PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker on path to online gaming
The U.S. Department of Justice, (DOJ) Southern District of New
York, reached a settlement today with PokerStars on the U.S.
Government's civil charges that the company defrauded customers
and evaded U.S. prohibitions on Internet gambling. The DOJ action
arose from the Black Friday, April 15, 2011, indictment and civil
complaints against PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker
and its chief executives, which left online poker players in the
U.S. in shock and disarray, as detailed in this
New York Times blog.
Under the settlement, PokerStars will pay $731 million dollars,
which includes a forfeiture to the United State Government and
funds to reimburse customers of Full Tilt Poker. PokerStars
obtains the rights to Full Tilt Poker's business from the
U.S. in the deal. PokerStars had already paid all of its
customers' claims. The settlement did not involve an
admission of any wrongdoing. The settlement funds will be paid
over three years.
With anticipated full reimbursement of all former Full Tilt
Poker customers in the United States and non-U.S. customers,
PokerStars plans to re-launch Full Tilt Poker as a separate brand
after the establishment of a new and independent management
Media releases on the settlement were issued by
Full Tilt Poker, and by
Ray Bitar, the CEO of Full Tilt Poker indicted on "Black
Friday" when Full Tilt and PokerStars operations were shut
down. Both Mr. Bitar and Isai Scheinberg, the founder of
PokerStars, have been charged with operating illegal gambling
businesses. Mr. Bitar returned to the United State from
Ireland, has pleaded "Not Guilty" and is currently
released on bail. Mr. Scheinberg is a fugitive, reportedly in
the Isle of Man at present.
By resolving the DOJ claims from the civil forfeiture actions,
PokerStars will excite the online poker community. Not only
are U.S. and non-U.S. players of Full Tilt Poker being compensated,
but these leading brands are expressly preserved for the inevitable
licensing by a federal or state-by-state regulatory system of
online poker play. PokerStars now emerges as the brightest
star of the on-line poker community.
PokerStars will still need to hurdle licensing investigations by
gaming regulators upon legalization of online poker.
Land-based casinos have been preparing for either federal or
intra-state online poker and may lead the opposition to
these companies and the gaming regulators may not prove as
forgiving as the DOJ.
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