PokerStars has agreed to a $731 million money-laundering settlement with the U.S. government that includes reimbursement for some customers whose funds were frozen when the feds cracked down on the gambling sites.
PokerStars also will acquire the assets of its former competitor, Full Tilt Poker, as part of the agreement, the companies said today.
On April 15, 2011, the Department of Justice halted the U.S. operations of PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker, the three largest online poker companies operating in the U.S., alleging illegal gambling and money laundering, and cutting off a source of income for online professional gamblers across the country.
Under the settlement, PokerStars will pay $547 million over three years to the U.S. and must make available to foreign players all balances, about $184 million, that were held in the Full Tilt accounts within 90 days, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. U.S. players at Full Tilt must apply to the Department of Justice for reimbursement.
"Acquiring certain assets of Full Tilt Poker strengthens PokerStars, brings welcome relief to Full Tilt Poker players who have been waiting over 12 months for repayment of their money, and benefits the entire poker community," Mark Scheinberg, chairman of PokerStars, said in a statement.
PokerStars has remained open for players outside the U.S. players and repaid its U.S. customers after operations were halted.
Earlier this month, Full Tilt Poker CEO Raymond Bitar was charged with promising players that their funds would be protected in "segregated" accounts when the company used the money to pay for Full Tilt operations and to pay Bitar and other owners over $430 million
When Bitar willingly came to the U.S. from the company's headquarters in Ireland, he said he would cooperate with authorities to return players' money.
"We are pleased to announce these settlements by Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, which allow us to quickly get significant compensation into the victim players' hands," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement.
The $547 million will be payable over three years.
PokerStars plans to re-launch Full Tilt Poker in most markets as a separate brand, following the appointment of a new, independent management team.
"Under the agreement with the Department of Justice, PokerStars does not admit to any wrongdoing," according to a statement from the company. "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."