Weekends are normally a quiet time in the poker world (unless there’s a big tournament going on), but this weekend was much different. The poker community is waiting with bated breath on this Monday as rumors abound regarding the announcement of a deal between PokerStars and the United States Department of Justice regarding the dormant Full Tilt Poker.
It all began last week on the website of the popular poker publication Poker Player Newspaper. On Friday, noted poker insider Wendeen Eolis announced that she had information from a “consistently reliable source” that the negotiations between PokerStars and the DoJ had come to a close. In her quick piece on the PPN website Eolis states that players around the world owed money by Full Tilt would be paid “well in time for Christmas shopping” and that the deal would be announced potentially as early as Monday.
Naturally, this has set off a firestorm of discussion around the poker community. Factions on both sides – those that want to believe that there has been a deal reached and those that take a more pessimistic approach – have voiced their opinions loudly. One thing that hasn’t been discussed, however, is what a proposed PokerStars/DoJ deal would be.
One thing that PokerStars might be looking for is exoneration for its top executives. PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg and executive Paul Tate are still under indictment in the ongoing “Black Friday” case for their roles at PokerStars. Although both men are believed to be outside of the United States, it is conceivable that the U. S. government may ask the country (or countries) where the two men are for extradition to face charges. With Ira Rubin (former payment processor for the “Black Friday” defendants) receiving a three year sentence last week – and with the Sword of Damocles hanging over former Full Tilt Poker front man Ray Bitar (currently awaiting trial for his role with the company) – PokerStars would probably like to see their top executives avoid taking the “perp walk” into a U. S. courtroom.
The second thing that the deal will be taking into account is the payment of worldwide players their funds from Full Tilt Poker. It is estimated that, once Full Tilt’s doors were shut in June of last year, players were owed in the neighborhood of $350 million. The U. S. Department of Justice has demanded that American players be paid almost immediately, as they were following the completion of a deal with PokerStars after “Black Friday.”
This was allegedly one of the main components that shot down the deal between the DoJ and the French investment firm Groupe Bernard Tapie earlier this year. Groupe Bernard Tapie was not willing to make payments available immediately and, as such, the negotiations between the two parties ended. That is when PokerStars stepped in and began negotiations, which have been running for approximately three months now.
PokerStars may be looking for assurances from the U. S. government that they will be able to operate in the United States. This is something that is a “gray” area in that, lacking any federal guidelines regarding online poker in the U. S., the Department of Justice can only grant access to the U. S. as a whole. Individual states, such as Nevada, Delaware and other states looking to get in the game, have moved forward with their regulatory frameworks, but the DoJ cannot guarantee that the states have any interaction with PokerStars for those different intrastate deals.
Finally, what would the actions of PokerStars be with their new toy in the Full Tilt Poker software? It would be unlikely that they would bring the site back online, considering the “scarlet letters” that FTP has become in the poker world (no pun intended…the colors of Full Tilt were red). What they may be looking for are ways to improve their own software and perhaps create a hybrid Stars/FTP to expand their share of the market in the online poker world (something that already is massive).
It promises to be an interesting week as the poker world awaits the latest “puffs of smoke” from the chimneys regarding Full Tilt Poker. CanadaPoker will continue to monitor the issue and keep you up to date on the latest happenings.