Tim Johnson reports on a community of American gamblers who have found safe-haven in Central America:
Forrester, who grew up in Dillon, Mont., is one of probably 150 American professional online-poker players who flooded Costa Rica after Black Friday: April 15, 2011, when U.S. federal prosecutors went after the founders of the three largest online-poker companies, slamming a lid on the surging business.
Many of the Americans – who are generally male and in their 20s – aren’t happy about leaving their U.S. homes. Unlike Forrester, they voice anger at being denied the chance to earn a living in their home country even while paying taxes there.[...]
The American online poker players in Costa Rica are called “poker refugees,” partly because that’s the name of a relocation service in the capital, San Jose, that helps U.S. players travel to the Central American nation, open bank accounts, find housing and start playing online quickly.
“These guys play anywhere from four to 24 games at one time,” said Kristin Wilson, a former professional surfer from Florida who started the Poker Refugees relocation service.
Wilson’s company ensures that players who move to Costa Rica have nearly foolproof accommodations, to avoid the usual travails of less-developed countries.
“If the Internet or power goes out for 30 seconds, they can lose thousands of dollars. So they have to have two sources backed up to a battery. And they have a USB data card. So if the Internet goes out, they just switch over to the data card,” she said.
Interestingly, Costa Rica is also a major destination for medical tourism, particularly as it provides controversial procedures such as stem-cell treatments which are still illegal in the United States. It seems as if the country has found a niche as a workaround for culturally conservative U.S. laws.
For gambling, at least, this may be changing soon as more states legalize online gambling -- a devlelopment that also has some American Indian tribes worried.
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.