The United States entered settlement agreements with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker yesterday which will result in PokerStars acquiring all of Full Tilt Poker’s assets and refunding all of its players. In announcing the settlement, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that it would allow the U.S. Department of Justice “to quickly get significant compensation into the victim players’ hands.”
As part of the deal, PokerStars will forfeit $ 547 million to the U.S. government over the next three years. Full Tilt Poker will be reopened as an independent brand and foreign players will have access to their balances totaling $ 184 million. Players from the United States, owed approximately $ 150 million, will be compensated separately.
Coming fifteen months after Black Friday, when the U.S. government shut down PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker and indicted their founders and chief executives on charges of bank fraud and money laundering, the settlement is being welcomed by the affected players although the reimbursement process has not yet been announced.
Full Tilt Poker suspended its operations in June last year when it lost its license with the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC). Although PokerStars refunded all of its American players and continued operations overseas, Full Tilt Poker did not have sufficient cash to make refunds.
Earlier this month, Full Tilt Poker CEO Raymond Bitar was arrested. Bitar was charged last year with gambling, bank fraud, and money laundering offenses in connection with the operation of Full Tilt Poker.
Bharara said at the time, “With today’s arrest and the new charges brought against him, Raymond Bitar will now be held criminally responsible for the alleged fraud he perpetrated on his U.S. customers that cost them hundreds of millions of dollars. The indictment alleges how Bitar bluffed his player-customers and fixed the game against them as part of an international Ponzi scheme that left players empty-handed.”
Despite yesterday’s settlement, the criminal and civil cases against the individuals indicted on Black Friday are ongoing and many of the individuals are barred from employment at PokerStars and/or Full Tilt Poker.