We covered thousands of stories here at PokerNews in 2013. From major events like the World Series of Poker and the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, to the launch of legal online poker in the U.S., we've worked diligently to provide our audience with the most comprehensive assortment of poker news and entertainment.
But regardless of the story topic over the past year, the comments sections on our site and social media pages were bombarded with one recurring question from readers:
"Where the $%# is my Full Tilt Poker money?!"
As poker players ourselves, we can certainly empathize. It has been more than 32 months since the U.S. government seized the assets of Full Tilt Poker on Black Friday, leaving approximately $159 million frozen in the accounts of American players.
Another new year is rapidly approaching, and exactly $0 has been returned to U.S. players.
Thankfully, though, we started seeing progress in 2013. And that progress ranks as our No. 4 story of the year.
In July 2012, the U.S. Attorney's Office approved a deal that allowed PokerStars' parent company (The Rational Group) to acquire the forfeited assets of Full Tilt Poker from the U.S. government. As part of the deal, PokerStars repaid all outstanding balances (totaling $184 million) owed to all non-U.S. customers of Full Tilt Poker within 90 days. U.S. players, owed more than $150 million, would be refunded separately at a later time.
While that deal proved to be a major victory for the industry, many U.S. players weren't prepared for the long and frustrating wait to receive their money. The process of repaying more than 1.4 million players was a complicated one, and the government chose to hire a third-party claims administrator to evaluate information from claimants, and analyze information contained in user account records at Full Tilt Poker, before authorizing refunding of U.S. players.
On March 13, 2013, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York revealed that the Garden City Group had been selected to oversee the process.
"The Garden City Group brings a track record of handling the administration of some of the country’s largest and most complicated settlements,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. "With their selection, we take a significant step forward in the process of compensating victims of the Full Tilt Poker scheme.”
The next significant step was the victim claims process. On Sept. 16, former Full Tilt Poker customers were instructed to file a claim at the official website for the Full Tilt Poker Claims Administration. Each victim had two months to submit a claim; those who filed after Nov. 16 would not be eligible for a refund.
But confusion ensued. As outlined in a letter from the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) to the GCG, poker players had a number of questions that were not addressed in the FAQ section of the website. One of the most frequent questions that arose was whether Full Tilt Points, Iron Man Medals and other bonuses would be refunded as part of the remission process. When the site was running, players were able to redeem such bonuses for prizes, tournament tickets and even cash.
Unfortunately, players didn't get the answer they were looking for. The GCG claimed that that Full Tilt Points and other promotions were used as marketing tools have no monetary value. Players that had been storing points and medals would receive no compensation.
Another issue was eligibility. Full Tilt Team Pros and affiliates were originally excluded from the remission process by the U.S. Department of Justice, which caused panic among many members of the industry. However, the GCG later clarified that the exclusion of Team Pros only applied to Team Full Tilt (Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, etc.). In addition, affiliates registered with FTP were eligible for a "portion" of their balance related to poker transactions.
The two-month window to file a claim closed on Nov. 16, and according to the U.S. Attorney's Office more than 41,000 petitions were filed by victims. The GCG says it expects all of these payments to be made by March 31, 2014, but poker players know by now not to hold their breath with anything related to Full Tilt Poker funds.
PokerNews will continue to bring you coverage of this ongoing story in the coming months. Hopefully the news is positive as the anticipated refund date draws closer!
PokerNews Top 10 Stories of 2013:
- #5, Drama Involving Past WSOP Main Event Champs
- #6, Controversial "First Card Off the Deck" Rule
- #7, World Series of Poker Circuit Grinders Dominate
- #8, The Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open $10 Million Guarantee
- #9, Canada Crushing at the WSOP
- #10, Ivey, Kagawa, Smith, and Others Face Legal Trouble
Stay tuned for more of the Top 10 Stories of the Year right here on PokerNews.