The long languishing deal between the shuttered online poker site Full Tilt Poker and the French investment firm Groupe Bernard Tapie appears to be moving forward following the resolution of legal issues with the United States Department of Justice.
Originally reported on the website Subject: Poker yesterday afternoon, the DoJ and Groupe Bernard Tapie have apparently worked out a deal that will allow the former second largest online site in the industry to return to the game. The deal was announced in an e-mail to shareholders in Tiltware LLC, the ownership behind Full Tilt Poker, and that e-mail was obtained by Subject: Poker.
In that e-mail, alleged owner Ray Bitar discloses to shareholders that the DoJ and GBT have reached “an agreement in principal” for the investment company to purchase all of the companies that comprise the Full Tilt Poker operation. According to what Bitar says, the DoJ will reimburse players from the United States and settle any litigation (re: a big fine) with Groupe Bernard Tapie and GBT will assume the responsibilities for the remainder of the international poker playing community. The details regarding that agreement have not been released, nor has the Department of Justice confirmed any information that a deal has been struck.
Several outlets are speculating that the deal with the U. S. Department of Justice could be consummated within the next couple of weeks, which would allow Groupe Bernard Tapie to then move forward with the acquisition of the Full Tilt Poker operation. The shareholders in Full Tilt Poker would then have to approve the sale of the entity to GBT, but that is expected to be a formality.
What does this mean for Canadian customers of Full Tilt Poker, who have been shut out of the site since the Alderney Gambling Control Commission shut the site down in late June? First, Groupe Bernard Tapie would have to get the site relicensed, either through the AGCC or through another organization such as the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (who already provides a secondary license). Once that is completed, then the site could go live again, although it isn’t known if it would retain the Full Tilt Poker moniker.
There is also a question as to how Groupe Bernard Tapie would go about reimbursing millions of players worldwide, which could cost as much as $300 million and which is comprised of an estimated $15 million of Canadian funds. Last month, GBT floated a few ideas in discussions with European customers of Full Tilt as to proposals to compensate players.
Using telephone surveys, Groupe Bernard Tapie allegedly contacted Europeans with a survey regarding payment options. After several questions to establish whether a player played on or had money on Full Tilt Poker, three different payment options were floated:
1. Investment of the owed funds into shares in the new Full Tilt Poker operation.
2. A cash payment of a player’s entire balance, with a significant percentage penalty.
3. Payment of the balance over an extended time period, expected to be a year.
There have been no indications as to which option received the most support. It is expected that only the upper echelon of players (those who have the most money) on Full Tilt would be eligible for the first option. Players with less in their accounts would have to choose from the other two options.
If these reports are accurate, it is entirely likely that Full Tilt Poker – in some form, fashion and maybe different name – could be back in action before the end of 2011. There are still many particulars to work out, however, before Canadian players may see their money from the new Groupe Bernard Tapie-led operation.