Posts Tagged ‘Alderney Gambling Control Commission’

October 21, 2011

Wider World of Poker

AGCC miscalculations, WHO's Israeli uprising, a troublesome Turkish blockade, and one hot Danish model

Slip off your coat and make your way into my small corner of Pokerati — a newly built alcove in Dan’s diamond-encrusted virtual mansion where I’ll bring you a weekly caché of poker and gambling news that the American-centric poker media may have overlooked. So put down your rodeos and pretend football as we give the poker globe a spin to discover piquant revelations and heart-warming tales of human endeavour from elsewhere around the world.

 

Dodgy Maths at the AGCC #

alderney mapThe Alderney Gambling Control Commission fell under the terrifying gaze of Subject Poker this week. The Commission’s report on their Full Tilt Poker hearing claimed that US Department of Justice had seized $331 million worth of FT cash. The real figure is closer to $159 million, argues the Subject reporter, with the larger number including money lost over and above Black Friday seizures. Either way, more numbers for Full Tilt and Alderney that don’t add up as they’ve been presented. [Subject Poker]

 

Mass Walkout at William Hill’s Israeli Office #

israel mapBritish bookmakers William Hill are at panic stations after a large chunk of their customer support staff enacted an impromptu strike last Sunday. The staff were upset at rumoured plans to move the office outside Israel. Will Hill Online deny they have any plans to relocate, but for a while it seemed like the civil unrest might spread, with offices in Bulgaria and the Philippines laying down their telephones in solidarity? [Telegraph.co.uk]

 

Turkey and Sportingbet Go to War #

turkey mapSportingbet have been fluttering their eyelashes at Ladbrokes for the past few weeks in vain hope of encouraging an acquisition. Any deal would’ve been conditional, however, on Sportingbet’s withdrawal from the volatile Turkish market; and although negotiations with Ladbrokes have broken down, Sportingbet were hours away from selling ‘Superbahis.com’ to GVC Holdings PLC. That was until the local government suddenly blocked the website. [The Guardian]

 

Denmark Unveils Plans to Regulate Online Gambling #

denmark mapThe European Commission are so happy with new Danish gaming regulations that they are recommending them as a model for all other EU nations to follow. But the new rules controversially require lower taxes from online gambling companies than those paid by existing land-based casinos. [Financial Times]

Apparently at Pokerati we’re supposed to take pride in any appearance of not working, so I’m off to the rainswept British coast for a week of holiday, but will be back to let my distinguished American cohorts know what they missed while I was gone and they were sleeping.

Posted by at 5:58 pm

October 10, 2011

Interview with the Alderney Gambling Control Commissioner

APCW Perspectives Weekly

LAS VEGAS–This week J Todd travels to the Global Gaming Expo. In his exclusive video interview with Andre Wilsenach, the CEO of Alderney Gambling Control Commission, Mr Wilsenach clearly points the blame at Full Tilt Poker for their ‘deceptive’ reporting and business practices. However, this leaves many to wonder if the AGCC really believes they are free of blame in this situation, and how “regulation” will change in the evolving online gambling and poker industry.

Posted by at 9:35 pm

July 29, 2011

Missing Money & Missing the Point

Clearing up the issue of Full Tilt's 250k Alderney debt.

Since Tuesday’s Full Tilt hearing, a surprising amount of misinformation has been swilling around the internet. Surprising, because so few details emerged in the first place. After just 45 minutes, press and public were frogmarched from the building, leaving everyone to pore over a few snippets of legal jargon. Trawling through internet forums and Twitter feeds, I’ve noticed that people seem particularly confused about the £250,000 in unpaid licensing fees owed by Full Tilt.

[CORRECTION: oops, £250,000, as in British pounds … not $250,000 as originally reported. £250k is roughly equal to US$400k.-dm]

Perhaps I shouldn’t be that shocked that those without direct access to the hearing have picked up misconceptions. The internet has an incredible ability to play Chinese Whispers with even the smallest morsel. Still, you’d expect someone sat a few rows behind me to have the right end of the stick.

Harry Demetriou is fast becoming a folk hero among disgruntled Full Tilt customers. When the Alderney Gambling Control Commission announced that proceedings were to continue in private, he rose to his feet and charged from the room, accusing the panel of protecting a “corrupt” organization. On Wednesday he posted an open letter to the Commission, in which he makes mention of the “250k licence fee that Full Tilt Poker have promised to pay you in the next seven days.”

