US FTP Players to DoJ: Pay Me Maybe?

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“Here’s my balance … so pay me maybe.”

While things seem to be going fairly smoothly for non-US players at Full Tilt Poker, the picture for US customers of the once-mighty, soon to be resurrected online poker giant remains … cloudy.

In the wake of the news that PokerStars and the DoJ had reached a deal allowing Stars to purchase Full Tilt, concerns about whether or not US players would get their complete balances returned were raised almost immediately by credible voices.

Fast-forward 10 days and the PPA Players Repayment Resource Center is still looking a little empty. One recently added item: On August 9th, the PPA sent a letter to the DoJ outlining how the PPA thinks payouts should be handled.

The letter makes four core arguments as to why US players should be paid in full: 1) FTP tricked players into not withdrawing; 2) All of the charges and settlements to date assume US player payback; 3) Stars was able to pay back players after Black Friday and 4) FTP’s other players are getting paid back in full.

Other than that, there looks to be little in the way of concrete progress or announcements regarding the process of US player payback before the week draws to a close.

Why Is Any of This Even Happening?

It’s a reasonable question.  Given that Stars was allowed to pay back US players in full after shutting down access from that market post-Black Friday, what’s the holdup here?  Isn’t this situation identical?

Not exactly.  While I don’t have inside information, here are a few factors that could be slowing (and could continue to slow) the process of US FTP players getting their monies.

One (purely speculative) cause that comes to mind: The millions and millions that FTP credited to players without ever receiving the funds.  The DoJ might be loathe to pay out players money that was not actually deposited and is trying to figure out how to reconcile true balances for players.

Another: Something about US balances may be specifically germane to the ongoing prosecutions of Bitar and other FTP defendants (including those who might still be named going forward), causing the DoJ to drag their feet on distributions.

A final thought: In an election year, politics are always going to be a consideration for agencies like the DoJ.  Given that the situation is relatively high profile, involves gambling along with millions upon millions of dollars and is essentially playing out right at the start of the presidential race, a decision like this could require levels of CYA that cause the process to drag on for weeks – maybe even months.

There’s likely no need to use the “one time” here – it still feels like most players will probably get most of what they’re owed.  The steps they’ll have to take and the time before those steps are clearly articulated by the DoJ, however, remain questions with far less obvious answers.

- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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