NIEUWS: Deal Full Tilt, PokerStars & U.S Department of Justice eindelijk rond
Maandenlang hebben we er op moeten wachten, maar eindelijk is het zover. De overname van Full Tilt Poker door 'concurrent' PokerStars is definitief rond! Vandaag bracht Diamond Flush Poker het grote nieuws waar alle pokerspelers op zaten te wachten naar buiten. PokerStars zal in de komende negentig dagen $184 miljoen beschikbaar stellen voor alle spelers van Full Tilt Poker buiten de Verenigde Staten. De Amerikaanse spelers met geld op Full Tilt Poker zullen apart geholpen worden, maar krijgen de mogelijkheid om hun geld terug te vragen; hiervoor is zo'n $150 miljoen beschikbaar.
PokerStars kwam na lange onderhandelingen met het U.S. Department of Justice eindelijk tot een akkoord. De grootste online poker room ter wereld zal in de komende drie jaar een bedrag van $547.000.000 betalen aan de Amerikaanse regering, maar dat heeft wel tot gevolgd dat alle aanklachten tegen PokerStars vervallen. Ook zal Isai Scheinberg binnen 45 dagen afscheid moeten nemen van zijn rol als manager/directeur bij PokerStars en hij zal hierna niet meer terug kunnen keren in deze rol.
Wanneer de herlancering van Full Tilt Poker zal plaatsvinden is nog niet bekend. Zowel Full Tilt Poker als PokerStars kwam direct met een persbericht naar buiten. Beide persberichten zijn hieronder te lezen, met als eerste die van Full Tilt Poker (mogelijk gemaakt door Diamond Flush Poker). Zodra er meer nieuws bekend is over de overname, lees je dat uiteraard zo snel mogelijk op PokerNews.
Persbericht van Full Tilt Poker:
FULL TILT POKER CONCLUDES TRANSACTION WITH POKERSTARS AND UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Agreement Ends Civil Forfeiture Proceedings and Includes Payment For All Players
Dublin – July 31, 2012 – Full Tilt Poker is very pleased to announce the conclusion of a three-way transaction with PokerStars and the United States Department of Justice which will result in all of FTP’s US players having the opportunity to be paid. The agreement ends the company’s civil forfeiture proceedings with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Under the terms of the agreement, PokerStars will pay a substantial amount of money to the United States, and the government has agreed that all U.S. players will have an opportunity to request that they be compensated out of those funds for their losses. In addition, within ninety days PokerStars will make available for immediate cash withdrawal or play, the account balances for all of Full Tilt Poker’s non-U.S. players.
Full Tilt Poker apologizes to all of its customers who endured a long and difficult period wondering whether this day would ever come.
Full Tilt Poker expresses its appreciation to its loyal employees whose hard work over the last 15 months preserved the value of the Full Tilt Poker assets so a deal like this could be possible, and to PokerStars and the United States Department of Justice for their efforts in bringing about this resolution.
Jeff Ifrah of Ifrah Law PLLC, (Washington, D.C.) Barry Boss and Anne Madonia of Cozen O’Connor (Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, PA respectively), Tony Coles and Charles Gerada of Jeffrey Green Russell Solicitors (London), and Tony O’Grady of Matheson Ormsby Prentice (Dublin) represented the affiliated companies that owned and operated Full Tilt.
Persbericht van PokerStars:
POKERSTARS SETTLES DISPUTE WITH U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND ACQUIRES ASSETS OF FULL TILT POKER
ONCHAN, ISLE OF MAN – July 31, 2012 – PokerStars today announced that the Company has reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Southern District of New York. As part of the settlement agreement, PokerStars has also acquired the assets of Full Tilt Poker, and has committed to the full reimbursement of Full Tilt Poker customers outside the United States.
The total amount to be paid by PokerStars is USD$547 million which will be payable over a period of three years. The money paid to the US Government will in part be used to reimburse former Full Tilt Poker customers in the United States, through a remission process to be administered by the Department of Justice. PokerStars repaid all amounts owing to its own U.S. customers shortly after it closed its U.S. operations.
PokerStars will also make available in a segregated bank account, all outstanding balances owing to all non-U.S. customers of Full Tilt Poker (an amount totalling USD$184 million), with no restrictions on withdrawals, within 90 days of completing this transaction. PokerStars has remained open for non-U.S. players, with all its licenses in good standing, without interruptions.
Under the agreement with the Department of Justice, PokerStars does not admit to any wrongdoing. Furthermore, the agreement explicitly permits PokerStars to apply to relevant U.S. gaming authorities, under both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker brands, to offer real money online poker when State or Federal governments introduce a framework to regulate such activity.
