Full Tilt Poker announced this week a new round of restitution payments have been approved for some 3,500 petitioners who claim they lost money as a result of poker’s Black Friday in 2011.
The Garden City Group (GCG), the poker network’s legal administrator, says the reimbursements will be paid before the end of March.
Former users whose disputes were less than $500 will receive their funds this month, as will users with disputes between $500.01 and $2,000, so long as the difference between the Full Tilt account balance and disputed amount is 20 percent or less. In all, GCG says the distributions will total approximately $2.8 million.
GCG has been employed by the Amaya and Rational Group subsidiary to navigate the complex legal landscape and the task of returning player balances.
Following Internet poker’s ceasing of operations in the United States on April 15, 2011, thousands of players argued they had more money in their account balances than they were credited for.
The ongoing payouts are the result of the settlement in United States v. PokerStars, with the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section approving the most recent allocation.
According to GCG, more than $100 million has been returned to former Full Tilt account holders since it began making payments last year. While that’s good news for the victims of Black Friday, the higher account balances remain in limbo.
“All other Petitions with disputed amounts are still under review and, if found to be valid, will be paid in upcoming distributions,”GCG writes on the Full Tilt Poker Claims Administration website.
That means players who have filed grievances for amounts over $2,000 are still waiting to have their money refunded, nearly four years since the network went dark in the US.
The federal government has a claim of its own in that Full Tilt stole $159 million from its poker customers during the government’s seizure of the domain. After a federal grand jury granted an indictment days earlier, on April 15, 2011, the Department of Justice shutdown PokerStars.com and FullTiltpoker.com, as well as three other poker URLs.
The defendants were charged with fraud, money laundering, and violating US gambling laws. However, five days later PokerStars and Full Tilt were back online to facilitate the withdrawal and return of players’ funds.
Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Ray Bitar, and Rafe Furst, the former owners of Full Tilt, have escaped serving jail time for their roles in what the government called a Ponzi scheme thanks to the US v. PokerStars settlement. In the civil case, PokerStars purchased Full Tilt and was ordered to pay $547 million to victims in America and abroad.
The 2012 decision also blocked any potential new civil litigation, meaning prior Full Tilt execs are free from any legal lawsuits as it relates to their involvement with online poker. At the time of the settlement, it seemed like a sound deal for all parties involved. Player accounts would be refunded while the poker executives wouldn’t continue to face legal challenges for the next decade. But like most things in the courtroom, the distribution processing has been a lengthy ordeal.