GCG Sends More Payments for UB and AP Players
Remember when the Garden City Group distributed payments from Black Friday online poker operators? You may be forgiven if the memories are a bit foggy. It has been nearly two years since the last update from the firm tasked with distributing the money from the US Department of Justice to poker players around the world.
Without notice, the GCG seems to be mailing another round of payments to former players on Absolute Poker and/or UltimateBet. The website provides no information about it, though, and an inquiry to GCG itself yielded only a general statement that provides no insight.
As a reminder, though, it is helpful to take a look at how the payment distributions happened thus far and what players may be able to expect.
It Started with Full Tilt
It started when PokerStars paid its multimillion-dollar settlement with the US government in the summer of 2012, a result of the site seizures and personnel indictments of Black Friday in April 2011. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) then put the money into an account overseen by the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Division.
The first point of order was to pay the players of Full Tilt. As a part of that settlement, PokerStars wanted as much of its fine as possible to pay the victims of the Full Tilt Poker collapse. The DOJ put the payment distribution handling matter into the hands of the people of Garden City Group, a claims distributor.
It took a long time to establish the remission rules for FTP victims, but GCG finally opened its site for refund petitions in September 2013.
— Rich Muny 🇺🇸 (@RichMuny) May 20, 2013
GCG began the first round of payments in April 2014, and several rounds followed in 2014 and 2015. By the end of 2015, GCG had distributed approximately $109.1 million to about 40,900 former FTP account holders. In 2016, GCG handled the final claims, which included those of former “red pros” and others involving disputed amounts. Those two rounds of payments distributed another $5.3 million to 2,180 players.
In all, GCG concluded that it processed refunds 97% of the petitions filed, only denying 3% for discrepancies. Some say the refunds took care of only 83% of players, but we found no evidence for any of those numbers.
Absolute and Ultimate Relief
In April 2017, the DOJ and GCG announced that there was money left in the account from the PokerStars settlement. They established a new website to reimburse the players of the other two sites that fled with players’ money after Black Friday, for “compensating eligible victims of a fraud from Absolute Poker.” This also included victims of UltimateBet.
Had no idea I had any money on Absolute Poker, but filled out the GCG claim form they sent and I'll take the $27.35 thank you very much. pic.twitter.com/L2BEcnrnzu
— Chad Holloway (@ChadAHolloway) April 15, 2017
GCG initially sent notices to 1.2 million former players of AP and UB to inform them of the possibility of a refund. As time went on, GCG provided these numbers:
-Round 1. August 7, 2017: $33.5 million to 7,400 players
-Round 2. October 19, 2017: $3.7 million to 4,600 players
-Round 3. March 15, 2018: $1,084,200.97 to 450 players
-Round 4. October 26, 2018: $133,005.04 to 494 players
And that was the end of the announcements on the GCG website dedicated to those distributions. Even the last round listed there seemed spurred only by incessant contact by players and other interested parties.
Previously, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) had advocated for regular payments and remained in close contact with GCG to ensure that claims were processed in as timely a manner as possible. When the PPA handed over control and information to Poker Central in the summer of 2018, the new owner renamed the organization the Poker Alliance and promised to carry on the work. That never happened, though, and no one took charge of pursuing more UB and AP payments.
Sadly, GCG has not posted an update on its website since October 2018.
Approaching the two-year mark of that last payment, the last dozen or so posts on the Two Plus Two forum thread dedicated to AP/UB claims showed some frustration.
–September 2019: Players submitted a petition in September 2017 and heard nothing since.
–January 2020: Player who submitted a petition in April 2019 heard only that GCG expected to have “final recommendations” in the coming weeks.
–April 2020: Player received approval for a payment expected by the end of April.
–August 2020: Player received $44K check without notice of approval from GCG.
–September 2020: Player filed petition in May 2018 and received check of $3K with no notice.
–September 2020: Player received a check more than one year after the submission.
–September 2020: Player received $1,800 in affiliate earnings from original 2018 claim.
–September 2020: Player received an amount less than the original claim.
We made numerous calls to the GCG over the past week to obtain information about the current and possible future rounds of payments, but no one ever answered the phone.
GCG did respond to an email requesting an update this week, though. The response lacked information but read:
“The distribution process is ongoing, and we are working with the DOJ to get payments out as soon as possible. However, we do not know the exact date of the next distribution. We appreciate your continued patience.”
It was signed by “Claims Administrator (JB).”
GCG has shown in the past that the more inquiries it receives, the more it attempts to further the process. With that said, the easiest contact methods of those provided on the claims website are:
Toll-free telephone number: (855) 907-3254
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org