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GBT and DoJ agree Full Tilt Poker deal

4/11/2011
Groupe Bernard Tapie (GBT) has come to an “agreement in principle” with the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) which would make it possible for the French investment group to acquire Full Tilt Poker.

GBT would take control of the assets of the beleaguered poker website and resume the site's operations outside of the US.

"We have an oral agreement that is in the process of being reduced to writing and expected to resolve all outstanding issues," said Behnam Dayanim, attorney for Laurent Tapie of GBT.

Barry Boss, an attorney for Full Tilt said: “We have made significant progress towards a settlement but there are still issues to be resolved.”

The agreement could bring to an end an eight-month battle between poker websites and the US government, who currently deem online gambling to be illegal. Before the government crackdown, Full Tilt was one of several sites at the centre of a prosperous global industry, with billions of dollars being wagered in online poker games.

On 15 April the DoJ shut down Full Tilt along with its bigger competitor, PokerStars, and another company. The government also indicted executives at the companies on criminal charges and filed a $3bn civil suit against the three companies, seeking $1bn from Full Tilt.

The government alleges the companies engaged in bank fraud, money laundering and ran illegal gambling operations. The companies have denied the allegations and say that US laws don't specifically outlaw online poker, which they say is a game that involves skill, in contrast to other forms of gambling that are purely games of chance.

At the time of the crackdown Full Tilt was nearly out of money and unable to pay back the $150m it held in the accounts of its US players. When regulators shut down the rest of the company’s operations, players worldwide were unable to access their money, which the US government believes amounts to $300m.

In the terms of the proposed agreement GBT would pay an amount of money to the DoJ to resolve the civil dispute and pay back money owed to players based outside of the US, where it plans to restart the internet poker site.

Any deal would also need to be approved by Full Tilt’s shareholders, who own two-thirds of the company.

Jack Watkins
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