Online poker parent company lays off staff

Blanca Games Inc., the parent company of online poker sites and of the Cereus Poker Network, has laid off its entire staff but denied claims it plans to file for bankruptcy.

Blanca Games shut down all of its U.S. operations after federal indictments on April 15 targeted Absolute Poker and two of its founders -- Scott Tom and Brent Beckley -- as well as individuals and founders of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker on charges of illegal gambling, bank fraud and money laundering.

The company, which is licensed by Canada's Kahnawake Gaming Commission, confirmed Friday it was consolidating its non-U.S. operations.

"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," the company said in a statement.

The "work force has been liquidated," the company said. Blanca Games said it was rehiring approximately 20 percent of staff in "key positions."

" and continue to operate their non-U.S.-facing businesses," the company said. "We are confident that this restructuring will strengthen the company and its future."

The company also addressed reports that it has filed for bankruptcy.

On Wednesday, MSNBC reported that Madeira Fjord, a Norwegian company that represents shareholders in Blanca Games, told them the company has no cash on hand and was unable to make any debt payments.

In a statement, Blanca Games said there was "apparent confusion over this issue" because the company recently informed Madeira Fjord it was "terminating debt payments to, and its relationships with them."

As a result, Madeira Fjord apparently filed a notice of bankruptcy in Norway.

"The notice has no negative impact upon Blanca, the operating company or its brands," the company said.

Meanwhile, Blanca Games said its lawyers are continuing to negotiate with the U.S. Attorney's office to "facilitate the return of funds to U.S. players."

PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, whose owners were indicted, already have agreements with the U.S. Attorney's office to allow U.S. players to cash out their balances. While Americans can no longer conduct financial transactions on these sites, Absolute Poker and UB have increased their maximum withdrawal limits for non-U.S. players to $1,000 for Visa withdrawals and $500 for all other methods.

"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," the company said.

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at or 702-477-3893.