Full Tilt Poker executives should have opened a bank

Federal prosecutors have alleged in their amended complaint against Full Tilt Poker that the gambling interest was a “Ponzi scheme,” apparently in part because of the company’s level of cash reserves.

FTP owed approximately $390 million to players around the world, with $150 million owed to U.S. players. FTP only had $60 million on deposit in its bank accounts, however, meaning over $300 million is owed to players worldwide.

This was the result of FTP’s payment processing channels becoming so disrupted that “the company faced increasing difficulty attempting to collect funds from players in the United States. Rather than disclose this fact, Full Tilt Poker simply credited players’ online gambling accounts with money that had never actually been collected from the players’ bank accounts. Full Tilt Poker allowed players to gamble with — and lose to other players — this phantom money that Full Tilt Poker never actually collected or possessed.”

$390 million in liabilities and only $60 million in the bank? That means that FTP had a little more than 15% in cash reserves. According to Wikipedia,

A depository institution’s reserve requirements vary by the dollar amount of net transaction accounts held at that institution. Effective December 30, 2010, institutions with net transactions accounts:

  • Of less than $10.7 million have no minimum reserve requirement;
  • Between $10.7 million and $58.8 million must have a liquidity ratio of 3%;
  • Exceeding $58.8 million must have a liquidity ratio of 10%

So because FTP had 15% in cash reserves, the whole operation is a Ponzi scheme. If only the proprietors had started a bank of the same size, they would have only needed 10% reserves!