were a Full Tilt Poker user, your site is still in the process of getting funds returned, but it looks likely that your answer is coming soon, and you’ll likely be getting your money back in the near future. If you played at Ultimate Bet or Absolute Poker, you might be worried if your player funds could be all but a memory now.
Blanca Games, Inc., based out of Norway but employing many in the nation of Costa Rica, was rumored to have filed for bankruptcy in Norwegian courts today, citing the lack of immediate and future cash flow options. They could be out of money altogether, and your guess is as good as mine as to where it all went, but the reality is that they have laid off almost their entire work force and sent out a statement to shareholders that basically attempts to exonerate them of all future financial obligations.
But, I suppose we should have seen something dramatic coming for this little operation — after all, Poker’s greatest one man hype machine, Phil Hellmuth, cut ties with UB after years of sponsorship there, as did well-respected female pro Annie Duke. It was assumed in both cases that another sponsorship would come soon, but Hellmuth is still without online sponsorship, and Annie Duke is busy serving as Commissioner of the Federated Poker League. They moved on, and I guess at this point that is our only option, as well.
If you had funds on this site, it’s too bad on several fronts, and you should not feel as though all sites are this shady when it comes to their financial obligations. But then again, a case like this one, a case where untold millions of dollars may ultimately (pun intended) vanish into thin air, underscores EVEN MORE our need as players for regulated poker in the United States. It’s the surest way to guarantee that a shady bankruptcy from a company without integrity can never disrupt the playing futures of this many individuals again.