Full Tilt Practically Drawing Dead to Relaunch by March

People won't be playing now–or even by March–on Full Tilt.

In a recent interview with Gaming Intelligence, Laurent Tapie said that he hopes to have a re-branded Full Tilt Poker launched by March 1.

Ok then. There’s a better chance of Layne Flack repaying his debt to Full Tilt than the site relaunching within the next 30-45 days.

According to sources connected to Groupe Bernard Tapie investors, what Tapie is telling them (and Gaming Intelligence) isn’t just lip service though. Laurent Tapie has been “adamantly” telling GBT investors that:

  1. Full Tilt Poker will relaunch in March;
  2. It will be rebranded;
  3. They will obtain a Nevada online gaming license.

While that may be their intent, Full Tilt is a long, long way from actually going live again. And the reality is, the longer this process takes, the less of a chance we feel like it will ever happen.

Here’s our take on Tilt’s multitude of issues…

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Simply put, the site launching by March is a pipe dream.

Full Tilt had a massive “brain drain” of talent since June, when the AGCC yanked their gaming license.

That mass exodus creates operational issues that are hard to overcome in a short period of time. We’ve spoken with a number of connected operators and ex-Tilt employees to gauge what–if anything–GBT has done to replenish the company’s talent pool.

Across the board, the answer has been “nothing.”

According to one ex-employee who still has ties to the company:

“…as far as I know, they’ve hired literally nobody in any even vaguely senior roles.”

This, of course, is a problem.

Who is going to rebrand the company? Run the (we’d hope) marketing research on the new brand and its general public perception? Set up operational controls to ensure the same financial and management issues don’t rear their ugly heads again? Create a general operational framework–learned from time served at a successful competing operator–to maximize efficiencies and profits?

We’re expected to believe those key hires, rebranding efforts, reissuing of a gaming license, and all of the marketing and advertising strategies will be in place and ready to go within the next 30-45 days?

According to our sources, GBT has not poached a single senior ranking executive at any online operator (nor has there been any “let’s give the public some reassurance that things are going to be better and different with this key hire press release” announcement, for that matter).

So let’s remove that March relaunch from the table and focus on something that must happen before the site goes live again: a full-fledged rebranding of the company.

Early indications from GBT was that Tilt would keep its name. But that sentiment seems to have changed.

We have not spoken to one single sponsored Team Pro or Red Pro who has heard a word from GBT since they prominently entered negotiations to acquire the company–unless, that is, that pros had debt owed to the old ownership.

Maybe GBT doesn’t want any association with the past, so they’re cutting ties with all sponsored pros. However, despite what Calvin Ayre may believe, sponosored pros do help attract customers and provide a site some legitimacy. In particular in Full Tilt’s case–a major market differentiator for the company was its high-stakes cash game action. The likes of Patrik Antonius, Gas Hansen, and Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan have remained remarkably unsullied by the Full Tilt scandal. And people like Phil Galfond are among a small group of pros with sterling reps within the player community who could keep the high-stakes action and reputation of the site alive.

But we don’t currently see GBT going in that direction.

Maybe they have a different customer acquisition strategy in mind. Which is fine. It’s their company (almost), and their money.

Regardless, rebranding a company like Tilt is a massive, massive effort that may require some more time.

Finally, as far as operating an online platform in Nevada, that ain’t happening.

A sneaky provision tucked away in the Nevada online regs that nobody is talking about: in order to get licensed, you need to operate an establishment in the state of Nevada with at least 200 hotel rooms.

Last we checked, Tilt/Tapie operate zero. Which, again, is roughly their chances of obtaining an online gaming license.

That doesn’t mean that Tilt/Tapie/Insert New Brand Name Here won’t be able to eventually find a casino partner, but that’s not happening any time soon.

Ultimately, all of the above may be moot. As we alluded to in an earlier post, we believe the latest public statements from GBT could be setting the stage for the company to not-so-gracefully exit from acquiring the company.

More about why we believe this in a post later today.

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