Full Tilt launched in 2004 and rose quickly to become the most successful online poker site in the world. This came crashing down during 2011’s “Black Friday” event where over 82 million unpaid poker balances remained so until former rival PokerStars purchased the site. The site was allowed to re-open temporarily to allow the repayment of players´ bankrolls and, in July 2012, a settlement was reached in which PokerStars acquired the assets of Full Tilt Poker and paid $225 million to the Department of Justice to facilitate the repayment of Full Tilt Poker players. The Future for PokerStars in the USA. Six and a half years after Black Friday, Ray Bitar reappeared in the news this week. The title of the BBC article reporting the incident started with “Full Tilt Poker scam,” and the report went on to describe £9.5 million that was laundered by Bitar through the island of Guernsey and then returned to the United States. With the introduction of the UIGEA in 2006, many poker rooms were affected – especially when it came to the online poker industry. Many companies pulled out of the United States entirely, although California’s constitution doesn’t mark poker gameplay as illegal in any way.
It’s been more than five years since the US Department of Justice shut down the major online poker sites operating in the US. Black Friday in 2011 caught American online poker players completely unaware and cut off from their online poker accounts at Full Tilt Poker.
For 97 percent of complainants, the fight to reclaim that money is now over, including another 1,000 people who received the good news that their remission claims had been approved just six weeks ago.
The latest round of Full Tilt claims
In October, the Garden City Group (GCG) — selected by the DOJ to handle the remission process way back in 2013 — announced the ninth and likely final wave of refunds to affected players. These most recent payments total approximately $2.7 million.
As the remission process dragged on, and fewer and fewer people waited for their refunds, the poker community’s attention waned. This latest update would have likely gone unnoticed if not for Haley Hintze over at Flushdraw.
According to an announcement on the GCG website:
“All Petitions have been reviewed and, with this round of payments, approximately 97% of Petitions will have been paid and 3% have been denied. Accordingly, the Petition for Remission process is now closed and filed Petitions will no longer be accepted.”
This brings the total number of refunded players up to around 45,000, and the total amount of money refunded to roughly $114 million. That is roughly 72 percent of the total amount believed to be owed ($160 million) to US poker players by Full Tilt Poker.
The money paid back for Full Tilt so far
Most of the money was sent in the first wave on Feb. 28, 2014, when GCG sent more than 27,500 players more than $76 million.
The subsequent rounds of payments have been on a much smaller scale, but altogether total a hefty $38 million:
- April 1, 2014: 2,200 players were sent $5 million;
- June 12, 2014: 3,200 players were sent $14 million;
- Sept. 25, 2014: 600 players were sent $1.8 million;
- March 31, 2015: 3,500 players were sent $2.5 million;
- June 4, 2015: 2,000 players were sent $4.3 million;
- Oct. 5, 2015: 1,900 players were sent $5.5 million;
- March 11, 2016: 1,180 players were sent $2.6 million;
- Oct. 28, 2016: 1,000 players were sent $2.7 million.
At the end of the remission process, any unpaid money will be split between the Department of Justice and Garden City Group.
Unfiled Full Tilt remission claims
The total number of players owed money by Full Tilt Poker isn’t known. However it’s likely substantially more than the number of former Full Tilt customers who filed claims.
It’s widely believed that the significant difference between the money owed to US players and the amount repaid during the remission process has to do with a significant number of accounts with small balances that never filed a claim with the GCG, for any number of reasons, including:
- Not wanting to deal with the hassle of the claims process for such a small amount of money;
- Dormant accounts that were unaware there was a remission process;
- Dormant accounts that were unaware they had any money in FTP accounts.
But these small balance accounts don’t account for the entirety of the $46 million or so dollars still unpaid.
Outstanding Full Tilt claims and appeals
There is still a possibility that GCG and DOJ could approve more of the roughly 1,600 remission claims that have been denied by GCG.
“GCG will continue to work with the Department of Justice to evaluate appeals, and any previously denied Petitions that are determined to be payable will be included in an upcoming distribution,” the GCG Full Tilt remission website states.
Many of the denied accounts are believed to be sizable, as denied claims were mainly sponsored professionals and large affiliates, along with claims with informational errors.
However, after several rounds of appeals, spanning a period of nearly three years, it’s unlikely many of these claims will suddenly be approved.