While it will likely come off as years too late and millions of dollars too short for most, Full Tilt Poker founder and board member Chris Ferguson finally decided to make a statement to the poker community regarding Black Friday this week.
In a 42 second video posted on Vimeo.com May 23, Ferguson stopped short of apologizing or taking any responsibility for his role in the Full Tilt/Black Friday scandal. The one that effectively shut down online poker in the US and left thousands of US players out of pocket millions of dollars. However, he did express regret for not being able to prevent it from happening. Ferguson also apologized that it took so long for so many players to get paid back:
“Hi, it’s Chris Ferguson. I’d like to take this brief opportunity to address the poker community, which I love, and have been part of for a long time. I deeply regret not being able to prevent Black Friday from happening. After Black Friday, I worked relentlessly to ensure that all players got paid back. And, I sincerely apologize that it took as long as it did.”
Ferguson also briefly addressed his years of silence on the matter. He added that he looks forward to the truth about Full Tilt Poker eventually emerging:
“I also realize that it has taken me a long time to make any sort of public statement, and I appreciate my fans and the poker community as a whole for their patience and support. One day the Full Tilt Poker story will be told and like many of you, I look forward to that day. I hope to see you all at the World Series of Poker this summer. Thank you and good luck.”
Ferguson and Black Friday
Ferguson disappeared from poker following April 15, 2011, a day now known as Black Friday. It was the day the US Department of Justice shut down Full Tilt and a number of other offshore online poker operators. The sites’ principals were charged with various money laundering and illegal gambling charges.
The DOJ went on to file a civil complaint against Full Tilt specifically. It claimed Ferguson and three other members of the company’s board of directors were running a Ponzi scheme. Ultimately, the DOJ said Ferguson and the Full Tilt board failed to segregate players’ money from operating funds. Then it paid out as much as $444 million of that money to themselves and other Full Tilt owners.
Through a lawyer, Ferguson denied the allegations. The DOJ dropped the case. But only after competitor PokerStars bought Full Tilt and negotiated a plan with the DOJ to pay back players.
More than five years later, with most of the money finally returned to players by PokerStars, Ferguson resurfaced at the the 2016 WSOP. He refused to make any kind of public statement on the matter. Ferguson turned up again in 2017, booking a record 17 WSOP cashes in Las Vegas, Nevada. He then went on to win a bracelet at WSOP Europe and secure 2017 WSOP Player of the Year honors.
As a result, Ferguson will get free entry into the 2018 WSOP Main Event. A 2017 WSOP POY banner featuring his likeness will also be unveiled at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino this summer.
Poker community reaction
Many in the poker community expressed anger that Ferguson had yet to own up to his involvement in the scandal. This statement won’t likely change their feelings. Particularly since most will believe he still isn’t taking any real responsibility for what happened. Or revealing much in the way of details of his involvement.
Some may be angered even further by claims he worked to ensure players were paid back. Particularly considering his very few publicly documented actions following Black Friday. Which include making a claim on various seized Full Tilt bank accounts, denying all wrongdoing, and disappearing.
The truth about Full Tilt Poker will eventually come out, as Ferguson said. It may even exonerate him completely. Until then, forgiveness from the poker community will be hard for him to come by. A statement more than seven years after the fact, claiming no real responsibility or apologizing for any wrongdoing, isn’t likely to earn it for him.