With the wonderful news that PokerStars has acquired the assets of Full Tilt Poker via the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), FTP CEO Ray Bitar formally said goodbye to the poker site and company that he established in 2004 and succeeded in building to prominence with the assistance of some of the game's biggest names.
Wearing an ankle bracelet and having his travel limited between his home in California and the federal courthouse in New York, Bitar issued a statement saying, “For the past 15 months, I have worked hard on possible solutions to get players repaid. It has been a very long road, with lots of bumps along the way, but I am glad we have gotten to the end. I only wish that we could have resolved the situation much sooner.”
Bitar went on to thank his associates and bid farewell to his reign as CEO by stating, “Today’s settlement also ends the U.S. government’s legal case against the Full Tilt companies. I am glad that this chapter has closed. I would like to thank the company’s many dedicated employees who helped achieve this result. It has been a pleasure working at Full Tilt and I am grateful for the many friendships and memories that I made there. I wish everyone in the Full Tilt family success in their future endeavors.”
The 40-year-old will now face the slew of criminal charges against him unsealed by the DoJ upon his return and surrender to the U.S. on July 2. At the time, Bitar had said that his return was "part of the process" required to "get the players repaid."
However, according to Full Tilt attorney Jeff Ifrah, nothing could be further from the truth. Ifrah told PokerNews that "the [DoJ] does not make civil deals contingent upon resolutions of criminal cases. I know there’s been a lot of speculation, and I know it’s not totally illogical to assume there’s a connection, but in fact it’s very important that civil and criminal branches are kept separate at all costs."
Is Bitar trying to perhaps improve his tarnished reputation in the poker community by having people believe that his return was necessary for players to finally be reimbursed? Ifrah goes on to say that with the expected transition of Full Tilt operations passed over to PokerStars, he believes that "at that point it becomes very clear that it’s time for Ray to take care of [his] criminal issues, and that’s why he came back when he did."
Whatever the reasoning behind Bitar's surrender, his statement and signature on the legal documents ends his reign at the helm of Full Tilt Poker. Although the criminal charges against him are quite serious, the prospect of a favorable plea bargain that sees him spend only a couple years in the slammer is very possible. In any event, what's most important is that players will finally be reimbursed after waiting for so long and enduring the ups and downs of the Full Tilt saga.