ARJEL suspend the licences they had individually granted to Full Tilt Poker

The latest twist in the saga emanating from the US has seen the Alderney Gambling Control Commission and French regulatory body ARJEL, suspend the licences they had individually granted to Full Tilt Poker, effectively forcing one of the world's best known poker brands into stasis.

ONLINE POKER may never be the same again. The events that have taken place since April 15, 2011, will surely see to that.

The conversation has turned from a debate about the 'blackness' of'Black Friday" for those operators and affiliates safely sheltered from US exposure and for die industry at large, to speculation about the potential closure of one of the sector's biggest names. For affiliates, the gravest concern is the failure or, rather, inability of Full Tut Poker to be accountable for the commissions it owes its army of affiliate partners. The French online gaming regulatory body. ARJEL. acted on similar concerns when Rekop Limited, Full Tilt's French license holder, was unable to produce the requested bank certificates to provide assurances that it had sufficient funds to pay its players.

If the company hasn't accounted for players wanting to withdraw their account balances, affiliates may doubt it would have accounted for the commissions for the partners that brought them there. And this is where the story changes in tone. As leremy Enke touches on in his article on page 39. liability for recreational winnings is one thing: liability for someone's livelihood is quite another.

That is not to suggest that Full Tilt is dismissive of its contracted responsibility to pay its business partners; it has been in discussions with groups of investors to help finance the clearance of its debt to its players. However, there has been no mention of its debt to its affiliates and how or even if this will be financed. There may be some apprehension as to whether Full Tilt may withhold unpaid affiliate commissions as they are potentially accountable to the facilitation of'illegal' gambling as stipulated under the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act, under which all of those indicted by the Southern District of New York on April 15 are charged.

And it is because of these charges, and because Full Tilt must employ major damage limitation if it wants to trade again in the future, that it has made the payment of its players a priority. Unless it feels confident its brand can withstand this crisis with enough intact to operate without affiliate help in the future, then it should also prioritise its debts to its partners. A statement acknowledging the matter would go some way to appease the situation.

Full stop?

Even if Full Tilt manages to secure investment to finance a full scale pay off to its players, affiliate partners and any number of other creditors it may be liable to, the question remains as to whether the brand can survive such a fall from grace.

Figure 1, which has been kindly provided to iGB Affiliate by PokerScout owner, Dan Stewart, shows us how players have responded in the wake of Full Tilt's licence suspension. A key figure in that data is the 9,300 players that Full Tilt has lost in just a matter of weeks, with the other sites sharing 5,500 new players among them. Everest Poker and PartyPoker have seen the biggest increase in player volumes, with the Cake Poker Network, PKR and 888 also seeing significant increases. (None have as blunt about Full Tilt's fall from grace than 888 - the company's new marketing campaign reading "Can't Play at Full Tilt? Start Playing with 888".)

The fact that PokerStars hasn't 'hoovered up' the fleeing player base would suggest that the future poker market will be more of a level playing field than we've been used to, even taking into account those who have multiple accounts. The ramifications of this for an ailing Full Tilt brand is that if players have already moved on to new sites, then the affiliates that cater to them are going to follow (or lead, as the case may be).

A player's loyalty is easier to win back than an affiliate's trust; business being what it is. However, that statement is only accurate by fractions, and Full Tilt will have a task of seismic proportions, one feels, to win back the support of either party.

What now?

By the time you read this, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) will have held its public hearing into the suspension of Full Tilt Poker's gaming licence.

Whatever the outcome and regardless of whether the company achieves the investment it desires to continue trading, it will be questionable as to how warmly the company would be welcomed back into the fold by players, affiliates, even operators, for that matter.

Yet, before we consider the future, the affiliate community will want their pressing financial matters clarified before any type of 'closure' can take place.

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