DOJ Will Begin Refunding Absolute Poker Funds Seized On Black Friday
Online Poker Report

DOJ Announces Start Of Refund Process For Absolute Poker Players

DOJ Absolute Poker refunds
It took over five years and eight rounds of remission payments, but 83 percent of affected Full Tilt Poker customers have recouped their lost account balances.

According to a press release by the Department of Justice and the Garden City GroupAbsolute Poker and Ultimate Bet players will now have an opportunity to recover the money they lost some six years ago.

Per the DOJ:

“Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has retained the Garden City Group (“GCG”) to oversee a process for compensating eligible victims of a fraud committed by Absolute Poker against United States players who were unable to withdraw funds from Absolute Poker following the Office’s filing in 2011 of a civil money laundering and forfeiture action against Absolute Poker and others in United States v. PokerStars, et al.

“GCG is already overseeing the claims process for eligible victims of the fraud committed by Full Tilt Poker against United States players, as described in both United States v. PokerStars, et al., and the indictment in the parallel criminal case, United States v. Bitar, et. al.  To date, approximately $118 million has been paid to Full Tilt Poker fraud victims through that process.”

The Garden City Group set up a website for the Absolute Poker/UB remission process. It looks identical to the one GCG established for Full Tilt customers.

Why now?

Interestingly, the Absolute Poker repayment process was only announced after the disbursement of the final payments to affected FTP players.

This is likely an indication that the money being used to repay Absolute Poker players is leftover money that was never claimed or was denied to Full Tilt Players. Among other things, affiliates forfeited money, as did sponsored Full Tilt Poker players.

Another interesting aspect of the announcement is the absence of Ultimate Bet/UB. The Absolute Poker remission process does not expressly include that site’s players.

The memo from GCG states in part:

“Account balances from online poker sites other than Absolute Poker are not included in this remission process. Petitioners must also meet all other requirements outlined in 28 C.F.R. § 9.8 to be considered eligible for remission.”

However, it has been confirmed that Ultimate Bet/UB player balances are included in the remission process. Several players have confirmed their UB claims are being processed and the balances were correct when they filed.

Will Absolute Poker and UB players be fully repaid?

Eighty-three percent of Full Tilt players may have been refunded. But the $118 million in payments is believed to be only 72 percent of the total money players had on balance. That figure is estimated to be around $160 million.

This means the government still has around $40 million from the sale of Full Tilt Poker to PokerStars that was earmarked to repay impacted players.

However, the GCG website notes that players might only receive a percentage of their account balances. Refund amounts will depend on the amount of money on hand:

“If the forfeited funds available for distribution equal or exceed the aggregate Account Balances for all eligible Petitioners, each eligible Petitioner with an approved claim will receive the entirety of his or her Account Balance or approved loss amount. If the aggregate Account Balances for all eligible Petitioners exceed the funds available for distribution, payments shall be made to eligible Petitioners on a pro rata basis.”

How many people are likely to file?

It’s likely even more Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet money will go unclaimed than Full Tilt Poker funds.

Absolute Poker and UB were heavy on recreational players. Most serious online poker players avoided both following the cheating scandals that were uncovered several years before Black Friday. Many of these players have likely written off any monies owed as lost, and have moved on from poker.

Another factor is the length of time between the sites going offline and the start of the repayment process. In Full Tilt’s case, remission began within two years, and throughout that time players remained hopeful for repayment.

This is not the case with UB and Absolute. Some six years later this announcement popped up almost out of the blue.

It’s likely that a significant number of players won’t remember their account balances, let alone log-in information, or even the email account they registered with.

Finally, a lot of players were selling their balances at AP and UB for pennies on the dollar. Players treated balances as if they were play money when it became clear the site wasn’t going to be able to cover withdrawals.

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Steve Ruddock
- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.