Tuesday July 26,2011 : Walkouts and pleas for privacy at Alderney Gaming Control Commission hearing
The keenly anticipated Alderney Gaming Control Commission hearing into the suspension of the Full Tilt Poker licence started half-an-hour late in London Tuesday morning, and after some drama turned out to be something of a damp squib.
The venue was packed with journalists and other interested parties when lawyers from the UK firm Jeffrey Green Russell almost immediately appealed to the three commissioners controlling the hearing that its proceedings be carried out in private for the protection of Full Tilt Poker on three grounds:
* That it was in the interests of justice and did no harm to the proceedings to hold the hearing privately;
* That for reasons of confidential commercial sensitivity involving negotiations for a potential new investor, it could be prejudicial to Full Tilt to hear the matter publicly;
* That there were US legal implications that might be affected by public disclosures.
Noting the possibility that sensitive and confidential information might be disclosed in the hearings if they continued to be open to the media and the public at large, Full Tilt legal representative Martin Heslop said, “It is not in the interest of justice that this should be aired in public. There is a real risk that it may be detrimental to these interests and highly prejudicial to this decision.”
Heslop delivered an interesting snippet of new information himself, telling the commissioners that the only reason that Full Tilt had not paid GBP250 000 in licensing fees to the AGCC was that they expected the licence suspension to extend to expiry. However, he pointed out, the company would be happy to pay the outstanding fees if there was still a chance that the AGCC would allow them to operate under its licensing regime.
The argument caused some "chicken and egg" comment on the apparent impasse of Full Tilt effectively saying “no money without a licence,” while the AGCC stance appeared to be “no licence without the money.”
The commissioners adjourned for over an hour to discuss the application for an adjournment and a private hearing before returning with the decision that there would be no adjournment, but that the remainder of the hearing would be held in camera.
At this point there was a disturbance as the Brit poker pro Harry Demetriou loudly voiced his disapproval, accusing FTP of being corrupt and shouting "What about the players?" before storming out of the venue to loud applause from an audience clearly disappointed at the way things were going.
The commissioners then adjourned to hear the legal arguments in private later in the day.
Full Tilt Poker is reportedly in talks with private investors interested in the company, although it has yet to pay its players following its shutdown on Black Friday, and the subsequent suspension of its licence in Europe with the Alderney Gaming Control Commission and Arjel – the French regulator, which has confirmed that its suspension will remain in force.
Full Tilt legal representatives appeared to be hoping that the AGCC would reinstate Full Tilt's licence.
Jason Hill, representing the AGCC, said that two of the charges against FTP related to allegations of non-payment of licence fees amounting to GBP250,000.
The rather frustrating day ended early evening London time with the announcement that in the interests of justice and the best interest of Full Tilt customers, the hearing was adjourned to allow Full Tilt to continue its advanced investment negotiations, hopefully resulting in a better outcome for the players.
The AGCC announced that the decision was not lightly taken, and the hearing will reconvene at a place and time to be advised no later than September 15, 2011.