French firm nears deal for Full Tilt Poker

@CNNMoney November 21, 2011: 7:39 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly indicated that all aspects of the deal for the sale of Full Tilt Poker to Groupe Bernard Tapie had been finalized, including an agreement between Full Tilt Poker and the U.S. Department of Justice. A final announcement is still pending.

The French investment firm Groupe Bernard Tapie has signed a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice to buy Full Tilt Poker, an attorney for the investment group said, though a key hurdle remains.

The online gambling site was shut down in April by the Justice Department for allegedly operating a Ponzi scheme.

GBT will pay $80 million for Full Tilt, according to Behnam Dayanim, the attorney for GBT.

The deal is pending a settlement with Full Tilt and the Justice Department.

As a prerequisite to the deal, Full Tilt Poker would agree to forfeit its assets to the U.S. government, which would then sell the assets to GBT.

That agreement is not yet final. However, Full Tilt CEO Ray Bitar's attorney, Jeff Ifrah, is confident that it will ultimately go through: "I think it's very safe to assume that the U.S. and GBT would not have gone through the process of arriving at a signed agreement without very strong comfort that the company would facilitate the deal by voluntarily forfeiting its assets."

When its U.S. operations were shut down, Full Tilt owed as much as $390 million to players worldwide, with $150 million to U.S. players.

As part of the deal, the GBT would take responsibility for payments to non-U.S. players, and the Justice Department would facilitate paybacks to the American gamblers, according to Ifrah. American players would apply to the Department of Justice for compensation.

It is unclear whether American players will be fully reimbursed as a result of the agreement. "I think that's an open-ended question if they'll get fully reimbursed," Ifrah said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York charged Full Tilt executives with defrauding players by misrepresenting that their funds were "safe, secure and available for withdrawal" when board members were actually withdrawing from those accounts for themselves. To top of page

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