This is wrong. I was in the room when this topic was raised, so I’ll do my best to clarify. Let’s run through the chain of events as they occurred.

After a long explanation of why he believed that a motion to adjourn should be held in private, Full Tilt lawyer Martin Heslop ceded the floor to a pair of AGCC lawyers. At this point, no mention had been made of the missing money. Speaking slowly into their microphones, Alderney’s legal team took a few moments to express ambivalence towards a private hearing. Just before handing back to the panel, they noted that there were two allegations to be made regarding the suspension of the license. In addition to problems related to Black Friday, there was the small point of a missing $250,000 licensing fee.

The commission were ready to move on, before Heslop interjected, asking if he could make a response. Stoic chairwoman Isabel Picornell leant over to her legal advisor, who responded with a quick nod of approval. In his rebuttal, Heslop offered to explain why the $250,000 had not been paid. He claimed that Full Tilt knew their license was approaching suspension and therefore decided it would be foolish to fork over the cash.

This is the point at which Harry diverges from reality. Heslop closed by adding that Full Tilt would be happy to pay the quarter of a million within seven days, should the license be reinstated. There was no offer to pay in the next week regardless of whether or not Full Tilt were back in business. If they return to Alderney they will need new investment. Demetriou need not be worried that the AGCC are, “going to cause an even greater shortfall in the funds needing to be paid back to the players.”

Some have interpreted the offer as a bribe. A large cash incentive to get the AGCC to arbitrate in their favour. I can’t totally rule this out, but it seems pretty unlikely. Full Tilt’s non-payment is part of why their license was suspended in the first place. There’s no way Full Tilt can ask to be let back into town, but then refuse to pay the upkeep. The AGCC know this. It’s their rule. It would be like trying to bribe the government by offering to pay your taxes.

Rage against Full Tilt to your heart’s content, but don’t expect to get any facts if you don’t have any to start with.

Posted by at 6:32 am

July 27, 2011

Waiting for Bitar

Alderney hearing: a tragicomedy in two acts?

howard lederer ray bitar alderney

NO PLAYING AROUND, but who then is toying with whom?

LONDON — Those hoping for a definitive answer on the future of Full Tilt and their funds will have to wait a little longer. After a full day of packed public hearing and nearly six hours of private deliberations at the Victoria Plaza Hotel, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission granted Full Tilt’s application to have the hearing adjourned. The AGCC says it will reconvene replacement proceedings no later than September 15th.

Panel chairwoman Isabel Picornell said the commission were convinced that a delay was “in the best interests of FTP customers” — primarily because Full Tilt could use that extra time to complete any investment deal. The AGCC understand, she continued, that exposing commercially sensitive information rides roughshod over hopes of a bailout that refunds players.

More…

Posted by at 4:28 am

July 26, 2011

Tilt on Tilt

The Full Tilt section 49 hearing in London is continuing. The hearing commissioners are apparently considering whether to continue the proceedings in camera (i.e., in private), further to Full Tilt’s lawyers’ strong contention that the hearing should not be held in the public glare. Joseph Ewens has written a good update on what’s happening here.

Right now, there is a great deal of frustration – even anger – at the prospect of the proceedings continuing behind closed doors. That’s understandable. Players are going on minimal information and want answers about what happened to their funds and when (if) they’ll be paid back. They also want to know if and how the AGCC could have monitored Tilt more closely.

Balanced against this are the facts that two alleged principals of Full Tilt are facing serious federal charges in the United States. Counsel to Tilt will do everything possible to avoid prejudicing those individuals’ interests in the SDNY proceedings. Furthermore, if there are – and I hope there are – negotiations to purchase assets and (crucially) assume player liabilities, there are likely confidentiality provisions embedded in those discussions. The confidentiality clauses are likely drafted such that they don’t apply to information ordered to be disclosed under applicable law by a court or administrative tribunal of competent jurisdiction. (If they’re not, the confidentiality provisions may be inapplicable, in part.) Let’s assume that the Alderney regulators fit this definition. Even so, counsel to Tilt can hardly be blamed for wanting to keep this outside of the public eye unless and until there’s a deal to report out.

