Full Tilt repayments still "a long way away"
The Poker Players Alliance’s legal team met with the DOJ earlier today in Washington DC for a status update on player repayments, and perhaps do a little lobbying on behalf of Full Tilt player points that could and should maybe someday count for something. Overall, it wasn’t very good news for players … particularly those who might be banking on the repatriation of online bankrolls at some point in 2012.
So how long will it be?
Considering that the DOJ hasn’t even set a deadline yet for when to hire an administrator to handle the Full Tilt repayment process … well, you can understand the harsh reality players face working with the government.
Read below for a report from PPA Executive Director John Pappas about what the DOJ had to say.
PPA Statement Regarding Meeting with the Department of Justice
John A. Pappas, Executive Director, Poker Players Alliance
Today I met with officials from the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section. This is the division of the DOJ that oversees the process of remission for victims of crimes. The settlement in United States v. Pokerstars, et al. designated for refunds to U.S. players over $200 million in funds forfeited on April 15, 2011 by PokerStars, relating to their FultTilt Poker accounts. I was joined by PPA counsel Marc Zwillinger and Ken Dreifach from the Washington D.C.-based law firm ZwillGen, PLLC. It was a cordial and productive meeting. We provided DOJ with information and insights on what the player community expects from the remission process, and how we believe such a process ought be administered to assure fairness.
Our first priority was to reaffirm our earlier assertions from an August 8, 2012 letter that 100 percent of player account balances be made available to players through the remission process. We laid out compelling legal and practical arguments why full repayment was the only equitable solution. We also raised the issue of “player point” balances on FullTilt Poker and encouraged the DOJ to recognize the inherent value of these points when they consider what a player is owed. Our thoughts on these matters were well received; however, it was clear from our discussion that no decisions have been made at the DoJ regarding the manner of repayment of player balances. Nevertheless, we have provided them with a clear picture of the expectations of the player community.
Secondly, we shared our thoughts on a streamlined process for players to apply for and receive their funds. We emphasized the need for a flexible approach to player authentication and verification. While they would not confirm so in the meeting, we are hopeful that the DoJ has sufficient means to authenticate players based on the records such as user name, passwords, security questions and email addresses.
Our third objective was to get a sense of timing. Unfortunately, completion of a refund claims process is a long way away. The first step in this process will be the Department’s hiring of of a third-party claims administrator, after a bidding process: there is no current date certain for that selection to occur. But it was evident that even when a claims administrator is hired, forfeiture and remission procedures require that a substantial administrative process be adhered to before players begin seeing their funds. The PPA will remain vigilant in our advocacy for the players. We are also mindful of the staffing and resource limitations of the Department – and the numerous other forfeiture cases they are administering — and we thus have offered our assistance to help them navigate the complexities of the issues and hopefully expedite the refund process.
This is certainly not good news for those poker players still awaiting the return of their money, but it is all the news the PPA can provide at this time. Beyond that the PPA can only pledge to continue its work with the DOJ and do everything it can to help the DOJ get the process moving as soon as possible. The PPA’s legal team is already working on specific methods to help accomplish this objective.
While there were not many answers to come from this meeting, I do believe that it was beneficial and that there is a clear record for the Department to make the right decisions with respect to the player remission process. We fully expect to keep a continued and open dialogue with the Department and we will continue to update you as more information becomes available.