✖ According to a report in eGaming Review, the US Department of Justice has unfrozen an Irish bank account belonging to Full Tilt Poker and its owner Ray Bitar. The Bank of Ireland account, one of nine FTP accounts seized in connection with the Black Friday indictments, reportedly frees up “more than a third” of the estimated $100-150m FTP owes its former US players. FTP is reportedly in discussion with the DoJ to free up other seized accounts across Europe. Despite this, eGR’s source at FTP offered no timeline on when said funds would start swimming back across the pond into US players’ bank accounts.
eGR’s source claims that FTP’s cash-flow woes extended beyond the accounts seized under the Black Friday indictments. “Banks that weren’t even subject to restraining orders started shutting down because they thought ‘we’ve got to be careful, the Americans are after us.’ We actually had to ask the prosecutors to call these banks and tell them they weren’t interested in them.”
eGR’s source also claims that, in the weeks following Black Friday, Bitar had representatives in Ireland query potential investors about taking a stake in the company. Bitar was reportedly hoping to raise as much as $150m via this move, but his efforts were for naught, as no one seemed to want to sink their millions into a company sitting so squarely in the DoJ’s crosshairs.
As for when US players might see their funds again, the source would only say “There are a lot of factors involved. Some of that is the $60m backlog referenced in the [indicted payment processor Bradley] Franzen case, some is the bank accounts that voluntarily decided to restrain funds, and some is the status of negotiations with the [DoJ]. All of those issues together contribute to creating an impediment to paying players back, an impediment which wouldn’t be there if each of those things didn’t exist.”
✖ Black Friday collateral damage? Costa Rica-based, US-facing World Bingo Network (WBN) announced that it was shutting down operations at noon on Friday. A statement posted on Bingo Workz, Desperate Housewives Bingo, USA Bingo and Bingo Tropic claimed that “a challenging environment and circumstances beyond our control have made it impossible for us to continue operations. It is our intention to ensure that all players are taken care of and deposits refunded at the earliest possible time.” US-facing Funtime Bingo was one of the domains shut down by the DoJ on Blue Monday.
✖ Austrian tournament director Thomas Kremser has decided to sever ties with the European Poker Tour, apparently having grown uncomfortable with the organization’s continued relationship with sponsor PokerStars in the wake of Black Friday. According to a press release issued by Kremser’s TK Poker Events, Kremser contacted PokerStars a few weeks back “to review the nature of their relationship.” Kremser also said “the time is right to explore new adventures and also to adjust our business model to emphasize closer cooperation with licensed casino operators.” Kremser has been an EPT mainstay since 2004.