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The Full Monty on Full Tilt

1st August 2012 7:17 am GMT

The pen of Judge Leonard B. Sand finally hit page 13 of PokerStars’ order and stipulation of settlement yesterday morning. The Judge was probably as relieved as the parties involved.

After scribbling his name on page 11 of Full Tilt’s settlement he added the date “July 31, 2012” in longhand, perhaps mindful that the “7/31/2012” he had scrawled was barely legible. Nobody wanted any mistakes at this late stage.

Ray Bitar was the first of seven people to sign their names on these momentous documents when he put pen to paper on behalf of Tiltware last Thursday, July 26th. He wrote the date in large and very clear letters, quite different from his illegible signature.

Jeff Ifrah of Ifrah Law, who had been Bitar’s personal lawyer for so long, followed the next day when he signed on behalf of Full Tilt company Kolyma.

US attorney Jason Cowley, who has been running these cases for the Southern District of New York since Black Friday, signed off the PokerStars settlement last Friday, June 27th and PokerStars lawyer Anand Raman of Skadden Arps was quick to follow suit the same day.

Despite Bitar’s having already put pen to paper, Cowley waited until Sunday to sign off Full Tilt’s settlement. Did he spot something on Friday afternoon that worried him all weekend? It will probably remain a mystery but it stopped Barry Boss of Cozen O’Conor putting pen to paper on behalf of the final three Full Tilt entities until Monday.

And after the judge came into work yesterday, that was that. All of Full Tilt’s assets are winging their way to PokerStars via the DoJ.

This includes the debts owed to it by The Minsk Princess Hotel. It includes the furniture, home cinema system, sofa(s), storage units and bins listed in one of Bitar’s Excel spreadsheets. It includes the flooring and tiling, reception desk and glass partitions listed in another. A third spreadsheet compiles all of Full Tilt’s desktops, laptops, screens, printers and servers plus hardware in its data centres in Dublin, France, Guernsey and Kahnawake.

All source code material will be transferred – important this me thinks – as well as some 10,000 domain names. All dutifully listed in an Excel spreadsheet of course. The goodwill associated with these domain names is also included although I doubt that is quite as important.

PokerStars will receive all databases and patents including two from the European Patent Office, and one each in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Pakistan, Taiwan, the UK, the US and Uruguay. Oh, and a numberless one in the Bahamas, for what it’s worth.

There is some cash to come apparently. There is some in the bank account, some with suppliers and governments and some held in trust by US counsel from Instadebit amounting to “approximately” $1,428,225.80. And there’s some listed in an Excel spreadsheet of course.

Then there are outstanding claims against a bunch of payment processors including alleged DoJ informant Daniel Tzvetkoff and his former partner Salvatore “Sam” Sciacca. Last but not least there is some cash owed by former Team Full Tilt members. PokerStars can probably whistle for that.

So that is what you get for $731m – plus a clean slate for Full Tilt and PokerStars. But not, unfortunately for Bitar and Scheinberg, who will have to fight the criminal cases that are still pending against them. One hopes the effort (and not inconsiderable cash) they have ploughed into this deal will have some bearing on their cases but let’s see. This has been the most unpredictable of sagas.

Bitar’s attorney Jack Baughman of Paul Weiss said: “We thank the United States Attorney’s office for its courtesy and commend it for its creativity in achieving this result. It is a novel, creative transaction that required great skill to negotiate.”

Indeed. It is a tremendous effort all round. It is a groundbreaking agreement that will resonate throughout the industry. PokerStars now plans to relaunch Full Tilt within the next week.

“It’s too early to begin disclosing many details about our strategic plans, but our first order of business is to re-open the site, pay back all of the players and begin rebuilding Full Tilt’s reputation,” a PokerStars spokesperson told me. “Going forward, we will operate Full Tilt as a separate brand, giving players another leading and trusted platform to enjoy the game.”

Those words will strike fear into a few industry hearts. PokerStars was also very keen to point out that it is free to apply for licences in the US. One suspects a partnership with Steve Wynn could be reactivated any day now.

sah@gamingintelligence.com

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