I’m sympathetic to those who want this to continue in full view of an interested and informed public. I think the bottom line, however, is that I don’t necessarily see public hearings as being conducive to a transaction (again, if one is in the works). Unfortunately, I believe that the best hope for players getting paid back is for someone else to step in and cover the bill. If that means a private hearing to give a confidential update to the AGCC for now, we should endorse that – not happily, or enthusiastically, but in order to be realistic about the facts as we find them right now.

If this goes forward in camera and it turns out there’s no deal in the works or it turns out to be a stalling tactic, I expect that the Gambling Control Commission will throw this back into a public hearing, among other actions that they can take. For now, I think we should respect the process. There are some who feel that the AGCC can’t be trusted and is discredited for ‘allowing’ things with Tilt to get to this stage in the first place. I’m also sympathetic to that line of argument, but I don’t think that the possibility that US players’ interests will be served by having these proceedings go forward behind closed doors should be dismissed out of hand.

Posted by at 6:51 am

Full Tilt Shut Out the Public at Alderney Hearing

LONDON — I am sat here, closeted in a London cafe, writing. Across the street, in the Park Plaza Victoria Hotel, Full Tilt’s lawyers are arguing forcefully to have their hearing with the Alderney Gambling Control Commission adjourned. I would be there, along with the assembled media, public, and business representatives, but we were all thrown out.

Full Tilt’s lawyers, lead by Martin Heslop QC of Jeffrey Green Russell, began proceedings by announcing that they would like the hearing to be adjourned. He then launched into a precise run down of why that application for an adjournment should be held in private. Never mind the application for a delay, Full Tilt’s lawyers wanted to prohibit all onlookers before the hearing got anywhere close to starting.

I’ll delve deeper into their arguments later on, but highlights involved Heslop claiming that the “publicity would be prejudicial to the interest of justice,” and that a secret hearing was in the best interests of Full Tilt’s customers. He even went on to invoke the Human Rights Act.

The meek pair of Alderney lawyers made a brief response, indicating that they would neither support or oppose any motion to adjourn. With that sentiment lingering in the air, the three Commissioners retired to a back room to consider Full Tilt’s proposal.

The Alderney posse did raise the interesting issue of $250,000 in unpaid licensing payments. Although enforced secrecy means I can’t access all the information, it was interesting to hear Martin Heslop reply that Full Tilt did not fork over the cash, because they saw no value in paying for a license that was going to be revoked.

When the AGCC reps returned, their approval of Heslop’s request was not met with overwhelming support. Veteran UK pro Harry Demetriou was so outraged that he stormed from the room, accusing Full Tilt of corruption. After a round of applause from the disgruntled onlookers, we trudged demurely for the exit as Heslop and co. looked on triumphant.

The panel are expected to announce their decision regarding an adjournment in the next hour. While there’s still room for a surprise, the forecast is grim.

Posted by at 5:08 am

July 24, 2011

Full Tilt’s Euro Backers Yet To Commit As Hearing Approaches

LONDON–There’s nothing more exciting than mysterious European investors. The kind of people who turn up in blurry photographs, wearing sunglasses while looking into the middle distance.

At least that’s how I imagine the potential saviours of Full Tilt Poker must look. The beleaguered online poker provider is currently locked in negotiations with a secretive group of moneymen, who have designs on a portion of Full Tilt’s Euro operation. Ahead of next week’s landmark hearing in London, these briefcase wielding millionaires could be the last hope for the ‘Home of the Pros’.

An official announcement on the deal was expected late last week. No such missive emerged, but the news hounds at EGR Magazine did manage to rustle up a ‘source connected to the suspended poker company.’

Most important, the insider indicates that the buyout will have “nothing to do with [Full Tilt’s] stateside activities.” That would leave thousands of U.S. players waiting for Howard Lederer to refund their frozen bankrolls weeping on the sidelines.

The linchpin of the sale could be Pocket Kings, the company responsible for Full Tilt Poker’s software and marketing. The value of the actual Full Tilt brand is amorphous at best and will depend heavily on the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing.

The former online poker behemoths are being held to account by the gambling commission of Alderney, a small island off the coast of France, where their gambling operations are licensed. Following the events of Black Friday, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission revoked their license, effectively shutting down the entire network.

