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Showing posts with label DoJ. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DoJ. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Poker’s “Super Tuesday”? Are you kidding me PPA?

Yesterday, Tuesday July 31, 2012, it was formally announced that PokerStars was acquiring Full Tilt’s assets from the Department of Justice and that all players (both US and Non-US) would be paid back any money they were owed.

Granted this is good news, however…

Non-US Players will be paid back within 90 days by PokerStars and in full, but US Players will have to apply for re-payment to the US Department of Justice.

To the Poker Players Alliance, via this announcement released 2012-08-01, this is a cause for dancing in the streets:

Weekly Update from Rich Muny, VP of Player Relations

Yesterday, PPA sent out a member-wide announcement with terrific news -- the Justice Department approved the deal for PokerStars to purchase Full Tilt Poker!
From the Department of Justice press release:

Under the terms of the settlement with PokerStars, the company agreed to forfeit $547 million to the U.S. and to reimburse the approximately $184 million owed by Full Tilt to foreign players, in order to fully resolve the allegations in the complaint. The settlement further provides that PokerStars will acquire the Forfeited Full Tilt Assets from the Government. Full Tilt’s U.S. fraud victims will be able to seek compensation for their losses from the Department of Justice from the $547 million forfeited by PokerStars.

In other words, PokerStars has provided funds to cover all player balances at Full Tilt Poker and the DoJ is establishing a process by which we U.S. players can request and receive our money. While PPA does not yet have the detailed information on the specific process to follow, we are calling for a streamlined process and repayment of 100% of player account balances.

To aid in all of this, PPA will gather the needed information on the reimbursement process in real time and post it to http://theppa.org/repayment. I will be using the PPA guide to apply for my reimbursement and am looking forward to trialling the process for all of us. We have all been in this together from the get go, so I am personally pleased that we will be in it together as we finally recover our funds and press on for victory in the fight for licensed and regulated online poker.

PPA's legal team will remain fully involved as the ‘voice of the player’ to ensure we are all heard throughout this process.

For more information:
Poker Players Alliance Press Release
Department of Justice Press Release
PokerStars Press Release
PokerStars’ FTP FAQ

On that last part, the fraud or Ponzi scheme allegations were all after Black Friday and have to do with Full Tilt not revealing their financial situation to people who continued to play and deposit money on the site or in other words Non-US players.  The fact that they didn’t segregate player funds was bad business and a bad idea but wasn’t fraud.

My outrage continues to fall squarely on the shoulders over the Department of Justice itself.  The logic train that allowed them to even go after the online poker rooms is amazing and frightening—does anyone think the DoJ was somehow protecting the US population from “bank fraud” and the like?  Because after Black Friday they then rescinded their stance on using the wire fraud act which was their main weapon to insist that online poker was, itself, illegal gambling and the “bank fraud” did not harm any banks!  How this continues to this date with people caving to what is essentially government level extortion amazes me.

Well Hurray!  Super Tuesday!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Full Tilt Officially Sold to the Groupe Bernard Tapie for 80 Million: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

The on-the-surface good news is that the sale of Full Tilt Poker has been finalized and all players will (when is still unclear) be receiving the money from their player accounts.  The new agreement with the US Department of Justice prevents existing directors to hold shares in the new company, and GBT will have to relicense Full Tilt to start doing business again although that should be a very minor hurdle.

The frightening news for US players is the way the deal is structured.

What GBT and Full Tilt have done is essentially forfeited all assets of Full Tilt Poker to the US DOJ and then the DOJ is in turn selling Full Tilt back to GBT for 80M.  The player balances will be paid back by Groupe Bernard Tapie if they are outside of the US and will be paid back by the DOJ if they are inside the US.

Why is this scary?  Let me count the ways:

  1. Most significantly the US DOJ not only has a complete accounting of your player income from Full Tilt now but they will be cutting you a check.  If you are in the US, and are owed a lot of money, this may send a shiver up your spine when you consider the tax and legal ramifications. 

    You might as well consider that you are receiving a 1099 for the amount of your check when you receive it and good luck convincing the IRS that you lost a similar amount on the site earlier to offset those winnings.
  2. What standing does the DOJ have to receive forfeited property and then resell it without public access or review?  In other words if the DOJ confiscates a yacht it would normally be sold at a public auction and not to one specific buyer.  A non public process like the one that took place invites corruption in the DOJ.
  3. When last checked some player balances were not restored to their correct amounts.  It may be difficult or impossible to fix these issues when the DoJ is in control of the disbursements.

