John Pappas of Poker Players’ Alliance (PPA) had reported recently that US players have to wait some more before they can get their Full Tilt Poker funds. According to Pappa’s statement on the PPA website, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) is now in the process of hiring a claims administrator for Full Tilt Poker.
The scenario reminds Americans of a 2007 incident in which Neteller, widely used by US players to fund their poker accounts and withdraw winnings, said that it needed time to move out of the US market after the UIGEA was passed in 2006. The DoJ, however, was unwilling to wait, arrested Neteller founders Stephen Lawrence and John Lefebvre, and filed money laundering cases on them. Players could not move their funds as US banks refused to process Neteller funds and Neteller froze all US accounts before announcing that it will no longer process funds for US players. The DoJ withdrew around $55 million that were in the process of being transferred and told players that they deserved to lose their money as they had broken the law. Finally, the DoJ decided to refund players and said that it will hire a claims administrator for the process. When it did so, it was in collaboration with Neteller and players were asked to submit their details online. Many high rollers refused to undergo the procedure because they were terrified of either a visit from the DoJ or an IRS audit.
In the Full Tilt Poker case, the DoJ first got Full Tilt Poker, Cereus Poker, and PokerStars out of the market. While PokerStars quickly refunded US players, Full Tilt Poker was unable to do so. The DoJ accused FTP of being a Ponzi Scheme and forced the online poker room to shut down after collaborating with the Alderney Gaming commission. The DoJ also arrested key FTP executives and slapped criminal cases on them. Finally, when US players protested, the DoJ got into a settlement deal with PokerStars, as part of which it purchased FTP for $730 million. While PokerStars agreed to pay back Full Tilt Poker players in the rest of the world, the DoJ took it upon itself to refund US players.
Meanwhile, PokerStars has invited US players to play free poker on Full Tilt Poker till real money poker becomes available to them. This has confused players because the US still has no proper online poker law.