As a member of the Channel Islands, Alderney is governed by UK law, so the AGCC are taking a short plane trip to London to present their evidence in public. I’ll be entrenched on location, sneaking out morse code transmissions tweets (@JoeOE18) to keep you in the loop. Keep your eyeballs glued to Pokerati for hard hitting analysis as the hearing continues.

Posted by at 11:40 am

July 19, 2011

“Reported” Full Tilt Payback: Lederer Ships @ToddBrunson $150k?

And did Doyle buy the FTP farm in Bellagio chips?

The 2011 WSOP wouldn’t be the 2011 WSOP without chatter about Full Tilt. And here, on the last day, Howard Lederer makes another appearance in Las Vegas, apparently at another Asian restaurant. But this time it was none other than Todd Brunson who had the unexpected run-in with the once-proud father-figure of Full Tilt Poker.

And Brunson reports — via the often unreliable Twitter — that he got paid his Full Tilt balance of about $150k … in a way that suggests Lederer is either going door-to-door making payouts (perhaps tidying up affairs before he has to “go away”?) or possibly just living out of his car …

Todd Brunson
He asked how much I had on tilt and I told him 150k.. He said come with me. We went to his car and he opened his trunk and paid me!!!!!! 23 hours ago
Todd BrunsonToddBrunson
Look who I just ran into.. I told him the wsop killed me and I was cash short…… http://lockerz.com/s/121600156 23 hours ago

Either way, the stress seems to be doing Lederer right, physically at least, as the previous poster boy for the well-fed high-stakes “poker body” seems to have shed a few (dozen?) pounds around the saddle.

howard lederer todd brunson
Persona non grata: You mean you haven’t been paid yet? Have you submitted your W-9?

And while it would be nice if someone really did get their Full Tilt balance refunded … it can’t be an ideal structure for payouts when they’re happening out of the trunk of a car, even if it is a $250k Audi.

Doyle said to have been buying up Full Tilt dollars at a discount

Meanwhile, since we’re relying on Twitter here … this seems as good a time to pass on a “rumor” that I feel confident enough about the source — someone inside Bobby’s Room — that it might reveal why Brunson’s father, Doyle, has been extra sour on poker as of late.

Supposedly, a few weeks ago, Doyle was playing in Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio, and he was tweeting about his slaughter of Billy Baxter. Soon, talk shifted (off-Twitter) to Full Tilt’s money problems. Brunson reportedly said he was confident they intended to pay, and believed they eventually would … and with that began buying up Full Tilt accounts for about 60 cents on the dollar. Can’t confirm the exact amount he purchased … but the kinda money that people playing in the highest-stakes cash game in Vegas might have on Full Tilt Poker.

The next day, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission suspended Full Tilt’s license, effectively shutting the site down indefinitely.

Posted by at 11:52 pm

July 16, 2011

LOL: Nevada Regulators Get Email

You can’t really claim to set the “gold standard” for gambling regulation if your licensees still have to submit their reports via fax. Thankfully, as Harry Reid’s home state of Nevada gets its regulations in order to accommodate online poker and probably more — not to mention the new NV law allowing them to regulate future legal online gambling… the Nevada Gaming Control Board just made a rather major shift not just by allowing email submissions, but requiring them.

Seriously, this shift into the 21st late 20th century dramatically alters daily activity in every Vegas casino with a poker room … Wonder if Nevada Gaming learned about this “email” tactic on their junkets to Alderney.

The Alderney Gambing Control Commission — which will be making its own determination on the fate of Full Tilt Poker later this month — partnered with Nevada regulators in January, shortly after the Reid Bill somehow didn’t pass.

Posted by at 1:54 am

July 1, 2011

Ivey’s White Knight Deal Almost Done + Full Tilt Poker

Wicked Chops Podcast

We recorded our first Wicked Chops Podcast yesterday with some friends from across the pond–Ben Fried, who launched Betfair’s poker room–and Kim Lund, who did the same for Poker Room. While some of the content is already dated (a lot of it is speculation about Tilt’s future in light of the AGCC license revocation), still some interesting European perspective on the Tilt situation and their international market perception.

Listen, and read more here.

Posted by at 8:51 am

June 29, 2011

Alderney Suspends Full Tilt’s Gaming License

Beleaguered online poker site down for good?