Since the deal was just announced hopefully there will be some clarification on these and other issues, but for now it might not be the time to get out the party hats.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

PPA Encourages You to Become a Lying Whore…

Today the Poker Player’s Alliance sent out an email suggesting that people who are owed money from Full Tilt Poker may be able to get compensation from the government if the allegations that Full Tilt was a “global Ponzi scheme” (hint it wasn’t—it was a badly run company).  By portraying themselves as “victims of a crime” players can potentially get some portion of their lost money back.

The Department of Justice is portraying it as if all offshore gambling is corrupt and that Full Tilt was stealing our money, but the fact is that they were the 2nd most reputable (ok 2nd was a ways down the totem but still) online poker company in terms of making sure people got paid, etc.  The one two punch here was the pressure of the UIGEA on the payment processors which caused them to float a bunch of invisible loans to plays to the tune of ???  100 million?  more? and then the seizure of a huge portion of their business funds while cutting off the US player population which they were much more dependent on than PokerStars.  I'm not holding Full Tilt faultless here, but I AM saying the DoJ literally caused this to happen.

So if we’re a victim of a crime the criminal is the US DoJ.

Text of the PPA Letter:

This week’s news from the U.S. Department of Justice alleging that Full Tilt Poker perpetrated a “global Ponzi scheme” that defrauded players has sent shockwaves through the poker community.  If true, these allegations detail a massive betrayal of player trust and will cause further hardship for the individual poker player, none of whom have been accused of doing anything wrong.  Based on the DOJ allegations, it is clear that the players who deposited money and played on Full Tilt Poker are truly the victims in all of this mess. 

The PPA believes that fundamental justice requires that players be repaid their money on deposit, and so we wanted to mention an avenue by which players can ask the DOJ to return funds to them through restitution in the pending case.  A federal statute establishes a number of rights for victims of crimes and requires that the government take steps to assist these victims. The DOJ put in place a set of guidelines and created a program, Victims and Witness Services, so that the government could live up to its statutory obligations to victims of crimes. Again, based on the allegations set forth by the DOJ, poker players who deposited money with Full Tilt Poker should be treated as crime victims and afforded the full rights and protections of our government.

If you have been unable to withdraw your money from Full Tilt Poker, you may wish to contact the Victim/Witness Coordinator at the U.S. Attorney’s office and ask that you be afforded the rights of a crime victim as outlined on their website. Let them know that you would like to be kept informed of any major developments in the case (United States v. Full Tilt, et al., 11 C 2564 and United States v. Scheinberg, et al., 10 CR 336) and that you are seeking restitution of lost funds.  

You can send your letter or email to:

Wendy Olsen Clancy
Victim/Witness Coordinator
United States Attorney's Office
One St. Andrew's Plaza
New York, New York 10007
(866) 874-8900
Wendy.Olsen@usdoj.gov

The PPA will provide you with information as this situation continues to develop.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

DoJ Alleges that Full Tilt was “Global Ponzi Scheme”

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the situation at Full Tilt Poker is far worse than expected:

On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department in a civil suit accused Messrs. Lederer, Ferguson and Furst, and another director of the company behind the Full Tilt Poker website, of defrauding thousands of online poker players out of more than $300 million that is still owed to them. The government said that, in total, the 23 owners of the site had taken out $444 million in distributions over the years.

The Justice Department's civil suit against Full Tilt alleges that in 2010, Full Tilt began having trouble accepting new bets from players, thanks to U.S. efforts to crack down on payment-processing services for online gambling. But the U.S. says that Full Tilt's owners kept paying themselves millions of dollars anyway, fraudulently depleting the player funds on deposit with the company.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Online Poker to be Legalized by Tuesday! Obama Defies Gravity and Becomes Defacto Protector of Sector 2814

if there isn’t any real news we can make it up as good as everyone else!

barack-obama-green-lanternStill nothing much is actually NEW.  The excitement out on the street is that the bill co-sponsored by Texas representative Joe Barton could arrive as early as the end of this week, which the various news blogs and so on have morphed to “WILL ARRIVE THIS WEEK AND INSTANTLY REGULATE ONLINE POKER” which is not going to happen.  The fact of the matter is that the Nevada land casinos are already hard at work (don’t worry how I KNOW THAT land casinos, get back to it) on putting together the regulation infrastructure necessary for handle online poker.  If they work REALLY fast the soonest that’s going to happen is early 2012 so it really doesn’t matter much how fast the Federal legalization comes as long as it happens near the time Nevada casinos are ready to cash in on it.

