Full Tilt Funds One Step Closer to Return for American Players
In what can only be described as an incredibly welcome development, former U.S. customers of online poker room Full Tilt Poker learned today that the return of their balances at the site has taken a massive step closer to becoming a reality.
The news came via the official website of the claims administrator for the Full Tilt Poker funds, the Garden City Group.
The Garden City Group, or GCG, was contracted by the U.S. government to handle the processing and return of Full Tilt balances to American players back in March of 2013.
Process will be based on player balances
The highlight of the announcement for most players was the clarification by the GCG on how the amount to be returned to players would be calculated. There had been speculation that the DoJ would use the amount players had deposited as opposed to actual balances, or employ some other formula that use final balances as just one variable for determining payback amount.
But that speculation proved to be, if not unfounded, ultimately incorrect, as the GCG made it clear that final player balances would be the controlling number for determining the amount that players will receive.
Note that this does not mean that players are guaranteed to get the full amount of their balance returned.
The GCG statement indicated that the total money available for distribution will determine how much each player receives; if the total amount available ends up being equal to or greater than the total of all player balances, then everyone will be made whole.
But if that total amount available for distribution ends up being less than the total of all player balances, then all balances will be adjusted proportionally. In an extreme example, if the total available amount was only half of the total of balances owed, then all players would get half of their Full Tilt balance returned.
Why did the remission process take so long to get to this point?
American players have not been able to access their funds at Full Tilt Poker since Black Friday – April 15th, 2011. So why has the process taken over two years to get to this point?
A number of factors are in play in this extremely complex situation.
First, it’s been unclear until very recently how much money would be available for payback. A number of claims were filed against the available money by such groups as Cardroom International and the Kentucky government. Until those claims were resolved, federal authorities simply didn’t know how much money there would be available to distribute.
There were also some legal questions surrounding the process of returning (at least to some players) what amounted to winnings from online poker. This was apparently an issue for some in the DoJ, who had trouble resolving the conflict between the Black Friday indictments, which sought to portray online poker as illegal, and a remissions process that allowed players to claim proceeds from an allegedly illegal activity.
Finally, the process was undoubtedly stalled by the natural friction of the bureaucratic process. Paying back Full Tilt’s American customers wasn’t simply a matter of one person signing off on a decision; multiple federal agencies were involved in the matter and simply getting everyone on the same page – especially in the context of the myriad other cases being prosecuted or resolved in parallel to Black Friday – certainly added untold weeks and months to the path leading to resolution.
Many questions remain unanswered
While the recent announcement by the GCG is certainly a massive step in the right direction, it does leave many questions Full Tilt’s former American customers have about the remissions process unanswered.
For example, what constitutes a player’s balance? Is it simply the money in their account? Or does it also include non-cash items of potential value, such as FTP player points and tournament tickets?
There was also no specific guidance regarding a timeline for the return of funds, or what steps may exist in between here and there.
The announcement makes it sound as if the process will be a simple one involving an online claims form, but obviously some sort of identity verification will be a part of the system for claiming a FTP balance. What information players will have to provide, and what process will kick in if they are unable to provide it, remains an open question.
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