DOJ Announces AbsolutePoker’s Victims Will be Paid

Posted on: April 11, 2017, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: April 11, 2017, 10:09h.

AbsolutePoker’s US victims may yet receive compensation. In a surprise announcement by the DOJ, Monday, Joon H Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that a process to “compensate eligible victims of a fraud committed by Absolute Poker” would begin.

Joon H Kim announces AbsolutePoker remissions
Joon H Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, has announced the process of reimbursing AbsolutePoker’s US players would soon begin, using funds left over from PokerStars’ 2013 payment to the DOJ. (Image: Korean Times)

It’s almost exactly six years ago that the DOJ shut down the three largest online poker sites serving the US market, FullTilt, PokerStars and Absolute Poker’s CEREUS network, on the day that came to be known by online poker players as “Black Friday.”  

The DOJ accused these operators of bank fraud and money laundering on the grounds that they had tricked banks into processing billions of online poker transactions in violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

AP’s Black Friday Melt Down

AbsolutePoker collapsed shortly after Black Friday, owing its players millions, and, because, like FullTilt and its sister site UltimateBet, it had failed to segregate player funds from its operating costs, it couldn’t pay.

Absolute Poker’s assets were liquidated by the DOJ to cover debts to suppliers, but the players were never paid and, until Monday’s announcement, they probably thought they never would be. By some estimates they are owed $60 million.   

In 2013, PokerStars’ pre-Amaya owners negotiated a deal with the DOJ that saw the site forfeit $540 million to US authorities, enough to cover the balances of Full Tilt’s US players, allowing it to acquire Full Tilt and its assets and assume liability for its debts to non-US players.

Payments from the “PokerStars Kitty”

A year later, the Full Tilt player remissions process began and players have received $118 million in reimbursements to date. Funds left over in the kitty from the PokerStars payment will now be used to settle the balances of AbsolutePoker players, the DOJ said. There was no mention of whether UltimateBet players will also be included in the mix.

“Additionally, the Department of Justice has concluded that players of Absolute Poker who were unable to recover their funds from Absolute Poker are similarly situated to the eligible victims of Full Tilt Poker, in that Absolute Poker, like Full Tilt Poker, did not maintain funds sufficient to repay all of its players,” said Kim.  

The process is due to begin soon, he added, and interested parties should keep their eyes on claims administrator Garden City Group’s website (gardencitygroup.com) for an announcement soon.

It may or may not be a coincidence that the development comes just one month after AbsolutePoker founder, Scott Tom, a fugitive since 2011, finally turned himself in. He is yet to face trial.

Of the 11 Black Friday indictees, only former PokerStars’ owner Isai Scheinberg remains “at large.” Despite paying more than half a billion dollars in an attempt to make things good, the criminal complaint against Scheinberg remains outstanding.