The owners of FullTilt Poker said Phil Ivey’s lawsuit against the online gaming company was a "sanctimonious" action and was designed to help just one player: "himself."
The Internet poker operator, which was named in a nine-count federal indictment in April that led the U.S. Department of Justice to shut down its business, said Ivey only wants to "enrich himself at the expense of others."
Ivey is one of poker’s most successful players and has been sponsored by FullTilt since 2004.
Ivey said in a Clark County District Court lawsuit filed Wednesday that California-based Tiltware LLC owes American gamblers nearly $150 million. He said his reputation had been damaged within the gambling community because of his relationship with FullTilt, which is licensed in Alderney in the British Isles, but has headquarters in Dublin.
Ivey said he wouldn’t play in this year’s World Series of Poker because FullTilt hadn’t returned money to American gamblers after the access to the website was shut down.
In a statement released to several online poker information sites, such as PokerNews and Bluff Magazine, Tiltware said Ivey’s legal action could damage the company’s plans to pay back gamblers.
"Mr. Ivey appears to have timed his lawsuit to thwart pending deals with several parties that would put money back in players’ pockets," according to the unsigned statement posted on the various website. "In fact, Mr. Ivey has been invited, and has declined, to take actions that could assist the company in these efforts, including paying back a large sum of money he owes the site," the statement said.
In his lawsuit, Ivey alleged FullTilt did not maintain a reserve account to be able to return money to players.
Ivey, who owns eight World Series of Poker championship bracelets, said he decided to stay away from the tournament because gamblers who haven’t been able to collect what they are owed from FullTilt might not be able to afford entry fees.
Tiltware called the lawsuit "frivolous and self-serving."
"Mr. Ivey is putting his own narrow financial interests ahead of the players he professes to help," the company said.
The 42nd World Series of Poker began Tuesday at the Rio. The tournament, which runs through July, is expected to host 58 events over 50 days.
In April, Justice Department prosecutors charged 11 individuals, including the founders of PokerStars, FullTilt Poker and Absolute Poker, with money laundering, bank fraud and operating illegal gambling businesses in a nine-count indictment unsealed in New York.
The websites were frozen, and the government said it was seeking $3 billion in money laundering penalties.
PokerStars, which is based in the Isle of Man, and FullTilt both reached agreements with the Justice Department last month to pay back American customers. In a statement, PokerStars said it had refunded more than $100 million to U.S. poker players.
FullTilt has not returned any funds.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at email@example.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.