Here’s the actual rundown so much as I know (and I’ve had my ear to many a door as of late):

Full Tilt Still Has Not Paid US Players: In fact, they haven’t even credited the accounts of most US players with the funds that they will eventually be paid.  An article on Subject: Poker on June 16th talks about a 60 million dollar shortfall they created by essentially giving players “loans” when the players deposited money on the site but Full Tilt didn’t have a payment processor to debit their accounts.  Since Black Friday this has sort of sealed the loss for Full Tilt and may be part of the accounting difficulties they are experiencing which of course are in addition that they just plain don’t have the money to pay US players.

The Joe Barton Poker Bill: He’s drafting it and they keep quoting him as saying online poker’s been legal but the bank funding has not, which is incorrect.  The DoJ clearly thinks that online poker is illegal (regardless of the truth) and the funding woes of all online poker sites trying to service the United States are due to the UIGEA which only applies if online poker is illegal.  So basically the DoJ is the bully which is saying they think it’s [online poker] illegal and if you’d like to try your luck funding it you might just disappear in a bleeping hole.  Obviously none of the other crimes like providing bank executive bonuses, funding player accounts with golf balls or providing hot oil massages to bank employees would be necessary at all if the banks weren’t 100% convinced by the DoJ that online poker is 100% illegal and therefore under the enforcement of the UIGEA in the first place.

Phew!  Having said that, online poker is actually legal, just no one wants to risk their life or freedom to prove that especially when state and federal bills which will effectively legalize the industry are so close.

UB.com and AbsolutePoker (Cereus Network) Payouts:  Honestly I think we’re all going to probably have to give up on this one.  The amount of business they are doing post Black Friday just isn’t going to be sufficient to generate money to pay back the US customers they owe.  Take a trip over to Poker Scout and check it out for yourself.  Maybe in the long run this is the best thing.  Cereus made some horrible decisions and they still refused to fix their infrastructure including customer support and fraud prevention.  I’m not saying they were actively cheating anyone in 2011, but they weren’t doing as much as they should have to be responsive to customers and to protecting their online interests.  Full Tilt Poker is also guilty of many of these issues especially with regard to poor customer service.  I sincerely hope that the next wave of online poker uses PokerStars as a model.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Full Tilt Insists an Account that would cover 1/3 of Player Funds Owed has been Unfrozen.

It’s on again, it’s off again, doj says no accounts are unfrozen, but full tilt says this wasn’t an account frozen by the doj just one that sort of froze itself

hair pulling womanI wrote about this a few days ago in another blog post about Ray Bitar’s account being unfrozen where many news and blog sources reported that an account was unfrozen that covered a third of the $150 million dollars owed to US players since the April 15th, 2011 Department of Justice action (codename Black Mamba).

The new poker news source Subject: Poker revealed that they contacted the Department of Justice and that they said that no accounts frozen during the April 15th action have been unfrozen and that if and when any accounts were unfrozen there would be a press release.

But NOW it seems that Full Tilt is saying that this hefty account wasn’t actually frozen by the DoJ, but that it was frozen by their bank.  EGamingReview reported that “…a company source told this publication the account in question is not one of those named in the original indictment, but a separate corporate account held with the Bank of Ireland.”

No official sources, including the DoJ will confirm or deny that this is true, although if true the DoJ wouldn’t be involved so having no knowledge would be expected.

When originally reported the addition of those 50-60 million dollars to Full Tilt’s coffers gave many US players hope that they would be paid very soon.  That hope was dashed when Full Tilt released it’s May 30th update which sent many players on a tail-spin when the found out that player funds were not segregated, etc..

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Subject: Poker Reports That the Cake is a Lie! (And Ray Bitar Didn’t Get His Account Unfrozen)

doj_largeAround the 27th of May reports that the Department of Justice had unfrozen one of Ray Bitar’s accounts worth around 60 million.  This money would presumable be used to pay back the 150 million dollars owed to US players from Full Tilt.  However it appears that the DoJ did not unfreeze the account (as reported today by Subject: Poker):

 

 

 

The Public Information Office of the US Attorney's Office has informed Subject: Poker that NO deal has been struck with Full Tilt Poker to release or unfreeze any funds. eGaming Review Magazine reported Friday that an Irish bank account containing "more than a third of the US$100m to $150m still owed to US players" had been released to FTP. They cited an unnamed FTP source as having provided the information. The false story was widely reported on other gaming news sites, on social media, and on various poker forums. The rumor also lead to widespread speculation that Full Tilt's Monday announcement would include a timeline for the return of US player funds. It did not. The USAO representative made clear that funds had not been released and that any such action...

Subject: Poker

The other possibility is that one part of the DoJ is not talking to the other part of the DoJ.  The idea that they release a press release whenever they unfreeze a bank account sounds ridiculous on its face so another day or so will reveal the truth here.  In the mean time enjoy the chaos brought to you by the United States Department of Justice (Motto: we do what we must because we can?)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

It’s Saturday So What the Heck Is Going On In the Poker World?

