The poker world will not forget “Black Friday” in April 2011. On the 15th of April 2011 the United States Department of Justice seized the domain names of three of the largest online poker sites, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.
None of these sites was based in the United States, Poker Stars was based on the Isle of Man, Full Tilt Poker was based in Ireland and Absolute Poker in Costa Rica. However when the United States Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006 which made it against the law to process payments linked to unlawful internet gambling several online poker websites withdrew from the American market. Others such as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker remained active in the United States and business grew by about a fifth each year. There was some ambiguity about the definition of illegal gambling since under the 1961 Wire Act only sports betting or gambling relating to a “sporting event or contest” came under the Act.
After the indictment of 11 people in April 2011, PokerStars and Ful Tilt Poker stopped offering real money poker to players in the United States. Up to 76 bank accounts in several countries were frozen and federal prosecutors sought prison sentences for those indicted on charges of money laundering and bank fraud. These included website operators, those who processed payments and also an executive of the Utah Sun First Bank. In June of 2011 Full Tilt had its gaming licence suspended so all poker playing on Full Tilt’s website then stopped. In September 2011 the Alderney Gambling Control Commission cancelled its licence. Raymond Bitar the Chief Executive Officer of Tilt Ware which is a software company for Full Tilt Poker was among the 11 people indicted.It was believed that Full Tilt Poker owed players around 300 million dollars in November 2011 when the French investment company Groupe Bernard Tapie reached agreement with the United States Department of Justice to buy Full Tilt Poker’s assets. Under the agreement Groupe Bernard Tapie would repay the players outside the United States and the Department of Justice would repay the American players. This deal has still not been agreed. In his recent apology, Raymond Bitar said that he is doing everything to ensure that players are repaid. He apologised to all of those affected by the events of April 2011. He claimed that he was co-operating with the Department of Justice’s investigation into Full Tilt Poker and also mentioned that his silence since the events of last year was due to the ongoing investigation.