Update: Nov. 17, 3:21 p.m.: CNN Money appears to have published and subsequently deleted an announcement that GBT had finalized an agreement to acquire Full Tilt Poker. IBTimes has found some indication that a story about a possible acquisition remains under embargo. We will provide an update as soon as we have more information.
Full Tilt Poker players who were allegedly defrauded of their online poker deposits are reportedly becoming anxious as they await news on a deal between Full Tilt Poker's parent company, a French investor, and the U.S. Department of Justice that is expected to result in actions intended to refund the players of over $300 million.
The delay is reportedly unrelated to recent court papers filed by Full Tilt Poker executive Christopher Jesus Ferguson laying claim to hundreds of millions in funds seized by the U.S. government in legal action against the online poker operation.
In early November, GBT CEO Laurent Tapie told the French poker magazine iGamingFrance that an acquisition agreement was expected to be finalized, and repayment plans confirmed, within two weeks.
The laywer for Group Bernard Tapie, the intended buyer, said he remains optimistic the concerned parties would soon finalize an agreement though the two week mark is fast approaching.
We are waiting to hear back from the DoJ and still hoping to finalize an agreement, GBT attorney Behnam Dayanim told Poker News Report. It takes time. We have an oral understanding with the DoJ that we're trying to reduce to writing.
As IBTimes previously reported, Full Tilt Poker was accused of running a global Ponzi scheme and was the recipient of both Federal and civil complaints alleging the online gaming company violated regulations and mishandled player funds.
Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a motion to amend a previous federal complaint again Full Tilt Poker to include misuse of players' funds to the charges.
In the statement, Mr. Bharara claims Full Tilt Poker cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars and that insiders lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited with the company.
The complaint accused Full Tilt executives -- which include Ferguson and another famous poker player, Howard Lederer and -- of pocketing $440 million dollars in player deposits that were supposed to be in secure accounts. Previously, poker player Phil Ivey sued the company, claiming Full Tilt Poker failed to maintain a reserve account sufficient to satisfy the return of funds to U.S. players.
In a statement on its Web site, Full Tilt Poker blamed government enforcement activities and significant theft for its cash-flow problems. The statement insists that Full Tilt Poker has been actively exploring opportunities with outside investors in order to stabilize the company and pay back our players. It says that company is fully committed to paying them back in full and restoring confidence in our operations.
According to a September article in Forbes magazine, Lederer claimed the company only had $6 million in funds remaining -- nowhere near enough to refund players whose accounts had been frozen.
But in early October --shortly after the Alderley Gaming Control commission revoked Full Tilt Poker's operating license -- Group Bernard Tapie announced plans to acquire Full Tilt Poker. The purchase was subject to multiple conditions, including an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to reimburse players whose accounts had been frozen. According to Poker News Report, Group Bernard Tapie was hoping the Dept. of Justice would refund the players from the over $300 million in seized assets, and allow GBT an extended period to pay off Full Tilt Poker's fines.
According to a Nov. 4 Wall Street Journal report, a source close to the situation said Group Bernard Tapie would pay an amount of money to the Justice Department to resolve the civil dispute with the Justice Department and refund the overseas players, per the agreement, which would require U.S. players to file claims with the Dept. of Justice to facilitate a refund. There was no indication on the exact sum GBT would pay the Dept. of Justice in regards to U.S. players' claims.
Behnam Dayanim, an attorney for GBT, explained to Poker News Report why the U.S. and overseas player pools were being handled separately.
There are two big differences between U.S. and Rest-of-World players, Dayanim said. One difference is that the DoJ views the activity of Full Tilt in offering wagers to U.S. players as being unlawful. It doesn't take that view with ROW [overseas] players.
IBTimes found a press release claiming the Full Tilt Poker investment deal had collapsed, but cannot verify its legitimacy. It appears to have been generated by a possible competitor of Full Tilt Poker.