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Decoding Full Tilt Poker-DOJ-Tapie Plans

by Wendeen H. Eolis

The noise has been deafening since reports of impending victory for full Full Tilt Poker customers began to stream across the internet yesterday.

Since the shutdown of Full Tilt Poker’s operations in the United States April 15 and in Europe June 29, players have eagerly awaited news regarding their account balances on the site. Yesterday they got a blast of news shortly after FTP CEO Ray Bitar shot off an intriguing email to FTP shareholders.  The email was leaked to media and quickly saw the light of day.

At first,  it seemed as if there was little more than the email to report , but on further inspection it was a veritable goldmine for analysis of Full Tilt Poker’s  current state of affairs .  A close reading of the email is as startling as it is reassuring that genuine progress has been made in completing a deal  that resolves the fate of player funds as well as the DOJ’s forfeiture action against FTP.

There is no indication of a possible non-prosecution agreement in the works and it would seem individual directors may still have their hands full. (I’ll come back to these topics at a future time, but for the moment we should move on.

The email told shareholders to get ready to vote on a proposed deal that will allow Group Bernard Tapie “to acquire the companies or assets that comprise FTP, and to do so in a manner that will make DOJ responsible for repayments to American players and GBT responsible for repayments to players in the rest of the world (“ROW”).  

To say the reverberating elation in the air is premature is an understatement, as the wheels of justice continue to turn at a calculated pace determined by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).  According to a former Assistant U. S Attorney (S.D.N.Y) now in private practice, “The Office  (Manhattan U.S. Attorney Office) might well be scratching its collective head as to how and why the poker world seizes on what it wants to hear.”

The Bitar Email to Shareholders Produces Plenty of Food for Thought.

You are invited to feast on a few morsels while shareholders wait for an agreement  on which to vote:

1. The email excludes any language to suggest that the company is being sold outright from FTP to GBT

2. The insertion of an alternative between the company and the company’s assets as the basis for the acquisition makes the presumption of an asset sale of sorts the likely vehicle for the acquisition.

3. The careful language that refuses to refer to a sale at all--only to an acquisition by GBT--suggests that Full Tilt might be turning over/ forfeiting its assets to the DOJ and the DOJ might then flip the assets over to GBT  for a price payable to the U.S. Government by GBT not necessarily even made known to FTP.

4. The “understanding” that “DOJ will reimburse US players” could be a very economical truth; lawyers around town insist that DOJ may not see itself as responsible for paying out the entire player balance total, noting that the monies reflect not only player deposits but also winnings which may be looked differently. 

5. The email’s reference to the DOJ  settling  the outstanding civil litigation with the companies comprising Full Tilt silent as to the DOJ’s responsibility , if any, to settle civil litigation between FTP and anyone other than DOJ.

So far, it looks like only the DOJ is playing with a full deck in this power poker game.

The smart money is betting that we are nearing an historical deal; both in originality and cleverness, and maybe a deal that will effectively bring about a fair deal for players.  

Stay tuned: For my continuing bulletins, reports, and analysis of these fast moving events.  Check back here at  throughout the week,  and see the complete article in print in next week’s edition in Poker Player Newspaper.


Editor’s Note: Wendeen Eolis is CEO of Eolis International Group, a legal/government affairs consultancy with 40+ years of experience in the gaming space, and related responsibilities during her stint as 1st assistant and senior advisor to former New York Governor George E. Pataki. During her spare time, Wendeen became the first woman to cash in the main event of the World Series of Poker and counts six more WSOP prize-winning finishes to her credit.

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