USA Catches Its Breath from DoJ Attacks

Justice Department DOJThe original DoJ indictments targeted four cardrooms: PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, UltimateBet and Absolute Poker. Of those cardrooms they have temporarily returned the .com domain names to PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker for the purposes of paying US players.  They also have an agreement with UltimateBet/Absolute Poker that those cardrooms will be allowed and able to return US player funds however the DoJ did not return their domain names.  Players can access them now at ubpoker.eu and absolutepoker.eu.
As far as returning funds goes only PokerStars has stepped up and actually accomplished this task so far.  It seems as though Full Tilt, UltimateBet and Absolute Poker are short on cash and looking to raise it either from the rake or (rumor has it for Full Tilt) by selling off part of the company.  In any case paying the funds owed to US players is a top priority for all these sites because they will lose the players in the rest of the world if they show they do not honor their player obligations.  There are other rumors and predictions that at least the beginning of a Full Tilt payoff for US players will happen by the start of the 2011 WSOP (that’s in just a few days so we will see).full-tilt-poker
This situation has also brought to light that Full Tilt (and possibly other cardrooms) does not segregate player funds from their operating capitol.  In the future having funds segregated until the cardroom actually “earns” the money through rake will be a must and hopefully a regulatory requirement which will eliminate these player payment issues.

Poker News Sites are Taking Advantage

I’ve seen several examples of poker news sites and blogs posting false news stories to make it look like their product is the one true cardroom and then blatantly post their affiliate link to this place at the end of their story.  Even news sites as large as www.cardplayer.com have been caught doing this with sites as lame as webcam poker or cardrooms on the Merge gaming network (which still serves US players).
I certainly understand the panic these places must feel in terms of paying their bills.  Right now almost 100% of all poker advertising income has ceased for the low limit poker sites that I own.  The big three cardrooms aren’t paying affiliates (yet) and once they do the player base won’t include US players which will reduce the amount of income for most US-based affiliates by anywhere from 75% to 95%.  I am  literally having trouble paying rent at the moment, but even so let’s have a little dignity and not mislead the very poker players we’ve always tried to help.  Ok?

Monday, May 23, 2011

10 More Online Poker Rooms Indicted

bluff-logoFrom Bluff Magazine:

For those that thought the US crackdown on online poker would end at PokerStars, Full Tilt and the Cereus Poker Network, think again. Breaking news from Maryland indicates that three individuals affiliated with two online gaming companies are being indicted on charges of conducting an illegal gambling business and money laundering.

Monday the Department of Justice issued a statement announcing that Darren Wright and David Parchomchuk of BetEd and Ann Marie Puig of BMX Entertainment are being charged in two separate indictments. As part of the indictments, the Department of Justice seized 11 bank accounts located in Charlotte, North Carolina, Guam, Panama, Malta, Portugal, and the Netherlands as well as ten domain names. The domain names in question include a couple of recognizable sites, most notably DoylesRoom.com. Here is the complete list of domains seized:

Bookmaker.com, 2Betsdi.com, Funtimebingo.com. Goldenarchcasino.com, Truepoker.com, Betmaker.com, Betgrandesports.com, Doylesroom.com, Betehorse.com, and Beted.com.

The US Attorney for the District of Maryland, the IRS, and the Department of Homeland Security were all involved in building the case against online gaming software company ThrillX (DBA BetEd) and online payment processing company BMX Entertainment.

The investigation into the activities of the two companies included a sting operation in which the Department of Homeland Security set up a fake payment processing company called Linwood Payment Solutions. The company processed payments throughout 2009 both to and from the online poker sites. According to the affidavit, Linwood processed over $33 million in payments over the course of more than 300,000 transactions.

“It is illegal for internet gambling enterprises to do business in Maryland, regardless of where the website operator is located,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “We cannot allow foreign website operators to flout the law simply because their headquarters are based outside the country.”

Read the Full Story at Bluff Magazine

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cereus Makes Deal with DoJ Moving Toward Returning US Player’s Funds.

 

The Associated Press reported that a deal has been struck between Absolute Poker (actually the Cereus Network including both AP and UB.com) and the US Department of Justice.

An online poker company facing severe legal troubles says it has made a deal with the Department of Justice toward repaying deposits from players.

Absolute says its agreement says it can work with third-party payment processors to facilitate return of the funds. It says it plans to collect the funds from the processors, then establish proper ways to repay the players.

Unlike Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker they will not be regaining their original domain names (UB.com and AbsolutePoker.com) as part of their deal with the DoJ and will continue to use their new domains.