The site, widely panned as little more than a Ponzi scheme in the first place, was first reported closed for business as of Tuesday, February 20th. The closing message which appeared on the site contained only two additional pieces of information. The first signaled that any updates about member balances would be posted on an internal forum. The second indicated that the operations of Jao Poker would at some point be moved to another website, titled 64spades.com. Members do not seem to have received additional information from the company, leading to widespread accusations that the money players held in their accounts may simply be irrevocably gone. Despite being primarily focused on the American marketplace, Jao Poker was not regulated under US law and operated under a Cambodian business license. Together, these factors may leave previous users little recourse in retrieving funds through legal action.
Jao Poker’s history of questionable business practices, however, goes back further than February 20th. Like many business sites across all niches, Jao Poker employed what is known as an affiliate system, in which third-party users would be paid a commission for driving new signups. Though the use of an affiliate system itself is far from unusual in the digital arena, Jao Poker’s affiliate program included the highly unusual provision that affiliates would pay a sum of $250 before being allowed to refer players. This quickly led to accusations that Jao Poker was operating something akin to a multi-level marketing scheme. Estimates suggest that the site may have received as much as $100,000 in initial affiliate fees under this program.
Though only time will tell what will happen to the money of players who used Jao Poker for their online gaming, this incident illustrates very clearly why it is important to choose reputable gaming businesses when signing up for an online poker account. No matter how good you may get at playing the game of poker, you need to be sure that the gaming platform you use will honor its obligations and pay your winnings reliably.