“We fully expect to participate in a future regulated US market”
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Eric Hollreiser, Pokerstars Head of Corporate Communications, gave details about the agreement reached by the company and the US DOJ regarding Full Tilt Poker.
How will you describe the entire process that has required the agreement that you have reached with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding Full Tilt Poker?
We have reached a settlement of the civil charges filed against us by the U.S. Department of Justice related to our former business offering real-money online poker. As part of the settlement agreement, PokerStars has also acquired the assets of Full Tilt Poker, and we have committed to the full reimbursement of Full Tilt Poker customers outside the United States.
The total amount to be paid by PokerStars is us$ 547 million which will be payable over a period of three years. The money paid to the US Government will in part be used to reimburse former Full Tilt Poker customers in the United States, through a remission process to be administered by the Department of Justice. PokerStars repaid all amounts owing to its own U.S. customers shortly after it closed its U.S. operations in April 2011.
PokerStars will also make available in a segregated bank account, all outstanding balances owing to all non-U.S. customers of Full Tilt Poker (an amount totalling us$ 184 million), with no restrictions on withdrawals, within 90 days of completing this transaction. PokerStars has remained open for non-U.S. players, with all its licenses in good standing, without interruptions.
Under the agreement with the Department of Justice, PokerStars does not admit to any wrongdoing. Furthermore, the agreement explicitly permits PokerStars to apply to relevant U.S. gaming authorities, under both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker brands, to offer real money online poker when State or Federal governments introduce a framework to regulate such activity.
When will Full Tilt Poker's players start to recover their funds?
We have committed to pay Full Tilt Poker players outside the U.S. by November 6, 2012. We will re-open the site within that time frame in most of the world and players will have full access to their accounts. The DOJ is responsible for U.S. players, so any queries about this should be directed to them.
Are you planning to re-launch Full Tilt Poker brand? What can you anticipate about it?
Yes, we will re-launch Full Tilt Poker in most markets by November 6, 2012. It is too early to begin discussing the finer details of our strategy. For now the important thing is to understand that we see a future where both brands work and compete alongside each other, providing poker players with more choice, more excitement and more promotions than ever. Together, PokerStars and Full Tilt can grow the poker market globally faster than either brand could in isolation. This will become clearer in the coming months. For now we must focus on re-opening the Full Tilt site, repaying players and restoring Full Tilt’s reputation.
What will change for Full Tilt Poker employees? Are you planning to hire new staff members?
At the moment we are concentrating on the management and operational challenges of re-opening the site and paying back players. We are maintaining the workforce in Dublin and expect that office to grow.
Is PokerStars preparing itself for an imminent US federal online gambling law?
We fully expect to participate in a future regulated US market. Just what form that will take (state-by-state or federal regulation) remains to be seen. We’ll certainly watch the developments closely and make decisions based upon the circumstances. We are the leading online poker site and licensed in more countries than anyone in the industry. We bring tremendous value, credibility and integrity to the marketplace. With our US legal issues now resolved, we are a very qualified candidate for a license.
What are your plans for the coming months?
For Full Tilt Poker, we are focused on getting the site up-and-running, repaying players and restoring the brand’s reputation.
For PokerStars, we are maintaining our leadership position and seeking to grow the market globally. We’ll continue to advocate responsible practices and promote smart regulation of our industry.