PokerStars plans to re-launch Full Tilt Poker in most markets as a separate brand, following the appointment of a new, independent management team. Full Tilt Poker’s operations will continue to be run from Dublin, but regulatory oversight will be transferred to the Isle of Man. Further details of these plans will be announced shortly.
“We are delighted we have been able to put this matter behind us, and also secured our ability to operate in the United States of America whenever the regulations allow,” said Mark Scheinberg, Chairman of the Board of PokerStars. “This outcome demonstrates our continuing global leadership of the online poker industry, and our commitment to working with governments and regulators to ensure the highest standards of protection for players.”
“Acquiring certain assets of Full Tilt Poker strengthens PokerStars, brings welcome relief to Full Tilt Poker players who have been waiting over 12 months for repayment of their money, and benefits the entire poker community. Full Tilt Poker’s customers outside the U.S. can soon look forward to accessing their accounts and playing on the re-launched site, confident that they are supported by PokerStars’ history of integrity and our track record of delivering high-quality and secure online poker.”
“The way we have operated our business since the U.S. Department of Justice brought its claim has underlined our credentials as a responsible online poker operator,” Scheinberg continued. “In particular, the prompt repayment of our former US customers in as quick a time frame as possible demonstrated our industry-leading commitment to the segregation of customer funds. We continue to encourage jurisdictions all over the world to introduce sensible online poker regulation.”
Bericht van PokerStarsBlog.com
POKERSTARS SETTLES WITH UNITED STATES DOJ by Eric Hollreiser on July 31, 2012 9:00 AM
Today's announcement of our settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) closes one chapter in our corporate history and opens another.
We have admitted to no wrong-doing with regard to our past U.S. operations and can now focus all of our energy and resources on advancing our global business, which now includes operating Full Tilt Poker. You can find details of the announcement at our PokerStars press center.
We plan to re-open the Full Tilt site and, most importantly, we will make available all funds for players outside the U.S. within 90 days of the formal close of the deal, which will occur in the next seven days. The money paid to the US Government will in part be used to reimburse former Full Tilt Poker customers in the United States, through a remission process to be administered by the Department of Justice.
Paying back Full Tilt players was a key component in our agreement to acquire the assets. This is not only important to the individual players who have had their bankrolls tied up for more than a year, but it's also vital to re-building trust in online poker and instilling confidence in the global poker economy.
It's too early to begin disclosing many details about our strategic plans for Full Tilt, but our first order of business is to re-open the site, pay back all of the players and begin rebuilding Full Tilt's reputation. Going forward, we will operate Full Tilt as a separate brand, giving players another leading and trusted platform to enjoy the game. The re-launched Full Tilt site will bring back the innovative features, the authentic poker and the cutting-edge software that made it so popular with millions of players worldwide.
Getting the site up-and-running and paying back players is a complex challenge involving technical, practical and logistical hurdles affecting millions of player accounts. We're confident we can work through the challenges and our track record as a responsible and responsive company will hopefully bring some comfort to the players that have waited so long for resolution. We ask for just a bit more time and patience as we sort through the details.
One final word about the future U.S. market. Our settlement acknowledges that both PokerStars and Full Tilt are eligible to apply for a license in the U.S. to offer real money poker when states or the federal government offer such an opportunity. We look forward to this opportunity and are confident that we bring tremendous value, regulatory experience, market credibility and financial integrity to the marketplace.
We're optimistic about the future and we look forward to sharing the next chapters in our history with you.
Persbericht van Department of Justice:
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces $731 Million Settlement Of Money Laundering And Forfeiture Complaint With Pokerstars And Full Tilt Poker Monday July 30, 2012
Settlement Requires PokerStars to Forfeit $547 Million and Full Tilt to Forfeit Virtually All of Its Assets
Funds to Be Made Available for Compensation to U.S. and Foreign Victims
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has entered into settlement agreements with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker - two of three online poker companies sued by the U.S. in a money laundering and forfeiture complaint that was originally filed in April 2012 - that were approved today by U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand. Under the terms of the settlement with Full Tilt Poker (“Full Tilt”), the company agreed to forfeit virtually all of its assets (the “Forfeited Full Tilt Assets”) to the U.S. to fully resolve the charges in the complaint. Under the terms of the settlement with PokerStars, the company agreed to forfeit $547 Million to the U.S. and to reimburse the approximately $184 million owed by Full Tilt to foreign players, in order to fully resolve the allegations in the complaint. The settlement further provides that PokerStars will acquire the Forfeited Full Tilt Assets from the Government. Full Tilt’s U.S. fraud victims will be able to seek compensation for their losses from the Department of Justice from the $547 million forfeited by PokerStars.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “We are pleased to announce these settlements by Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, which allow us to quickly get significant compensation into the victim players’ hands. Today’s settlements demonstrate that if you engage in conduct that violates the laws of the United States, as we alleged in this case, then even if you are doing so from across the ocean, you will have to answer for that conduct and turn over your ill-gotten gains.”
