In light of Black Friday in the poker world, one of the big aftershocks was that poker players from the United States were unable to get access to their funds, in part due to the fact that their accounts have been blocked but secondly because the FBI had seized the .com domains of the poker rooms, namely Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute / UB.
By likely using the issue of the blocked player funds as a pressure tactic, Full Tilt Poker and Poker Stars have struck a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice that effectively allows them to regain the confiscated .com domains and this also represents a first step towards paying out players resident in the United States. However, paying out millions of dollars swiftly to anxious Americans will not be so easy to do seeing that there exist no “legitimate” ways of transferring the funds back to players, at least without breaking one of the laws cited in the indictment.
“No individual player accounts were ever frozen or restrained, and each implicated poker company has at all times been free to reimburse any player’s deposited funds. In fact, this Office expects the companies to return the money that U.S. players entrusted to them, and we will work with the poker companies to facilitate the return of funds to players, as today’s agreements with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker demonstrate,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a press release.
PokerStars stated in a press release that “returning US players’ funds is a top priority for PokerStars and the company can now start the process of returning money to its former US customers. All PokerStars player deposits are completely safe.”
Full Tilt issued a similar statement and the deals also require that an independent auditor monitors these sites to ensure that they are in compliance with the agreements.
This is a positive step towards some kind of resolution but there is no clear indication on how far the charges will be taken or whether a resolution can be negotiated and at what price tag.
Absolute / UB on the other hand have still to negotiate a similar deal even though the DOJ is open to it. Instead they issued a press release today stating that their priority is also to return player funds but they have retained the services of US lawyers to advise them and they will provide updates as the case moves forward.