Soon after midnight this morning, one-time American customers of the original Full Tilt Poker reported receiving the first refunds of their former balances on the site, which had remained in limbo since the Department of Justice indicted the company as part of its sweeping “Black Friday” move against US-facing online poker.
The three largest US-facing sites, PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker (which also included the old Ultimate Bet / UB.com site), were forced from the the US market. Of the three, only PokerStars survived its forced exit from the American scene. The other two companies, including Full Tilt, were soon exposed as bankrupt enterprises staying in business only on the float of deposits being received from their player bases, a process that was short-circuited by the Black Friday crackdown.
For the former US Full Tilt players, it’s been a long wait. In just six more weeks, the third anniversary of the April 15th, 2011 Black Friday indictment and freezing of accounts will be upon the poker world. Even then, not all of the affected US players have received their funds quite yet.
Several subcategories, including players with various business ties and rakeback deals with Full Tilt, plus players who disputed the balances as they existed within Full Tilt’s system at the time of its closing, remain to be paid. Several thousand players fall into those groups, whose refunds are being individually evaluated by Garden City Group, the Ohio-based claims administrator responsible for the FTP remission process.
GCG had originally estimated that slightly more that 30,000 former FTP players, with total account balances of about $80 million, would be included in the first wave of refunds that began this morning. The $80 million was about half of the roughly $160 million withheld from the DOJ-PokerStars settlement of 2012, which gave rights to remaining Full Tilt assets to PokerStars in exchange for enough funds from Stars to pay off the old balances of American customers.
PokerStars long ago paid off the balances of Full Tilters in the rest of the world’s countries, after relaunching the Full Tilt brand name… under new ownership.
Garden City Group issued an update just within the past couple of hours that detailed today’s FTP refund wave, with totals of about 27,500 players and $76 million. The slightly-lower-than-projected numbers are due to verification delays in personal or banking information for about 10% of the old Full Tilt players, which could not be resolved in time for today’s refunds but are otherwise undisputed.
The complete text of today’s GCG update:
MORE THAN 27,500 PAYMENTS TOTALING APPROXIMATELY $76 MILLION WERE ISSUED ON FEBRUARY 28
On February 28, 2014, GCG issued more than 27,500 payments totaling approximately $76 million to Petitioners who timely confirmed their FTP Account Balances online. Please note that while many Petitioners will receive their ACH on the same day that it was issued, depending on the practices of the Petitioner’s bank, the ACH may not be received for several business days.
Reminders for certain Petitioners who are not included in the first round of payments:
- The deadline for Affiliates to submit a Petition for Remission is this Sunday, March 2.
- If you received a notice because you have a debt qualifying for collection through the Treasury Offset Program, please send your completed Unified Financial Management System Vendor Request Form to GCG as soon as possible.
- If you received a notice that your bank account information is incorrect or incomplete, please update your account information online by March 13.
Please continue to check this website for information regarding the next round of payments to approved Petitioners.
The March 13th date reflects a GCG deadline for those players with undisputed balances to get proper information filed in order to receive an electronic wire transfer (ACH) of their refund. Lacking that, after March 13th, GCG will process paper checks to those players.
The “affiliate” category as named by GCG in the latest update is one of the most contested open questions remaining in the entire Full Tilt remission process. Sloppy internal record-keeping at the old Full Tilt led to otherwise innocent who sought private rakeback deals often being tagged as affiliates, simply for ease of differentiation from non-rakeback players within Full Tilt.
However, a large number of those players — certainly a few hundred and perhaps into the thousands — never had a true affiliate partnership with the old Full Tilt site. The Department of Justice has long declared that funds generated via business-partnership dealers with Full Tilt would not be refunded, since Full Tilt was declared a fraudulent operation, even a Ponzi scheme, in DOJ’s prosecution efforts against the company.
Still, most players celebrated today’s news in high spirits, with hundreds of former FTP players posting confirmations of funds received on poker forms, social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, and elsewhere.
Some of the refunds received were quite large, such as refund over a million dollars confirmed by WSOP bracelet-winner Blair Hinkle. Daniel “Jungleman” Cates, known for his participation in the highest-stakes games on the old Full Tilt site, was another player who confirmed a refund receipt earlier today.
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