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The Full Tilt Poker Refunds Baby-Step March to Completion

Perhaps you’ve heard this one before: Garden City Group, the federally appointed claims administrator charged with issuing refunds to US players, has announced a round of payments to former US players while reaffirming that the process still has a long way to go.

full-tilt-poker-logoIn a brief update last week issued on its official FullTiltPokerClaims.com website, GCG administrators announced the latest batch of payments, totalling about $2.8 million for roughly 3,500 accounts.  This latest round — the payments are being reported by players beginning yesterday — are for certain disputed accounts where the disputed difference between what players claimed as balances and what the old Full Tilt’s balances showed at the time of its Black Friday-induced closure are for an inconsequential percentage of the overall balance, or for a smallish disputed balance in total.

Usually, but not always, according to first-person anecdotes, the disputed claims have been paid if the total of the difference equals $500 or less.  (A couple of larger ones have been reported, though affected players have been at a loss to explain exactly why.)

Here was a part of the latest update, which GCG provided last week:

GCG has been informed that the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section has approved a new round of payments, which will mark the commencement of payments to Petitioners who have disputed their FTP Account Balances. In addition, payments will be made to Petitioners who have confirmed their FTP Account Balances and recently cured deficiencies. In all, the distribution will include approximately 3,500 Petitions totaling approximately $2.8 million.

Disputing Petitioners who are being paid this month met one of the following established criteria approved by the Department of Justice: (i) a dispute of $500 or less, or (ii) a dispute between $500.01 and $2,000, if the difference between the FTP Account Balance and the disputed amount is 20% or less. All other Petitions with disputed amounts are still under review and, if found to be valid, will be paid in upcoming distributions.

It’s unknown exactly how many disputed accounts remain to be resolved, and those that are outstanding are typically larger-balance accounts that still fall into several categories.  These include two major groups:

  • Large-difference disputes, likely caused by multiple “panic” withdrawals of thousands of dollars in the hours and days immediately following Black Friday, as the poker client remained online and accepting withdrawal requests even though they were never fulfilled.  Some estimates place 1,200 to 1,500 players in this category.
  • Disputed “affiliate” designations assigned to many players.  Full Tilt designated between several hundred and a few thousand players as unofficial affiliates as part of a way to award extra rakeback, usually to friends and friends of friends of the old Team Full Tilt’s circles of poker and business acquaintances.  Since legitimate affiliate-derived income has been ruled out for refund purposes, this means that each of these accounts will now require a manual auditing to determine the nature of how balances were derived.  Each of these accounts may also involve disputed balances as well.

What it means is … a mess, along with months of work ahead for the tedious and manual process to be resolved by GCG and its Department of Justice overseers.  There’s little mystery as to why the larger-balance disputes remain to be resolved.  In addition to involving significant amounts of money, any of these accounts now likely will also face increased tax scrutiny.

While it’s better than not getting any refunds at all, it’s still been a lengthy and angst-producing wait.  In another couple of weeks, we’ll have reached the fourth anniversary of when the old Full Tilt Poker was shuttered.  It’s also been about two years since the whole GCG-based remission process was announced.

No one outside the DOJ and GCG knows exactly how many accounts and how much money remain to be settled, and given that some of these cases may end up in court, it could quite literally stretch on for many more months, perhaps even several years.  Here’s a list of the refund waves GCG has announced and issued (or is in the process of issuing) to date, with approximate figures given:

February, 2014: $76 million, 27,500 accounts

April, 2014: $5 million, 2,200 accounts

June, 2014: $14 million, 3,200 accounts

September, 2014: $1.8 million, 600 accounts

March, 2015: $2.8 million, 3,500 accounts

The totals add to just about $100 million and 38,000 accounts.  This means that more than $70 million of the total given to fund the process by PokerStars, in exchange for the rights to Full Tilt’s global customer base and all other assets, remains to be issued.  As it’s unlikely that all $70 million in remaining money will ever be returned to players — a figure such as $20 million seems more likely — then the numbers themselves suggest that the DOJ and Garden City Group may extract roughly $50 million from their official oversight of the remission process.

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