The twisting tale of Black Friday turned yet again this week when Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar returned to the United States to face gambling and money laundering charges. Bitar immediately entered a not guilty in a New York courtroom.

Bitar’s surrender has left many in the online gaming world asking why he chose to turn himself in now, and what it all means for current crop of online poker bills across the state?

Why Bitar Returned to the US

Bitar is facing some pretty serious charges that could land him in Federal prison for up to 145 years.  So why did he give up his Dublin hideout to face the music in New York?

According to reports in the poker media, Irish authorities were very close to extraditing him to the US if he didn’t do so on his own. There’s no word yet on whether he’ll be granted bail yet, but returning voluntarily definitely increases his odds of awaiting trial somewhere besides a jail cell.

In an e-mail to Full Tilt staff Bitar mentioned that he fully expects to be available by phone and e-mail once he gets to New York. Most prisoners are allowed to make phone calls and some are, indeed, allowed to send and receive e-mails. (Though they don’t personally log on to a PC.)

Is Bitar possibly getting ready to cut a deal with American prosecutors? Given the amount of evidence prosecutors have accumulated from other Black Friday figures who did cut deals, like Daniel Tzvetkoff, that’s a real possibility.

Tying Up Loose Ends

Many forum posters and reporters are speculating that Bitar’s surrender is part of a plan to tie up loose ends before Full Tilt is finally sold to PokerStars. This would make sense given PokerStars’ strong desire to re-enter the US poker market. Loose ends like Bitar don’t exactly look good when applying for a gaming license in a state like Nevada.

What it Means for Online Poker

Black Friday was a serious smear on the American online poker scene and the faster it’s finally put to rest, the better. Bitar’s surrender is exactly the kind of move that’s going to permanently put this incident in the rear view mirror.

Whatever Bitar’s case means for the bigger picture, it’s definitely good news for PokerStars. Their clearly interested in paying off those player accounts and moving on.

The only one who probably won’t come out ahead is Bitar himself. Even if he cuts a deal, he’s still looking at spending some time behind bars.

What do you think about Bitar’s situation? Will this help online poker legalization efforts in the US? Post your thoughts on our Online Gambling Laws & Regulations Forum.

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