06 Mar 12

Exclusive: Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar Apologizes to the Poker World

In this exclusive interview with PokerStrategy.com, Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar speaks to the poker world for the first time since Black Friday. He discusses the reasons for his silence and offers an apology to those who have been affected by the Full Tilt situation.

On April 15th, 2011 ("Black Friday"), the three largest online poker rooms offering service to customers in the United States had their domains seized, and the operators of these sites were indicted by the US Department of Justice.

Since then, Full Tilt Poker - one of the three indicted poker rooms - has frequently made headlines in the poker world for numerous reasons. The most recent update regarding the company's status is that Groupe Bernard Tapie, a French investment group, is optimistically nearing a deal to purchase Full Tilt's assets.

Ray Bitar was a founder of Full Tilt Poker, and he holds the position of CEO at the company. Many people within the poker world have been critical of Bitar and others in managerial positions at Full Tilt for their silence since Black Friday.

PokerStrategy.com reached out to Bitar to address the controversy surrounding his silence, and he graciously offered us some of his time for a brief interview. He is the first member of Full Tilt management to do so.

The Interview

PokerStrategy.com: Ray, there has been public outrage surrounding the fact that you have been silent since the Black Friday shutdown and indictments. Can you say why you haven’t made any public statements?

Ray Bitar: There are two reasons. One is the ongoing legal process which has precluded me from providing any relevant information surrounding the on-going investigation, and of course, I have not wanted to jeopardize the process in any way. While I could have made general statements throughout this process, they would not directly relate to the issues under investigation. Any such statements would be so general in nature that they would not provide answers to the many questions people understandably have.

The second reason is that, along with others, I have been working every single day since Black Friday to ensure players are repaid, which has been my top priority, as well as working on the future plans of FTP. This work had to be done out of the scrutiny of the public eye. And so while it might satisfy people to have specific information about those ongoing discussions - and it would certainly take some of the heat off myself - I am convinced that such public statements would diminish the likelihood of a successful outcome, which is what we need to be focused on.

My love for the sport and the poker community has made it very difficult to keep silent, particularly in light of the many angry sentiments directed at FTP, myself and others, in newspapers and blogs. Given the lack of information that has been made public, I can certainly understand these sentiments. My primary focus has been and continues to be working towards getting us to where we want to be – the repayment of the players and the survival of the company. I have been fully dedicated to this cause and am doing everything possible for a beneficial outcome.

PokerStrategy.com: What’s been happening since Black Friday?

Ray Bitar: My life has drastically changed since last April. As a manager of Tiltware, I have been cooperating fully with the DOJ so they can complete their investigation. Beyond that, I spend a good deal of my time making sure that FTP survives and that the players get repaid. I know that these events have hurt a lot of innocent people and it’s my main job to make things right. I continue to work on these issues, day and night until we resolve them.

PokerStrategy.com: Is there anything you would like to say to the online poker community?

Ray Bitar: I would like to offer my sincere apology to all who have been affected by these events and to clarify that my silence was not an attempt to “hide,” or “ignore,” the situation. It was done out of necessity to ensure the focus remained on the continued efforts to reach the best outcome for the players. My entire focus is on obtaining a successful resolution for the players. I hope that before long I can provide some good news for all of the players involved.

PokerStrategy.com recognizes that the poker world is interested in further information, but for this first interview Mr. Bitar requested that we focus on his apology. We hope to provide future interviews with him discussing more specific details on Full Tilt and its surrounding issues.

By Matt Kaufman