The final financial fallout from online poker’s Black Friday in 2011 is starting to settle, with former players at Absolute Poker (AP) and Ultimate Bet (UB) set to receive $33,500,000 in account refunds.
According to absolutepokerclaims.com, the Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section has signed off on releasing the first round of payments to approximately 7,400 claimants who confirmed their account balances before the initial June 9 deadline.
Many of these players believed they would never see their money again. But last April, Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim made the surprise announcement that a process would begin to “compensate eligible victims of a fraud committed by Absolute Poker.”
Black Friday Shutdown
AP and UB, known collectively as the Cereus network, were shut down on April 15, 2011, along with Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, the day that came to be known by online poker players as “Black Friday.” The DOJ indicted representatives of those four sites for violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, bank fraud, and money laundering.
Unlike PokerStars, the Cereus network and Full Tilt had failed to segregate players’ funds from operating accounts. Shortly after Black Friday stopped their access to capital, all the sites except PokerStars collapsed, owing players hundreds of millions of dollars.
In 2013, the then-owners of PokerStars hatched out a complex deal with the DOJ that would see it pay $540 million to US authorities, which would allow it to acquire Full Tilt and assume liability for the site’s non-US players. Meanwhile, its US players would be gradually reimbursed by the DOJ from this fund.
Cereus players were not believed to covered by the deal, but having paid out $118 million in reimbursements to former Full Tilt customers, a process that took more than five years to complete, the DOJ will now use the remainder of the fund to compensate everyone else.
AP Founder Fesses Up (to Lesser Charges)
In February, Scott Tom, the founder of AbsolutePoker, turned himself in to US authorities after almost six years on the lam in Barbados. He struck a deal with prosecutors in June, agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser, misdemeanour charge of being accessory after the fact to the transmission of wagering information, and paying a $300,000 fine.
The charge comes with a maximum sentence of one year in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced in September.
Former Cereus players who believe they may be eligible to receive compensation are urged to visit absolutepokerclaims.com and file a petition for remission before the next deadline, which is Sept. 7.