Many eyes have been closely following the story of PokerStars‘ takeover of Full Tilt Poker, and for good reason. How this matter is handled will ultimately reflect either positively or negatively upon the online poker industry as a whole, and moreover, there are a lot of folks in the US whose money has been frozen on the site ever since Black Friday who are wondering when and if they are ever going to be able to collect on their accounts. For those who have been living under a rock for the past month or so, PokerStars has agreed to hand over a total of $547 million to the US Justice Department to purchase the site and to repay US players who had funds on the site at the time of its shutdown by the United States government in April of 2011.
Despite widespread chatter on the internet and an article on Forbes.com speculating that the Justice Department isn’t exactly eager to return the full value of players’ accounts on Full Tilt, a recent post on PokerFuse notes that the Justice Department is seeking a payment processor to oversee the returning of funds to US players. The Justice Department has said that the $159 million owed players is “immediately available for distribution via the remission process.” The application deadline for the processor position is August 31, so it is unlikely that any news will be available to players seeking restitution for many weeks to come. PokerStars has initiated their first payment of $225 million due as part of the settlement terms, so Justice certainly has the cash on hand to begin returning to victim players.
According to Card Player, PokerStars is returning about $184 million owed to foreign players directly. Jeff Ifrah, an attorney who worked on the deal between PokerStars and the Department of Justice, remarked that the goal of hiring of a payment processor was to complete the remission process as quickly and smoothly as possible. Meanwhile the Pokers Players Alliance has also gotten involved, urging the full return of player accounts. There has been some speculation that only initial deposits will be returned.
Speaking on behalf of the PPA, pro Greg Raymer said, “The PPA is there to make sure [processing] fees are minimal for the player. Some [company] is certainly going to make some money. The DOJ isn’t a payment processing company.”
Raymer also noted that while the PPA as an organization is not the right choice to oversee remission, they are calling for fair and fast return of frozen funds. As for the newly reborn Full Tilt, PokerStars expects to have it open shortly in foreign markets, however it will not be operational in the United States until there is movement on online poker regulation at either the state or federal level.