The Alderney Gambling Control Commission has suspended the gaming license of Full Tilt Poker and Vantage Limited dba FullTilt.com. The AGCC says they must stop any and all operations from the UK Crown Dependency immediately.

Is this a final nail in the coffin for the once almighty poker dominion belonging primarily to a man named Jesus?

EGR had it first, and promises more play-by-play.

Alderney is one of three eight “white-listed” regulatory jurisdictions in the UK — along with Isle of Man and Gibraltar — meaning their licensees can advertise freely and enjoy the benefits of fully legitimate, properly taxed corporations.

full tilt maintenance

Alderney also partnered with Nevada back in January — as the Nevada Gaming Control Board looked to study effective online gaming regulation and assess the suitability of 888, which partnered with Caesars for online poker operations related to WSOP.com.

No word on whether or not the WSOP plans to remove Chris Ferguson’s main event championship banner as they have with Russ Hamilton’s.

For now Full Tilt is apparently down for “scheduled maintenance” … and your money is safe and secure?

UPDATE: Here is the AGCC’s official statement.

Posted by at 5:05 am

January 27, 2011

Vegas Comes to the Channel Islands

Alderney & Nevada Regulators Sign Memorandum of Understanding

I was all set this morning to write a blog entry on the continuing dispute in Kennedy & Omotoy v. Full Tilt Poker et al. (The original post by Dan Michalski was back in 2009.) This litigation is fascinating; it has bounced from state court to federal court and back to state court in California, and an update would be fun. But something else caught my eye: a public statement from the Alderney Gambling Control Commission stating that Alderney has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The statement is here.

As just about everyone familiar with Internet gambling is aware, Alderney is one of the handful of jurisdictions worldwide that actually licenses online interactive gaming, including poker. (Other such jurisdictions include Gibraltar, Malta, the Isle of Man, Antigua, and Kahnawake.) Probably the most prominent poker website operating under Alderney’s regulation is www.fulltiltpoker.com. Obviously Tilt is a US-facing site, which is interesting fact number 1. Interesting fact number 2 is that Alderney only regulates i-gaming. This makes sense. The place is a speck of an island off the north-western coast of France with a population of 2,400; it doesn’t have any bricks and mortar casinos.

The agreement between Nevada and Alderney “paves the way for enhanced cooperation in the field of gaming regulation.” Not too helpfully, the public statement specifies that this co-operation will extend to “the areas of sharing of information, expertise, knowledge and skills as well as exchange visits and training.” I hope for the sake of the Alderney parties that the “exchange visits” are mostly one-way and in Vegas, especially at this time of year.

So the Internet gaming regulator of a US-facing poker site (that, along with all currently US-facing poker sites) has a memorandum of understanding prescribing areas of co-operation with Nevada. (Don’t parse that previous sentence too closely; Nevada may still have a problem with i-gaming operators that turned off US players back in 2006 when the UIGEA was passed and that aren’t currently US-facing.) And since Alderney only regulates Internet gaming, the co-operation must be at least partly with a view to Nevada understanding and learning more about Internet gaming. Apparently Nevada doesn’t have a problem with recognizing the authority of Alderney to regulate Internet gaming; it only has a problem with the behaviour (sanctioned by Alderney) of some of their licensees. These kinds of agreements between gaming regulators aren’t particularly new. The Kahnwake Gaming Commission has struck agreements with Alderney and with Antigua that would appear to go much further than this accord between Alderney-Nevada. But it’s still interesting that Nevada is reaching out to engage with current online regulators – even online regulators that accept US-facing licensees.

What this means for Internet poker in the US is anyone’s guess, but it seems clear that Nevada is heading for regulation at some point. Nevada regulators were going to be at the forefront of the licensing structure contemplated by the Reid Bill draft that was floating around last month. The Nevada Gaming Commission was going to be one of the leading Qualified Bodies under the bill on a number of measures. It’s safe to say that Nevada will have a leading role if poker regulation happens at the federal level in the next couple of years; federal action may actually be more likely if more and more states start regulating intrastate gaming, including poker. At an intrastate level, Nevada’s signals have been mixed at best. This kind of agreement with Alderney, however, may indicate that Nevada could be thinking about going its own way absent federal interactive gaming oversight.

Internet poker regulation in the US may be one (very small) step closer.

Posted by at 11:39 am