After being separated from their money for almost three years, some U.S. players began today to see the the first of the Full Tilt Poker remissions payments. Sometime after midnight, depending on the bank, some players began to notice a pending deposit from the Department of Justice.
More than 30,000 players from the “old” Full Tilt, were approved to receive more than $ 80 million of money that was rightfully theirs but was gone from the poker site when it was time to withdraw it in 2011. The original Full Tilt Poker was one of the companies shut down in 2011 on Black Friday, and players account balances on the site were frozen. Although various cover-ups and excuses delayed the inevitable, by summer 2011, it was clear that the owners and operators of the disgraced website did not have the money in the coffers that belonged to its players.
PokerStars, the Isle of Man online poker company, was also targeted by the U.S. DOJ in the sting, but once the U.S. gave permission for players money to be repaid to them, even with charges still pending at the time against the company, that money was available for players beginning only six weeks after it was locked up. The original Full Tilt paid nothing to its US players, because the money was gone.
PokerStars settled their civil suit with the U.s. DOJ in July 2012, paying almost $ 750 million. As part of that settlement, enough money was to be earmarked to repay former Full Tilt customers in the US. It was never confirmed by DOJ at the time of settlement that 100% of player balances would be repaid, but indeed, that became clear recently. The original Full Tilt Poker owed more than $ 330 million to its worldwide customers when it forfeited its assets in 2012. Those FTP customers outside the US at the time the complaint was unsealed became known as “rest of world” customers and Pokerstars directly made payments to those FTP customers beginning in November 2012. U.S customers of the site were forced to apply to claim their own money thru the remissions process. It’s taken since the settlement on July 31, 2012 until today for any US player to receive even their first dollar. Garden City Group are the administrators of the remissions process for US players.
It should be noted that Pokerstars acquired some assets of the defunct Full Tilt Poker website from the DOJ as part of their civil settlement and the Full Tilt Poker online gaming site in operation now is the one belonging to PokerStars, not the disgraced site that belonged to its former owners that shorted its customers more than $ 300 million, although the name of the site remains the same.
Not All US Players being Reunited with Their Money Just Yet
This first rollout of payments is only to those customers that filed a timely claim in November 2013 and had undisputed balances. Some players found FTP records to be in error as to what those account balances should be and have had to provide documentation as to their limbo funds and old bounced checks from FTP that were never honored. Those claims are now being reviewed.
Many players were also tagged as “affiliates” and were originally told they would be ineligible to apply for their repayment. The Garden City Group was inept in determining what affiliates really were, relying only on the word “affiliate” appearing on spreadsheets as enough to nix deserving players from being reunited with their funds. After getting a schooling, they reopened to the process and players that had been tagged as “affiliates” will be eligible to file claims and have those claims reviewed on a case-by-case basis separately from the other claimants.
It is the position of the DOJ that steering players to an unlicensed site is illegal and therefore affiliate funds for doing that, if they were part of a players account balance, are not recoverable by the player. Players that received “rakeback” into their accounts should not be affected by the “affiliate” issue, although some reported they have been. Players that legitimately player poker on the site, but also acted as a small affiliate, will reportedly receive their balances minus the affiliate payments. Large affiliate sites that used a player account to only collect affiliate payments from the company would not be eligible for repayment.
With only half the money earmarked for US players being approved to date, there will be still months forward where additional claims of disputed balances and affiliate tags are reviewed and hopefully paid out.
DiamondFlushPoker will update as more information becomes available.