Following months of speculation, PokerStars has successfully negotiated a deal with the US Department of Justice that will see them take over Full Tilt Poker assets. An even bigger element to this deal is that former Full Tilt players will be reimbursed, which is something the poker community has been awaiting for months.
Putting everything into financial terms, PokerStars will pay the US government $547 million over the next three years. $225 million of the amount is due in five days and once this payment is made, the US DOJ will drop criminal charges against Stars. Additionally, the world’s largest online poker site must make another $184 million available to repay non-US Full Tilt players who have money on the site. In all, the deal amounts to PokerStars paying $731 million to purchase Full Tilt and its assets
As for American Full Tilt players – who are collectively owed $150 million – they must contact the US Department of Justice to get their money back. Now that we’ve covered the main points of the Full Tilt Poker sale, it’s worth looking at comments from those involved in this matter and how the deal has major implications within the US online poker market.
A New Opportunity
When looking at the financial side of this deal, it appears as if PokerStars lost out since the site is spending $731 million. However, one of the biggest stipulations is that Stars will be able to offer real money poker games to Americans when laws allow for this.
Mark Scheinberg, who is Chairman of the Board at Stars, specifically discussed this aspect by saying, “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.” He added, “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.”
The state of Nevada has already approved online poker, which means PokerStars can apply for a license there soon. Stars will operate Full Tilt as a separate site so this provides a second chance for obtaining a license within the United States.
As for the federal level, Senators Harry Reid and Jon Kyle will try to pass online poker legislation during a lame-duck session at the end of 2012. The big question here is whether or not the bill will include language that shuts out poker sites which operated in the US prior to legislation. But even if Reid and Kyle do take this route, PokerStars can still partner up with a major casino brand and apply for a license.
Take advantage of this, and open an account with PokerStars now – at least for non-US players for now… with more markets to come 🙂
Preet Bharara, who is the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was largely responsible for leading the charge against poker sites on Black Friday. And he seemed to treat the PokerStars/Full Tilt deal as something of a victory as he said, “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.”
Bharara also seemed happy for the players who’ll be reimbursed as he stated, “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.”
End of an Era
While the Full Tilt Poker brand will live on under new management, the closure of this deal marks the official end of the current management team. Ray Bitar, Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer are all banned from having anything to do with the new FTP operation, which is welcome news to the poker community. Following the deal’s completion, the site released a statement that read:
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.
A Big Boost
After the events of Black Friday, a significant portion of money was taken out of the poker community. In fact, many pros were deeply affected after seeing their bankroll essentially frozen. But now that $334 million will be infused back into the online poker world, we’re likely to see some bigger and better games in the future. Furthermore, some level of confidence has been restored to the online poker industry, which had previously taken a beating for all the money that Full Tilt players seemingly lost.