✖ The Credit Union Times has obtained court documents that shed more light on the goings on at Vensure Federal Credit Union, the sole credit union listed among the financial institutions which had accounts frozen on Black Friday. As early as 2008, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) had concerns about the solvency of Vensure, known then as the Grand Adirondack Federal Credit Union (GAFCU) and based in New York.
Total assets held by GAFCU in December 2007 were only $31k (and shrinking), but following its April 2008 partnering with an organization calling itself the National Investors Financial Education Association (NIFEA), GAFCU’s assets had grown to over $349k. In early 2009, GAFCU abruptly moved to the small town of Gilbert, Arizona, without bothering to inform the NCUA of its plans. By the time the NCUA had tracked GAFCU down, the little credit union’s assets had swelled to $2.1m. The money came almost entirely from two credit union service organizations, Account Process Systems and Verartis Inc., which purported to offer financial transaction and financial counseling services.
After a little digging, the NCUA discovered the true source of this income was funds from PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker via a third-party payment processor Trinity Global Commerce Corp. The NCUA ultimately described GAFCU/Vensure as “nothing more than a shell whose only function was to facilitate Trinity’s processing of internet gambling transactions.” When NCUA board members met to discuss Vensure’s fate, NCUA board member Michael Fryzel announced that the NCUA needed to act “before the Justice Department moves in and embarrasses us even further.” Too little, too late?
✖ Speaking of, industry tabloid Gambling911 has taken down its Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet advertising. Site publisher Chris Costigan appeared on QuadJacks radio on Monday, during which he rationalized his decision to retain the ads because the existing ad contract had 2.5 months left to run. But after being slammed by US players during the broadcast for continuing to feature said ads, Gambling911 announced on Tuesday that it has decided to pull the ads until AP/UB make things right by their US players. Once that Mission Impossible has been accomplished, Costigan has pledged to reinstate the ads for the remainder of their contractually-mandated run.
✖ Black Friday was the subject du jour at the kickoff of the Global Interactive Gaming Summit & Expo (GIGSE) 2011. Gaming consultant Scarlet Robinson (@PokerScar) kept those of us who couldn’t make it to San Francisco firmly in the loop with her timely tweeting. Among the highlights:
– California State Sen. Lou Correa (surprise) is firmly on the side of individual states legislating/regulating online poker, and will fight any attempt at a federally imposed solution.
– Rep. John Campbell (R-CA), who has a poker bill pending in the House of Representatives, claims that with states like New Jersey and Nevada having regulatory boards in place, there would be no need to create a federal equivalent in the event that his bill, or the bills allegedly being prepped by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) or Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), passes.
– Campbell claims that US land-based casino giants pairing with international companies would be “a natural blend” and that he doesn’t expect there to be federal resistance to any international company that left the US market prior to the UIGEA. However, the regulatory reps from California, Nevada and New Jersey would only commit to saying all applicants would be judged on their own merits, although the NJ rep admitted that even the suspicion of wrongdoing would throw up a red flag for his crew.
– For those US land-based companies looking to get into the online game, Black Friday is apparently known as ‘Black Gold Friday.’ Out of five casino reps, three predicted a workable regulated online poker solution by 2013, while two chose 2012.
✖ After Sunday’s non-announcement announcement from Full Tilt on its progress in paying out its former US players, Monday brought us the news that Team Full Tilt members Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer had stepped down from their positions on the board of the Poker Players Alliance. On Tuesday, PokerNews’ Tony G temporarily raised the hopes of Full Tilt’s former US players by tweeting that he would be “releasing some news”, then tweeting the following.
I have information that leads me to believe that the FTP, and TEAM FTP are working harder than ever to ensure all players get paid … Although I’d like to elaborate, I just can’t at this time, as it may slow down, or delay things even further … I would like to ask everyone to give FTP 2 weeks of grace to sort out the situation. Any more talk or pressure will not help anymore … I understand the FTP teams personal assets are on the line and they will liquidate own assets to pay the players out.
Needless to say, this latest announcement that another announcement would be announced at some point in the future left a lot of players underwhelmed. Quite how merely talking about payouts would “slow down, or delay” said payouts is unclear, but the suggestion that FT can’t function unless the pressure is lessened sounds an awful lot like psychological impotence. Could FT’s principals be dedicated followers of the ‘Melty Man?’