Since April 15, 2011, more American men in their 20s have been flocking to Costa Rica. They did not go there on vacation, but are doing something now nearly forbidden in the U.S. – playing on-line poker. Federal prosecutors shut down the three largest on-line poker companies in the U.S. which forced 150 “poker refugees” to move to Costa Rica.
Kristin Wilson, started the Poker Refugees relocation service, which helps U.S. players get to Costa Rica, open bank accounts, find a place to live, and most important of all – start playing online right away. In addition, Wilson’s company makes sure the accommodations provide a stable internet connection, since the refugees livelihood depends on it. “If the Internet or power goes out for 30 seconds, they can lose thousands of dollars,” explains Wilson. She does not consider her clients to be gamblers, but instead ‘specialists’ (who are especially good at math.)
Most players are frustrated because after being forced to move away from their families and into a foreign country, they still are required to pay U.S. income taxes. “I’m extremely angry. . . . It’s ridiculous that the government says that we can’t do this in the land of the free,” one player said. Unlike lotteries, “poker’s a game of skill.”
The players think the U.S. casino industry is mostly responsible for the shutdown because of the revenue on-line poker took away from the casinos. The poker refugees are enjoying a high standard of living now, but look forward to the day they can return to the U.S. One player summed it up, “I don’t envision, say, spending the next three years living in Costa Rica,” he said. “I think that would be too isolated.”