Shuttered and failed poker site Absolute Poker disappeared in the wake of the Black Friday indictments in 2011 that stunned the poker world. The room’s U.S. players saw their balances vanish into the ether, and almost all of them have by now given up hope of ever getting their money back. A new press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York indicates that these individuals will now receive compensation.
The document reveals that the Garden City Group will be handling the claims process and disbursing payouts to those who had money on Absolute when it went bust. The funds for this endeavor come from the $547 million that PokerStars had to pay the United States in settlement of the civil suit filed against it as part of the Black Friday events. Members of the public who believe that they’re entitled to receive a payout are encouraged to submit their information through the Absolute Poker Claims Administration website. Petitions for Remission can be filed online right now, and the filing deadline is July 9, 2017.
When the events of Black Friday hit the poker world on April 15, 2011, three of the largest poker sites had to close their doors to Americans: PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker. PokerStars exited the market in an orderly fashion, paying customers what they were due. Full Tilt and Absolute turned out to have run their finances in extremely suspect and fraudulent ways, and both companies went belly-up, taking all player funds down the tubes with them. PokerStars, as part of its deal with the Department of Justice to settle the litigation against it, agreed to acquire Full Tilt and commit funds to repaying those who had lost their balances as a result of its closure. Account holders at Absolute Poker had no available remedies though.
The Garden City Group was chosen in March 2013 as the administrator for the FTP Claims Process whereby the victims of Full Tilt’s fraud were to be compensated. As the months dragged on, impatient forumites lambasted the GCG, and they greeted with amusement and disdain a tweet from the organization imploring its followers to vote for it as Best Claims Administrator. In September, the claims process began, and people headed online to duly complete the required forms by the November 16, 2013 deadline. Considering that it took around half a year to set up a web page where people could enter in their details, the fact that the first payments were made in February 2014 came as a welcome surprise to most observers.
In total, more than $118 million was distributed to 44,320 ex-Full Tilt players. The largest sum was issued in that first group of payments in February 2014, which involved claimants with straightforward and undisputed cases. Every couple of months thereafter, additional rounds of payments were made to individuals with more complex issues, including site sponsorships, affiliates and rakeback players. The final set of reimbursements was made in December 2015, and the great majority of those who made a claim were paid.
Some players who had money on Full Tilt neglected to follow the procedures for reclaiming it, and a few saw their petitions denied. This means that there’s money left over. While there was no ownership or management connection between Absolute Poker and Full Tilt Poker, the government has elected to reallocate some of the available resources to return money to AP’s user base. The reasoning for this decision was laid out in today’s press release:
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.
Accordingly, remaining Forfeited Poker Funds will be used to fund a claims process for eligible Absolute Poker victims.
Garden City Group has sent emails to those whom it has identified as potentially qualifying for repayment of their Absolute Poker balances. Even people who did not receive an email can send one themselves to info[at]AbsolutePokerClaims.com and inquire about their eligibility. The notices sent to affected individuals each contain a Petition Number and Control Number, which the recipients can use to log in and file their Petitions for Remission. These petitions must be entered by June 9, 2017. Once users log in with the credentials they received by email, they can view their displayed account balances. If they agree with the amount shown, then the process of submitting their petitions is a straightforward one. Otherwise, they can dispute the totals presented and upload supporting documentation.
Some individuals are excluded from reimbursement. They include past employees of Absolute Poker, its shareholders and officers, anyone targeted with civil or criminal action as a consequence of the Black Friday indictments, and anyone whom Absolute Poker deemed to have “engaged in improper conduct.” Two categories of excluded parties seem quite controversial: affiliates and professional players. The GCG states on the website it set up to handle this matter that:
All transactions associated with Affiliates and/or Professional Players are presumed to have resulted from their Affiliate and/or Professional Player status. Therefore, all players who have been designated as Affiliates and/or Professionals will be deemed to have an Account Balance of $0.00 on the Petition Filing site.
It’s easy to understand why affiliates might not be covered under the rules for repayment. It’s harder to grasp the reasons why “professional players” might be. This proviso might be talking about site pros, but then the same page says, “A Professional Player is any player who earns a majority of their income from playing poker, or is known in the industry as a Professional, as approved by the Department of Justice.” This business about the approval of the DoJ in particular seems illogical. Regardless, both affiliates and “professional players” can dispute their $0 balances and provide documents supporting their contention that they deserve to be paid. Fortunately, rakeback payments are not considered affiliate income in the eyes of the Department of Justice.
Once all the petitions are in, Garden City Group will look at the total amount of money it has available to distribute and the total claimed. In case it has more than enough, all approved claims will be fully honored. In the event that the funds at hand are short, then everyone’s payment will be prorated proportionally.
Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet were sites on the long-vanished Cereus Poker Network. Ultimate Bet also disappeared without discharging its financial obligations. Some wonder, therefore, why Ultimate Bet’s customers aren’t covered under the terms of this new round of petitions. Well, people who have already viewed their balances on Absolutepokerclaims.com have stated that their Ultimate Bet money was accurately included. It could be that because AP and UB were sister sites, they’re the same thing in the eyes of the Garden City Group, and so referring to the entire organization as “Absolute Poker” makes a certain kind of sense.
The prospects for a full recovery of funds appear great for those who actually go through the legwork of filing their claims on time. Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet were much smaller operators than Full Tilt, so the total sum in question in likely to be an order of magnitude less. Moreover, many players who are eligible to receive cash under the provisions of the claims process have likely forgotten all about the events of six years ago. Both of these factors reduce the likelihood of claims exceeding the capital earmarked for the purpose of satisfying them. Of course, you can only receive a full repayment if you yourself follow the instructions for doing so. Go to the Absolute Poker Claims Administration site today if you used to play at Absolute Poker and/or Ultimate Bet.