Friday, September 30, 2011
If you’re an online poker player, odds are you’ve been a little short on cash since April 15, when a federal indictment against the world’s three largest poker sites shut down access to players’ bankrolls.
Most of PokerStars’ players have gotten their money back, but those who had a ton of dough stored on Full Tilt Poker haven’t been so lucky.
Maybe things are about to change, though. The web site PokerStrategy.com, which of late has seemed to be the leading source of information on Full Tilt’s financial woes, this morning posted a press release from FTP saying it is going to be acquired by a French investment group known for rescuing bankrupt companies.
For those people completely clueless about what I’m talking about, in April the U.S. Department of Justice seized the domain names of Poker Stars, Full Tilt Poker and Ultimate Bet/Absolute Poker, alleging the sites had violated federal laws dealing with bank fraud and money laundering.
The complaint was recently amended to allege Full Tilt was in effect a global Ponzi scheme, where the owners of the site — including well-known professional poker players Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson — were pulling out millions of player funds for their own use. It is alleged that the site had far less money available in comparison to what players’ collective account balances were, meaning that most people wouldn’t have been able to cash out if they wanted to.
The agreement to purchase Full Tilt Poker, as well as to refund the balances of all the players — my balance is under $70, for the record; but I know friends who have more than $10,000 stuck on there — is contingent on the feds agreeing to the whole thing.
Group controller Laurent Tapie told a French gaming media outlet that "there's a long way to go" before everything is worked out, but he has the money to pay everyone back and wouldn't have agreed to buy the site if he couldn't do so.
Even if the site gets sold and everyone gets their money back, though, it will still be a long time before online poker of any substance returns to the U.S. A handful of congressmen have talked about wanting to legalize and regulate (read: tax the crap out of) online poker, but all signs point to that not happening for quite a while. At least until after the 2012 elections, when notorious anti-poker senator Jon Kyl leaves office.