The Ray Bitar Saga Part 1
August 13, 2012
Sixteen months ago, the US federal government shut down the biggest online poker sites serving US players on what is now known as Black Friday. If you don’t know about this, you’ve either been hiding under a rock or haven’t been born yet. Fast forward 16 months after the US poker industry has gone through a series of dramatic events, but has for the most part survived due mostly to the fact that people all over the world love online poker and aren’t going to let it go without a fight.
So early last month, former Full Tilt CEO Ray Bitar, who was indicted on Black Friday along with 10 other online poker big wigs, finally turned himself in after remaining in hiding in Ireland since April of last year. He was promptly arrested in early July upon his arrival at JFK International Airport. He then pleaded not guilty to the charges set forth against him by the feds for money laundering, illegal online gambling operations, etc. He’s out on bail now, but faces up to 145 years in jail if convicted.
Bitar stated, “I returned voluntarily to the US from Full Tilt’s headquarters in Ireland to face the charges against me. I know that a lot of people are very angry at me. I understand why. Full Tilt should never have gotten into a position where it could not repay player funds. For the last 15 months, I have worked hard on possible solutions to get the players repaid. Returning today is part of that process. I believe we are near the end of a very long road, and I will continue to do whatever is required to get the players repaid, and I hope that it will happen soon.”
Why it took him so long is questionable, but so much has happened, including Full Tilt being deemed a Ponzi Scheme, the failure of buyout of Full Tilt by French firm Groupe Bernard Tapie, and the ongoing dilemma regarding nonpayment of player funds, not to mention the site being shut down and virtually non-existent. Meanwhile, Full Tilt still owes players around the world roughly $350 million.
Prosecutors claimed that Bitar knew that Full Tilt was dependent on continual deposits by players to keep up with the backlog of player withdrawals, all the while continuing to draw a salary for himself. And this is why Full Tilt was labeled a Ponzi Scheme.