Under the terms of the settlement with Full Tilt, U.S. victims of the company’s alleged fraud will be able to seek compensation from the Department of Justice (“DOJ”). The funds that will be used to compensate qualifying victims will come from the $547 million that will be forfeited by PokerStars as part of its settlement with the Government.
In addition to forfeiting $547 million to the U.S., under the terms of the settlement with PokerStars, the company must make available to foreign players all balances that were held in the Full Tilt accounts within 90 days; the amount of those balances is approximately $184 million. Pokerstars will also acquire the Forfeited Full Tilt Assets from the Government.
PokerStars’ acquisition of the Forfeited Full Tilt Assets will be complete upon the Government’s receipt of a $225 million payment from PokerStars, which must take place within six days of the entrance of today’s settlement.
Additional terms of the PokerStars settlement include:
Within 45 days of the acquisition of the Forfeited Full Tilt Assets, Isai Scheinberg, who is presently under indictment in a related criminal case, shall not serve in any management or director role at PokerStars. This provision is subject to re-evaluation by the parties upon the resolution of the criminal case.
PokerStars is also prohibited from employing, or otherwise hiring, Full Tilt Poker insiders Raymond Bitar, Howard Lederer, Rafael Furst, Chris Ferguson, and Nelson Burtnick. Bitar and Burtnick are also named as defendants in a related criminal Indictment. Bitar, Lederer, Furst, and Ferguson are named as civil money-laundering defendants in this complaint.
PokerStars is prohibited from offering online poker in the U.S. for real money unless and until it is legal to do so under U.S. law.
The Government will maintain a portion of the $547 million forfeited by PokerStars as a substitute for the forfeited Full Tilt assets to cover the litigation of claims by other parties asserting interests in the Forfeited Full Tilt Assets.
The settlements entered today with regard to Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, and the proposed settlement with regard to Absolute Poker, do not constitute admissions of any wrongdoing, culpability, liability, or guilt by any parties. Under the terms of a “domain name use” agreement entered into between PokerStars and the Government on April 20, 2011, the company previously settled its accounts with U.S. players.
In a related matter, the U.S. Attorney’s office also filed a motion requesting that the Court enter a settlement agreement reached with Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet that requires the company to forfeit all of its assets (the “Absolute Assets”) in order to fully resolve this action. The motion also requests that the Government be permitted to liquidate the Absolute Assets, with the net proceeds of that sale to be held pending the resolution of claims filed by other parties who have asserted an ownership interest in the Absolute Assets.
The following allegations are based on the Amended Civil Forfeiture Complaint filed in September and the Indictments returned in the related criminal action:
On October 13, 2006, the United States enacted the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (“UIGEA”), making it a federal crime for gambling businesses to “knowingly accept” most forms of payment “in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful Internet gambling.” Despite the passage of the UIGEA, Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet (“the Poker Companies”), each located offshore, continued operating in the United States. Because U.S. banks and credit card issuers were largely unwilling to process their payments, the Poker Companies allegedly used fraudulent methods to circumvent federal law and deceive these financial institutions into processing payments on their behalf. For example, the Poker Companies arranged for the money received from U.S. gamblers to be disguised as payments to hundreds of non-existent online merchants purporting to sell merchandise such as jewelry and golf balls. Of the billions of dollars in payment transactions that the Poker Companies deceived U.S. banks into processing, approximately one-third or more of the funds went directly to the Poker Companies as revenue through the “rake” charged to players on almost every poker hand played online.
To accomplish their fraud, the Poker Companies worked with an array of highly compensated “payment processors” who obtained accounts at U. S. banks for the Poker Companies. The payment processors lied to banks about the nature of the financial transactions they were processing, and covered up those lies, by, among other things, creating phony corporations and websites to disguise payments to the Poker Companies. For example, a PokerStars document from May 2009 acknowledged that they received money from U.S. gamblers through company names that “strongly imply the transaction has nothing to do with PokerStars,” and that PokerStars used whatever company names “the processor can get approved by the bank.”
