Although it happened years ago, Black Friday left consequences for online poker that are still being felt to this day. Effectively cutting off the entire US population from the biggest online poker sites, it affected players from the States as well as the entire poker economy.
The reason why US lawmakers were able to do what they did was because they had the means to effectively prevent players from depositing to these unregulated sites. Having control over banks and other financial institutions, they made it virtually impossible to move money to and from online poker and online gambling sites in general.
What happened in April 2011 was a big blow to many, in particular to those who were making living grinding poker. Since then, even the best legislative hopes in the US have made very little progress in terms of regulation. There doesn't seem to be enough interest among the lawmakers to make a push for poker and gambling legislation. In the meantime, some online poker sites continued to serve US players, some of them building rather large player bases over the years.
However, regardless of how large these sites become, it is highly unlikely we'll ever face another Black Friday scenario thanks to the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. An attempt similar to the one from 2011 wouldn't have nearly as devastating effects because lawmakers don't have the means to stop or limit cryptocurrency transactions.
The Fed Can't Control US Poker Players Using Cryptocurrency
The main reason the US Department of Justice was able to go after poker sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt was the fact they were breaking financial laws. To make it possible for the US players to deposit and withdraw after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, US-friendly sites had to find loopholes to avoid bans and restrictions. In doing so, they violated a number of laws, giving the DOJ everything they needed to go after them.
With the emergence of cryptocurrencies and more and more US-friendly sites turning to cryptos as an alternative for deposits and withdrawals, it would be very difficult to find a legal standing to do a large-scale shutdown similar to what we witnessed in 2011.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies may be in a legal "gray" area, but there are no laws against using cryptocurrency. The UIGEA and other similar acts were created before cryptos became a thing, so there is nothing in these laws to make it illegal for players to use them and, more importantly, for poker sites to accept them, regardless of where they originate from.
Very Hard to Track US-related Gambling Transactions
Even if lawmakers came together and somehow came up with a legislation that would make it illegal to accept cryptocurrency transfers (and it would be hard to find a legal standing for it right now), the regulation would still be virtually impossible to enforce.
Thanks to the decentralized and largely anonymous nature of cryptocurrencies, gathering the required information to start large-scale legal proceedings against US-friendly poker sites would be very hard and ineffective. Procedures required to gather such information would likely require so much time and resources that it would be virtually impossible to justify such an operation. This is another reason why a new Black Friday is highly unlikely to happen in the current climate.
Cryptocurrencies Have Become Mainstream at US Online Poker Rooms
When Bitcoin first appeared, most people had reservations about it and saw it as something nefarious, dangerous, and even illegal. However, over the years, people have come to accept cryptocurrencies as a legitimate and reliable alternative for online payments, especially in the world of online poker and online gambling.
With the wider acceptance of cryptocurrency, US-friendly poker sites were able to start focusing on adding more coins and basing their business almost entirely on cryptocurrency deposits and withdrawals. As the time goes by, the number of people relying on Bitcoin, Litecoin, and other alt-coins will likely increase, giving poker sites even more freedom from any ties to traditional banking institutions.
If the number of people using these instead of credit cards or classic e-wallets is large enough, lawmakers simply won't be able to create the same effect they could back in 2011. Even if they tried, they could no longer cut off a significant percentage of players from the sites, so they couldn't create a financial disaster that happened after Black Friday, with thousands of people having their funds stuck in limbo for months and even years.
Are Cryptocurrencies a Guarantee of a Future for Offshore Online Poker?
It's safe to say that online poker operators have learned their lesson with Black Friday and everything that happened in its aftermath. This is particularly true for online poker sites catering to US players, as they had a chance to experience first-hand just how powerful US lawmakers and enforcers can be when they set their minds on crushing something they don't like.
By switching to cryptocurrencies and basing their business on them, these poker sites have now limited their exposure and created a situation where they are much better protected from all sides, legal and financial alike. Instead of being at the mercy of lawmakers, they are now in a fairly independent position where they won't easily fall victims to another Black Friday.
So, thanks to cryptocurrencies and poker sites recognizing them as the best alternative for US players, we are unlikely to witness another Black Friday scenario in the near future. While it's impossible to say what will happen five or ten years down the line, it is pretty clear that right now, US players don't need to fear any such development.