It is all systems go now for Full Tilt Poker’s resurrection. Today, the Rational Group, operator of both Full Tilt and PokerStars, announced that the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission has granted Full Tilt Poker an online gaming license.
News like this would have been unheard of earlier this year, as Full Tilt Poker was as good as dead and gone. All that was left was a few last shovels of dirt. In April 2011, on the day known as Black Friday, principals of Full Tilt, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker were indicted by the United States government, charged with various violations of the law such as money laundering and illegal gambling. In the mess, the domain names of all three poker sites were seized, player funds were frozen, and the poker rooms immediately withdrew from the U.S. market. PokerStars got things worked out, regaining its domain name and returning funds to U.S. customers, but Full Tilt completely fell apart.
It soon became known that Full Tilt Poker did not have the money to repay any of its customers, not even ones outside the U.S. At the time of the indictments, Full Tilt was experiencing an extreme shortfall, as it had previously credited player accounts with money it had been unable to transfer from player bank accounts. Additionally, higher-ups at Full Tilt, such as CEO Ray Bitar, had continued to take distributions from company, money that came directly from player funds.
In August, the Rational Group and PokerStars came to the rescue, agreeing to purchase Full Tilt Poker. As part of the agreement, $547 million will be paid to the U.S. government and $184 will go towards non-U.S. player repayment. Payments to U.S. customers ($159 million) will come out of the sum collected by the U.S. government.
PokerStars plans to relaunch Full Tilt Poker on November 6th with a new senior management team in place.
In a press release, Steve Brennan, Chief Executive Officer of the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission said, “The Gambling Supervision Commission is confident that Full Tilt Poker will safeguard the interests of its players and adhere to the strict policies and procedures governing Isle of Man licensed gaming companies. Full Tilt Poker’s application was strengthened by the fact that their new owners and management team are known to us and have an impeccable record of compliance with the Isle of Man’s regulatory requirements.”
Full Tilt Poker had previously been licensed by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC), but had that license revoked in September 2011. At the time, Andre Wilsenach, executive director of the AGCC, gave his reasoning for the revocation, saying, “Full Tilt Poker had fundamentally misled AGCC about their operational integrity by continuously reporting as liquid funds balances that had been covertly seized or restrained by U. S. authorities, or that were otherwise not actually available to the operator. Serious breaches of AGCC regulations include false reporting, unauthorised provision of credit, and failure to report material events.”
Things have changed, of course, and the management and ownership that created those problems is no longer part of the company.