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Full Tilt Poker's website remains online, although its gambling licence was suspended earlier this year.
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Fears for Dublin jobs as poker site is labelled a 'global Ponzi scheme'

Prosecutors in New York have alleged that the owners and management of Full Tilt Poker took customer cash for themselves.

ONE OF THE WORLD’S largest poker sites – which is responsible for around 250 jobs in Dublin – has been labelled a “global Ponzi scheme” by a prosecutor investigating allegations of fraud against its owners and main players.

Prett Bharara, a district attorney in Manhattan, has filed a court complaint accusing the managers of the website – which is headquartered in Ireland – of siphoning off customers’ money for their own use.

“Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company but a global Ponzi scheme,” the New York Times quotes Bharara as saying, adding that the allegations had come to light following other investigations against the site.

Access to the site, and to two others poker websites, was blocked in the United States earlier this year amid concerns that they were in breach of fraud laws.

The paper says it had later emerged, however, that while the site had assured customers that their cash deposits were safe and could be reclaimed at any time, it had failed to continue repaying deposited cash to customers seeking to withdraw it.

Prosecutors believe that Full Tilt’s management may have taken as much as $444m (€325m) from customers’ accounts since 2007, with much of that cash being shared among the full-time professional players under contract to play on the site.

The San Francisco Chronicle adds that by early March, though the company had $390m (€286m) of users’ cash on deposit, it only had $60m (€44m) of cash in its accounts.

“Not only did the firm orchestrate a massive fraud against the U.S. banking system, as previously alleged, Full Tilt also cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollar,” Bharara said.

The filings in New York relate to charges of illegal gambling, money laundering and bank fraud against Full Tilt chief executive Raymond Bitar.

Pocket Kings, a major subsidiary of Full Tilt which employs 700 people in Cherrywood in Dublin, last week said it would need to reduce its operating costs by about €12m to deal with the aftermath of the blockage in the United States.

“If all of the required cost savings were to be achieved through redundancies, approximately 250 positions could be affected; however the exact number cannot be confirmed until the conclusion of a consultation process with its workforce,” it had said at the time.

Staff at the company have now grown fearful for the future of the entire company, given the potential implications of the proceedings in New York.

A hearing in the Channel Island of Alderney, where Full Tilt holds its currently-suspended gambling licence, yesterday ended after three days, without any statement from the island’s gambling authority.

Under Alderney regulations companies are forbidden from allowing customer deposits to be mixed with company funds.

Read: Fears over as many as 250 jobs at Pocket Kings in Dublin >

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