DoJ Issues Full Tilt Poker Update

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The US Department of Justice has issued a statement confirming that a claims administrator to oversee Full Tilt Poker player repayment should be hired and working by January 2013.

The statement, in its entirety:

November 20, 2012Victim Update. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is evaluating applicants for the position of Claims Administrator to handle petitions for remission for U.S. victims of the alleged fraud that Full Tilt Poker committed relating to player funds. The United States Attorney’s Office expects that the Claims Administrator will be selected and begin work in January 2013.

Credible word that the DoJ had set January as a target for hiring a claims administrator emerged on TwoPlusTwo last week, but was not publicly confirmed by the DoJ until now.

The DoJ began taking applications for the position back in August 2012.

While this news moves US customers of Full Tilt Poker one step closer to repayment of some sort, a number of unanswered questions remain.  The DoJ has yet to indicate how they plan to calculate player balances, leaving some to worry that winnings, rakeback or other aspects of their balance may not be honored.

There’s also the open issue of the tens of thousands in deposits credited to player accounts, but never collected, by Full Tilt Poker.  Finally, the contours of the process have yet to be revealed – what information will players need to provide to submit a claim?  How long will the claims process take?

If you’re looking for a little light reading on that front, here are the regulations that govern remission of funds held by the government.

This statement comes one week after the meeting between the Poker Player’s Alliance and the DoJ, a meeting that ended with players – and their millions in balances – still stuck in limbo.  Why couldn’t the PPA provide players with a date after that meeting?

PPA head John Pappas answered that question on TwoPlusTwo:

It is all pretty simple. We asked AFMLS if a claims administrator had been hired they said “no.” We asked when they expected that to occur and they said that “USAO was handling the claims adminstrator” (i.e. the Southern District) and that they were “working on it.” I suspect AFMLS checked in with the USAO after our meeting to get an update.

So the “news” today is that they are working on it and they expect to have someone selected in January. I am pleased that they hope to have the claims administrator selected and even more pleased that they are sharing information. More transparency and communications with the player community was something we hoped would come from our meeting.

I would still caution folks that selecting a claims administrator is just one part of the process and that there will still be a substantial administrative process before players start seeing their money. I think the most important thing for the community to focus on is ensuring that 100 percent of player balances are returned and that it is a fair and streamlined proccess by which to apply for the remission.

Bottom line: Ultimately, this news helps to tighten the timeline for the return of US player funds, but it’s a very small step on what is looking to be quite a long road.  Payment in 2013 is possible, but I’m not entirely comfortable saying that it’s probable.

- 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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