September 21, 2011 / 5:39 PM / 6 years ago

Online poker woes spill over into Ireland

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Cherrywood Business Park, on the outskirts of Dublin, is no Las Vegas.

But here, amidst the neat concrete-and-glass office buildings, the Subway fast-food outlet and the Spar convenience store, a multi-lingual team of 550 people helped run one of the world’s largest online poker sites, Full Tilt Poker.

This week, prosecutors in New York alleged that Full Tilt was not a legitimate company but a global Ponzi scheme that defrauded thousands of online players of hundreds of millions of dollars.

A check of the Full Tilt website says that its system is currently down.

Back in Cherrywood, nearly half the employees of Pocket Kings, which operates the IT, customer services and marketing for Full Tilt, are set to lose their jobs and many of them surf the web for clues about what will happen next.

“At the moment we just sit here and do nothing all day, just reading news from poker websites and message boards. For three months, we are doing nothing,” said one French employee, speaking to Reuters on his lunch break on Wednesday.

“If you’re not made redundant, everyone is wondering what’s next? There is a lot of uncertainty,” he said, declining to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

“Some of the people (management from the company) who are mentioned in the news, I couldn’t put a face to their names. There was quite a lot of distance even when things were okay.”

U.S. prosecutors have accused self-styled “Poker Professor” Howard Lederer and professional poker champion Christopher Ferguson along with other Full Tilt directors of paying themselves more than $440 million while defrauding other players.

Raymond Bitar, a Full Tilt director, also was named in the federal court motion. Bitar, a former equities trader who has residency in both the United States and Ireland, used to work in the Dublin office but employees who spoke to Reuters said they hadn’t seen him in awhile.

“They just tell us the minimum. There is no communications, we get most of the news through online forums,” said another French employee, adding that he expected to lose his job.

“It (morale) is really bad. Nobody is doing anything except for H.R. (Human Resources),” he said laughing.

Reuters asked to speak to Bitar but was told he was not in the Dublin office.

Pocket Kings did not return calls seeking clarification on its connection to Full Tilt, which was founded in 2004 with headquarters in Dublin.

Tiltware, a California-based company, owns all the Full Tilt Poker entities.

Writing by Carmel Crimmins; Editing by Michael Roddy

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