For many players, the events of Black Friday, as it came to be known, feels like a lifetime ago. On April 15th 2011 the Department of Justice stepped in and shut down a handful of online casinos that provided mainly online poker tournaments. Mass arrests and asset seizures soon followed and in the end, thousands of players were left wondering if they would lose their money, be subject to arrest or neither. Operators and representatives of the four casinos involved were charged with bank fraud, money laundering and violations of the relatively new Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
The waters got muddy afterward as one of the operators Full Tilt unraveled as an organization and two of the operators that were shut down has used poor accounting practiced and had merged customer accounts with their overall operating accounts which made government seizures and player refunds more difficult. The first problem with Full Tilt was resolved when PokerStars cut a somewhat unbelievable deal with the DOJ and paid a fine of over $500M which was to be used to refund players of both PokerStars and Full Tilt. PokerStars would then assume management of what was formerly Full Tilt. Not exactly the typical way to do a merger. It took a few years, but most reports are that most if not all players from Full Tilt and PokerStars have received their account balances from the time of Black Friday.
The two other casinos that were seized on April 15, 2011, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet, have had a much more difficult road as officials at the DOJ have been unable to come up with a clear plan to reimburse players since their accounts technically did not exist. For many years many assumed, and the DOJ hinted, that there would be no way for players from these two casinos to recover their account balances. Things changed earlier this year in a surprise move when the DOJ began to allow customers of Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet to submit evidence of their account balances from 2011. It is believed that more than $33 million dollars were held in player accounts at the time of the FBI raids. It is believed that part of the solution with these two casinos came about with the arrest of the owner in Barbados earlier this year. Scott Tom who is the founder of the casinos is expected to pay a fine of $300,000 and may face up to one year in prison for the original crimes.