PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker reopen -- but not for play
The federal government is working with two poker sites that it shut down last week to help players get their money back, authorities and company officials said Wednesday.
Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars have regained access to their domain names after striking an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which on Friday accused founders of bank and wire fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling.
The terms of the understanding prohibit the sites from allowing patrons in the U.S. to deposit real money or play poker using any. Full Tilt and PokerStars have free rein outside the country.
Authorities said they could also strike the same deal with Absolute Poker. Though PokerStars.net and FullTiltPoker.net were live Wednesday morning, PokerStars.com and FullTiltPoker.com still featured last week's notice about the sites being seized by the government.
The restored sites “will facilitate the return of money so that players can register their refund requests directly with Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker,” according to a statement from the government.
“No individual player accounts were ever frozen or restrained, and each implicated poker company has at all times been free to reimburse any player’s deposited funds,” added Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.
Full Tilt was less optimistic, naming “numerous legal and jurisdictional issues” complicating money withdrawals.
“Unfortunately, there remain significant practical and legal impediments to returning funds to players in the immediate future,” site officials said in a statement.
But “players are still in pain,” said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance advocacy group, in a statement. Congress should regulate online poker as a legal activity, he said.
“Millions of Americans are being denied their hobby, avocation and in many cases their livelihood because they remain unable to play poker on the Internet,” he said. “At a time of such economic weakness in the U.S., citizens expect their government to be wholly focused on improving their way of life through job and revenue creation, not attacking their personal activities.”
-- Tiffany Hsu
Photo: A man plays online poker on his home computer. Credit: Karen Bleier / AFP / Getty Images.