U.S. Cashouts Delayed on PokerStars, Full Tilt

Justice scales

Despite reaching an agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office to give back its domain names, Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars says U.S. players will not be able to cash out just yet.

Friday, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney charged the principals of three of online poker's biggest sites with bank fraud, illegal gambling and laundering billions of dollars.

In all, 11 defendants were charged, including PokerStars' Isai Scheinberg, Fill Tilt Poker's Ray Bitar and Absolute Poker's Scott Tom.

The Internet domain names used by PokerStars, Full Tilt, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet were seized and began redirecting to a message from the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI.

Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced the office had entered into an agreement with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker to release the domain names and allow U.S. players to register for refund requests directly with the sites.

In a statement released Wednesday, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, "no individual player accounts were ever frozen or restrained, and each implicated poker company has at all times been free to reimburse any player's deposited funds."

However, in a statement of its own, Full Tilt Poker said it cannot allow U.S. players to withdraw their balances just yet.

"The agreement represents an important first step towards returning funds to U.S. players because it allows Full Tilt Poker to utilize its domain to facilitate the withdrawal of player funds," the statement reads.

"But, unfortunately, there remain significant practical and legal impediments to returning funds to players in the immediate future. As a result of the recent enforcement action, there exists no authorized U.S. payment channel through which to make refunds; Full Tilt Poker has no accounting of the millions of dollars of player funds that were seized by the government; and the government has not agreed to permit any of the seized player funds to be returned to the players.

"Finally, there are numerous legal and jurisdictional issues that must be considered before poker winnings can be paid out to players throughout the United States. While Full Tilt Poker continues to believe that online poker is not illegal under federal law or in 49 states, the indictment and civil forfeiture action filed last Friday require Full Tilt Poker to proceed with caution in this area.

"Notwithstanding these issues, Full Tilt Poker is ready to work diligently with the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York to try and resolve these issues and to get players their money back as soon as possible."

PokerStars says the company "categorically denies" the allegations against it and will "robustly defend itself."

In the meantime, while it has stopped offering real money poker in the United States, PokerStars says the agreement should soon allow it to pay out player balances to its former customers in the U.S. - Just not right now.

"Returning US players' funds is a top priority for PokerStars and the company can now start the process of returning money to its former US customers," a statement reads. "All PokerStars player deposits are completely safe...This money is readily available to meet withdrawal demands, indeed the company continues to comply with withdrawal requests from players based outside the U.S. as normal."

However, a FAQ document released by the company Wednesday says it will not allow U.S. players to cash out until a suitable processor is found.

"Cashouts for US residents are expected to be available within several weeks," the document reads.

"The Cash Out option in the PokerStars Cashier will temporarily be unavailable, to allow us to prepare the technical solutions and formulate the plan and processes required to allow you to cash out your balance.

"We will notify all U.S. players as soon as the cashier is available to allow you to proceed to cash out. Providing you with the facility to cash out is our top priority right now, and hopefully all U.S. players will be able to cash out via the PokerStars Cashier in the near future."

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