Back in high school I read Samuel Beckett’s classic play Waiting for Godot. For Americans who are waiting for remission to occur on money they had on deposit at Full Tilt Poker, this could be retitled “Waiting for Remission.”
In Waiting for Godot, Godot never shows up. I do think that eventually the funds will show up. Unfortunately, like everything in dealing with the government, this can accurately be titled “Hurry up and wait (and wait and wait and wait some more).”
CardPlayer Magazine published an article today noting that the Garden City Group [GCG], the entity that will eventually handle the claims (of remission), “…[have not moved] past the first step of parsing a massive amount of player data information.” This process was estimated by an unnamed supervisor to take a year or more.
Where does that put us on the road to remission? Let’s look at the steps required:
1. Government appoints claim administrator [done].
2. Government raises money/finds money [usually an issue, but probably not here given the $150+ million received].
3. Administrator develops plan to return funds.
4. Government approves plan.
5. Announcements, advertising, web sites developed to alert victims.
6. Government allocates two to six months (or longer) for victims to come forward to submit claims.
7. Claims are verified by Administrator.
8. Amount to be paid is tallied. If less than fund, everyone gets 100%; otherwise payments are made on a percentage basis.
9. Claims are paid.
It’s clear we’re on step 3. It’s also clear that for whatever reason the data provided to GCG is taking a lot of time to compile. I would have thought that this would be simple: GCG would have been provided a spreadsheet with users’ screen names, real names (and other personal information), and balances. It may be that each account is being reviewed for phony deposits (something Full Tilt Poker did), transfers or other activity. It may be the data sent to GCG was corrupted in some manner and needs to be “massaged.” Frankly, it could be just about anything. The only way to know is to have an on-the-record talk with GCG, something that’s not going to happen, or with the Department of Justice, and that’s not likely to happen.
Well, let’s work backwards on how long this will take. Paying the claims will likely take two to three months. There could be as many as 1.3 million checks being issued. Verification of claims and tallying the total could also take two to three months. There’s a huge volume of claims to be reviewed. Development of the announcements and advertising (ads will appear in major national newspapers) shouldn’t take long, but this step might take two months if the DOJ has to approve them; it could takes as little as 1 week. Expect the DOJ to take three to six months to approve any plan put forward–the government doesn’t work fast. And we know that we’re looking at 12 to 18 months to develop the plan.
Using these assumptions, the best case scenario is a little over 19 months for payments while the worst case scenario is 32 months. Given that the Garden City Group was appointed in March, that means the best case scenario would have payments made in October 2014; the worst case scenario would drag this out to November 2015. And that’s assuming the assumptions I’ve made are accurate; nothing prevents me from having missed something.
Additionally, there’s nothing that guarantees that players will be paid based on funds on deposit (when Full Tilt Poker stopped serving the US). Remission is discretionary; the DOJ can approve whatever plan they think is best. Full Tilt users were crime victims as far as remission is concerned; in the view of the DOJ, we should be happy with whatever we get.
Well, since this is going to take so long can we take a casualty loss today on our funds? No. The most likely case is that you will get something, just that it may take a long while to get that something. Certainty of a loss is needed to take a casualty loss; given that you will likely receive your money back, no casualty loss can be taken.
This post has probably made most of my clients with funds at Full Tilt unhappy. While I originally felt this would be handled expeditiously, that’s clearly not the case. Unfortunately, the time frame I’m estimating appears realistic.