October 09 2012, Rich Ryan
On Tuesday, the Rational Group announced that Full Tilt Poker was granted a license by the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission (GSC), allowing Full Tilt Poker to operate from the Isle of Man. PokerNews sat down with Steve Brennan, the CEO of the GSC, to discuss the license, safety precautions, and regulatory body as a whole.
What makes Full Tilt Poker a qualified licensee, particularly given the past history of the brand?
We were obviously aware of the history of Full Tilt and the events of April 15th, 2011. It was very well publicized and we were following those events because we had a license holder who was involved in those events at the same time. We knew what was happening for our license holder and we could see how the events were unfolding for Full Tilt and the other two license holders involved.
When we were initially approached to consider licensing Full Tilt, we needed to understand what parts of the previous company would be a part of the application. The GSC were keen to make sure we had a clean break between the past, and we think we’ve ensured that that clean break is there, given we’ve put some specific conditions against the license holder to ensure that essentially the brand, the software, and the hardware have been put together with the processes and the structures that we know and understand from PokerStars, and with the management from PokerStars as well.
This gave the GSC the necessary comfort to take on Full Tilt Poker. We know we can’t change the history, but we can ensure the future compliance, especially when you couple the brand and the software with what we know at PokerStars.
How are players protected under IOM licensing?
Just to give you an idea of the culture on the Isle of Man, we’ve been independently regulating gambling on the island since 1962. We’ve been doing online gambling since 2000. We have a lot of experience in the gambling sector.
Nonetheless, we also have some big industries on the island including banking and insurance. So on a political level, when the decision was made to diversify the economy and look towards online gambling, the politicians were cautious about making sure that we only took the right business, that we only took business that wasn’t going to cause any problems with the other sectors of the economy on the island.
They were also very cautious about protecting the consumer, and we probably take that a little bit further than most other regulators by insisting that the players funds that are deposited with the operator are protected and sufficiently segregated so that if the operator does get into any sort of trouble in terms of liquidation or some kind of default event, that the players are able to get their funds back.
We do that in a number of ways. The requirement for the protection is on the law in the Isle of Man, and there are a number of mechanisms that our operators are able to do that. They can receive bank guarantees, they can get trust arrangements in place, or they can put it into a segregated banking account held by an Isle of Man licensed bank. That works well for us.
Every operator is required to make sure that their player funds are segregated. There are no exceptions. We don’t make exceptions for anyone.
In the press release, you noted that the connection to PokerStars gave strength to the license application. Do you think the IOM could’ve accepted FTP if it was with Groupe Bernard Tapie or another operator?
That’s a difficult one to answer. We wouldn’t know what was being brought to us. It’d be easy to speculate at this point knowing what we know, but that’s not an easy question to answer based upon the events we know.
How does this license differ from PokerStars’? Are they linked in any way?
They are two separate licenses. We have PokerStars with its license and its operations and we have Full Tilt with its own license and they’re going to be completely separate. We take comfort from the procedures and the management that are in charge behind both of those operators. They’re known to us, and they’ve been here since 2005. We understand what they do and how they do it, and they understand what their requirements are of our laws. It works, it’s been working for the past seven years or so.
What does FTP bring to the gaming community in the Isle of Man?
I can tell you what it means to have Full Tilt here from a regulatory view. We add an operator to our growing list of license holders that we have here on the Isle of Man. It’s not a numbers game though, we’re cautious in our approach that we take so we don’t have hundreds of license holders, but we now have, regardless of its history, a well-known brand that’s going to bring with it employment and revenue. Like every jurisdiction, employment and revenue in this day and age is something everybody would like a slice of.
As part of that relationship, Full Tilt will have to comply with what the Isle of Man regulations say, and we will be checking on them just like we check on our other operators to make sure that they stay within our laws.
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