Full Tilt Poker further defrauded players by misrepresenting that player funds on deposit in online gambling accounts were safe, secure, and available for withdrawal at any time. In reality, the company did not maintain funds sufficient to repay all players, and instead, utilized players’ funds to distribute more than $400 million to Full Tilt’s owners. By March 31, 2011, two weeks before the initial complaint in this action was unsealed, Full Tilt Poker owed approximately $390 million to players around the world, including approximately $160 million to players in the United States. At that time, Full Tilt Poker had only approximately $60 million on deposit in its bank accounts. Full Tilt Poker’s scheme continued even after the civil forfeiture action commenced and the related criminal Indictment was unsealed in April 2011. Full Tilt Poker continued accepting foreign player funds despite the fact that it had liabilities to players around the world for over $300 million, yet held only a small fraction of that amount in its bank accounts.
Eleven defendants were charged criminally in connection with the original Internet poker Indictment, seven of whom have been arrested. The defendants who have been arrested are: Raymond Bitar; Bradley Franzen; Ryan Lang; Ira Rubin; Brent Beckley; Chad Elie; and John Campos. All of the seven defendants except Bitar have each pled guilty and await sentencing with the exception of Campos, who was sentenced in June 2012 to three months in prison. Charges are still pending against the remaining four defendants – Nelson Burtnick, Isai Scheinberg, Paul Tate, and Scott Tom who remain at large. The charges and accusations against them are allegations and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara praised the FBI for its outstanding leadership in the investigation, which he noted is ongoing.
This matter is being handled by the Office’s Asset Forfeiture and Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant U. S. Attorneys Sharon Cohen Levin, Michael Lockard, Jason Cowley, and Andrew Goldstein are in charge of the civil money laundering and forfeiture action. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Arlo Devlin-Brown, Nicole Friedlander and Niketh Velamoor are in charge of the criminal case.
Statement van Poker Players Alliance:
"Thanks to PokerStars, the PPA expects that tens of thousands of innocent American poker players will now have access to more than $150 million that has been kept from them for over 14 months. We applaud that the parties made a process for the restitution of the players a central component of the agreement, and appreciate the government’s commitment to the fair treatment of the players.
“The government has not yet released the precise details on how reimbursements will occur. It is the PPA's position that the government must take all steps necessary to ensure the process for the players to recover their full funds is not unduly burdensome. PPA's legal team will remain fully involved as the ‘voice of the player’ to ensure our members are heard throughout this process. As we learn more, the PPA will quickly gather and distribute information on the reimbursement process to our members.
"At the same time, let’s remember that Americans still remain unable to play poker with safe and secure online sites based in the U.S. – a freedom and consumer protection they should not be denied. The PPA and its members continue to urge Congress to quickly enact thoughtful legislation to create a licensed and regulated U.S. online poker market that restores Americans' freedom to enjoy a game of poker from their home computer."
Statement van Ray Bitar en zijn advocaat John Baughman (met dank aan Diamond Flush Poker)
STATEMENT OF RAYMOND J. BITAR
Over the past few days, I signed the papers necessary to complete Full Tilt’s deal with the US Government. The Company’s assets will now be transferred to PokerStars and Full Tilt employees will have a new employer as well. I believe that this deal will result in Full Tilt’s customers being repaid. I am extremely pleased and excited by this prospect. For the past 15 months, I have worked hard on possible solutions to get players repaid. It has been a very long road, with lots of bumps along the way, but I am glad we have gotten to the end. I only wish that we could have resolved the situation much sooner.
Today’s settlement also ends the US Government’s legal case against the Full Tilt companies. I am glad that this chapter has closed. I would like to thank the company’s many dedicated employees who helped achieve this result. It has been a pleasure working at Full Tilt and I am grateful for the many friendships and memories that I made there. I wish everyone in the Full Tilt family success in their future endeavors.
I also extend my best wishes to PokerStars. This is a very creative deal and it should benefit everyone: the players, Full Tilt and PokerStars alike.
— Ray Bitar
STATEMENT OF JOHN BAUGHMAN
John F. (“Jack”) Baughman, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and an attorney for Raymond J. (“Ray”) Bitar, made the following statement in response to media inquiries:
Over the past few days, Ray Bitar signed all of the documents necessary to transfer the assets of the Full Tilt Poker companies to the US government, so that those assets can next be transferred to PokerStars. The whole point of this deal is to make money available to repay Full Tilt’s players. We hope that this process can be completed as soon as possible.
