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Full Tilt Poker Hearing: What Happens Next?
Now going on 80 days since Full Tilt Poker was shut down and its license suspended, players around the world are anticipating an end to the stalemate on Monday when its hearing with the Alderney Gambling Control Commission finally resumes.
Set for 9 am at the Riverbank Park Plaza Hotel in London, the hearing this time will be held "in camera" and the public will not be allowed access to the proceedings.
While some have expressed their discontent with the closing of the meeting, most jilted Full Tilt customers at this point care only about one thing - getting the money from their FTP accounts back.
For their parts, both the AGCC and Full Tilt released statements this week in advance of the hearing.
The AGCC focused its statement on why the hearing will now be in private instead of in public (balancing the interests of all parties).
Full Tilt instead focused its release on its intentions to repay players in full and to continue serving non-US customers should its license be reinstated.
FTP also said it is facing a €12m shortfall thanks to the effects of Black Friday, and if it were to compensate for that shortfall entirely through staff redundancies it would cut 250 jobs from the Pocket Kings office in Dublin.
Past the official statements, the real question on Full Tilt players' minds is what they can realistically expect for their FTP money post-hearing.
Industry-wide, the consensus seems to be the following are the possible options:
Investor Found, License Reinstated
The best-case scenario for FTP account holders on Monday is Full Tilt uses the meeting with the AGCC to confirm it has a deal in place with an investor, European or otherwise.
Based on the previous hearing and the resolution of the issue of Full Tilt not paying its outstanding licensing fees, this seems to be the major sticking point in getting its license reinstated.
If that's so and FTP's license is reinstated, it's assumed the investor will then inject the needed capital into the company to repay all American players immediately and get the site back up and running and serving all non-US customers.
Given the circumstances, the investor will also likely need to provide an extra stash of cash reserves to accommodate a rush on cashouts from all international players not willing to keep their business at FTP.
The latest from Full Tilt regarding investors came in a statement on August 22 that said Pocket Kings had "concluded the exclusivity period of negotiations" with an original potential investor and that it had begun negotiations with additional potential investors.
License Not Reinstated, FTP Moves to Kahnawake
Full Tilt’s secondary license is held by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission in Quebec, and rumors had FTP moving its operating platform over to Kahnawake back on June 30 when its license with the AGCC was supended.
FTP thought better of it and has instead waited through the Alderney process in hopes of securing a new investor and reinstating its primary license.
FTP could theoretically resume operation under its secondary Kahnawake license, but its credibility would be virtually impossible to restore and it would seem implausible it could run a viable operation.
A run on cashouts would also likely ensue once the site was running again and FTP may or may not have any reserves available to pay out what’s needed.
License Not Reinstated, Full Tilt Goes Back into Holding Pattern
It’s also quite possible, according to FTP’s current attorney Jeff Ifrah (despite his motion to step down), that the hearing with the AGCC on Monday will result in another postponement.
FTP has contended privacy and confidentiality are critical to securing an outside investor to both settle with the DOJ and pay back accounts, and they could make the case they still need more time to make it happen.
Given the AGCC has always stated the best interests of the players is the number one priority, this is a viable scenario according to Ifrah.
Unfortunately for players, unless the DOJ unfreezes Full Tilt’s seized bank accounts their FTP money and FTP accounts would likely remain in limbo.
For American players willing to start over however, there is still the possibility of playing online poker in the interim before the inevitable licensing and regulation of the US poker market.
A couple of active poker networks are still accepting US players, including the Cake Poker network and the Merge Gaming Network.
Another option for American players has been to relocate to other countries around the world to resume playing online.
Americans who want to play free poker also will have a couple of new options coming as two land-based casinos, South Point in Las Vegas and Barona in San Diego, have announced they are launching free-play online sites in the coming weeks.
Speculation is that the land-based casinos are ramping up now to be fully operational for real-money online poker as soon as legislation is passed.
For players outside of the US, dozens of licensed and regulated poker sites such as Poker Stars, 888 Poker, bwin Poker, Titan Poker and Party Poker are of course all still available to most of the world.
Many online poker sites are even offering new and generous sign-up bonuses and promotions to cater to FTP refugees.
All sites on the iPoker network, for example, have bumped their sign-up bonuses to $2,000 and most sites are offering equal VIP status with proof from their previous VIP level at Full Tilt.
Should Full Tilt’s license be officially revoked by the AGCC on Monday and no investor has been found, Full Tilt could pull the plug and declare insolvency.
Regardless of the ongoing civil action pending from players hoping to get their FTP money back, there seems to be little chance players will see any money returned in this type of scenario.
With no active online poker revenue, a large staff still needing to be paid and a massive payment pending with the US Department of Justice, it would seem unlikely Full Tilt would be able to pay back any of its creditors let alone the estimated $150 million owed to its US players alone.
Stay tuned to the PokerListings news section for an update on the meeting with the AGCC Monday.