It appears that the remissions process for U.S. Full Tilt Poker funds will take longer than expected — possibly years.
The Poker Players Alliance met with officials from the U.S. Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture and Money Laudering Section on Tuesday. The officials listened but offered no response to the PPA's suggestions from the player community. If there was any takeaway from the meeting, it was that the DOJ has and will continue to move slowly.
"I don't want to characterize the meeting as encouraging or discouraging," said PPA executive director John Pappas. "I just felt like they have not progressed enough to really get a firm sense of where they're going. That was disappointing, of course, for the fact that I don't think this is going to be a speedy process. I think we all took for granted how quickly PokerStars was able to reimburse players. It's certainly not going to be that sort of process now that the DOJ has their hands on the money."
It's been a little more than three months since the Asset Forfeiture section got the case after the DOJ Southern District of New York settlement with PokerStars included $200 million designated for refunds to Full Tilt Poker players.
In that three months, the only visible progress has been public advertisement looking for bids from third-party claims administrators. Bids have come in but there is no date set for the selection to occur. That will be the first step toward remissions. But before the claim administrator can go to work, the Asset Forfeiture section will need to provide its policies and procedures regarding the remissions.
"I don't want to predict a timetable because I just don't know," Pappas said. "There's the possibility of years. I hope that's not the case."
The PPA made its suggestions on policies at the meeting, mostly reiterating points brought up back in August in this letter. The key issue is that 100 percent of player funds are returned. This seemed to be the plan when the DOJ settlement with PokerStars designated the $200 million when estimates of money owed to FTP players in the U.S. were around $150 million, but it remains an issue of contention.
"Decisions made by the SDNY and remissions of players are run by two different segments within the agency," Pappas said. "It's not clear whether they are compelled to return 100 percent of player funds simply because that is what the DOJ asked for."
Pappas indicated that the officials listened to these arguments, thought they made sense and didn't make any pushback on the points, but also didn't offer any feedback because they haven't yet done the legwork to figure out their intentions.
Asset Forfeiture officials at the meeting noted that the department is handling victim payouts in excess of $3.1 billion this year. They are working on other cases and this issue isn't getting any priority.
"This is certainly not good news for those poker players still awaiting return of their money, but it's all the news the PPA can provide at this time," Pappas said. "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."
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