As has been widely reported, when Full Tilt Poker’s operations were shut down last year, the company was not able to refund money it was holding in players’ accounts. Mr. Bitar was the CEO of the company then, a position he still holds. For the past 15 months, working through the company and with its advisors, Mr. Bitar has been working to get Full Tilt’s players repaid. Mr. Bitar’s return to the US last month was part of this process. Every day since his return Mr. Bitar has been actively involved in arranging the deal that finally was announced today.
We thank the United States Attorney’s office for its courtesy and commend it for its creativity in achieving this result. It is a novel, creative transaction that required great skill to negotiate.
For further information contact Lisa Green at (212) 373-2018, e-mail email@example.com.
Q&A met Lee Jones van PokerStars
Op 2+2 maakte Lee Jones van PokerStars de volgende post:
Q: Will Full Tilt be closed down permanently?
A: No. We plan to re-open Full Tilt in most markets within 90 days of closing (which will take place within seven days). At that time, player accounts will be fully available for use, play or withdrawal. We are not currently planning to seek a license to operate Full Tilt in France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Belgium and Estonia. For Full Tilt players in these markets, we will work with regulators to determine the appropriate mechanisms for making funds available. In any case, these funds will be available as soon as possible.
Q: When will Full Tilt be re-opened?
A: We plan to re-open Full Tilt in most markets within 90 days of closing (which will take place within seven days).
Q:I play on PokerStars but not on Full Tilt. How does this affect me?
A: This will not impact players on PokerStars in any way. You can continue playing as before and your money is completely segregated and safe for play and/or withdrawing at any time you please.
Q: What countries will Full Tilt Poker reopen in?
A: Full Tilt Poker will reopen in most countries and we plan to apply for a global license with the Isle of Man and Malta gaming authorities. We are not currently planning to seek a license to operate Full Tilt in France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Belgium and Estonia. Full Tilt players in these countries will be able to play on PokerStars.
Q: Does this settlement mean I can play real money online poker in the United States?
A: No. Under the terms of our agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, we will not offer real money online poker in the U.S. until such time as there is regulation and licensing permitting this. The agreement does expressly allow for both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker brands to apply for such licenses in the U.S. whenever they are offered.
Q: Can I transfer my FTP funds to an account on PokerStars?
A: We hope to have the functionality in place to allow inter-site transfers between Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, so that you can enjoy playing again on either platform of your choosing. We will provide additional guidance on this in the coming weeks.
Q:I’m from Italy (also: France, Spain, Belgium, Estonia, Denmark). Can I use my funds on PokerStars, due to not having the option to play on Full Tilt Poker again?
A: We are currently working with the relevant authorities in your country and hope to put in place a solution that allows you to transfer your Full Tilt funds to a PokerStars account.
Q: How do I cash out my funds? (US)
A: The process of reimbursing Full Tilt US players will be addressed by the US Government.
Q: When will I be able to cash out my funds? (France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Estonia, Denmark)
A: We are currently working with the regulators in your country on the mechanisms required to withdraw your funds. We are committed to making these funds available within 90 days of the formal closing of the deal, which will be within seven days.
Q: Will I be able to cash out my entire balance? (ROW)
A: Yes. Full balances will be made available for immediate withdrawal once the site is reopened.
Q: What cash-out methods will there be? (ROW)
A: We will strive to ensure our complete payment offering is available at the time of launch. Where possible this will be consistent with the current offering at PokerStars.
Q: Are there going to be play-though requirements before I can cashout? (ROW)
A: No. You will have full access to your funds immediately and in most cases will be able to fully withdraw funds using the same methods previously available in your market.
Q: How long will my cash-out take to process? (ROW)
A: Processing times will differ depending on the method of cashout.
Q: What happens to my Full Tilt loyalty rewards?
A: We are reviewing all previous Full Tilt reward programs and will provide more details on plans for these programs in the near future. We intend to have a fair resolution for players with accumulated points and other rewards under the program.
Q: Can I use my FTP funds on PokerStars?
A: We are currently working on solutions for players to have inter-site transfers between FullTiltPoker.com and PokerStars.com.
Q: Who should I contact in the future to discuss my Full Tilt account?
A: You should contact firstname.lastname@example.org where one of Full Tilt's representatives will assist you with your account query.
That's it for now. I'll be back here 2-3 times per day to update you. As you can certainly understand, I'm not going to be shooting from the hip in this thread; please allow me time to collect questions and get approval for the answers. But you'll be seeing a lot of me here over the next few days.
Also, a brief personal observation: I know this has been a long and painful period for many of you. It's been that way for us too; a lot of people have worked extraordinarily hard to bring this to a successful conclusion. I'm prouder than ever to work for PokerStars.
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