Midway Poker Tour Owner Still Silent Over Major Payout Issues10 months ago
Players who cashed in the inaugural Midway Poker Tour event near Chicago in early October continue waiting to be made whole on their prize winnings, with MPT founder and owner Daniel Bekavac not having been heard from in more than three weeks. Bekavac and his tour remain responsible for more than $50,000 still owed to players in the wake of the disastrous poker event.
The virtual disappearance from the scene by Bekavac has the remaining 12 players still owed money considering their options, which now likely include legal action against Bekavac and his fledgling and almost certainly defunct tour.
At last report from PokerNews’ Chad Holloway, who was on the tourney scene as the payout issues unfolded, slightly more than $50,000 in prize winnings remains to be paid to those 12 players, led by event winner Renato Spahiu. Spahiu’s official payday was to be worth $55,060, but he received only $1,600 in cash, plus silver bullion worth roughly $37,000.
Spahiu is still owed roughly $16,000 according to the framework set up to pay the shorted players. Eleven other players are still owed lesser amounts ranging from $300 to $11,000, the difference between the actual worth of the bullion they received as opposed to the inflated value claimed by Bekavac’s tour. Nineteen players, most of whom posted min-cashes or slightly better finishes, reported being paid the difference owed to them in the days immediately after the payout fiasco transpired.
Bekavac, of Minooka, IL, has not been heard from publicly since an October 5th statement on Facebook in which he apologized for his “actions and inactions,” which included his no-show at the tourney venue on its final day. Bekavac also said:
“I will do my best to make things right.”
However, that statement came after the 19 initial and mostly smaller payments had been made, and none of the 12 remaining cashers has reported being contacted by Bekavac since.
The matter is compounded by the appearance of a shuttered MPT operation. The tour’s official internet home at themidwaypokertour.com has been taken offline, and the MPT’s social-media accounts on Twitter and Facebook have gone dormant since Bekavac posted his apology. In a Facebook update, sixth-place finisher Josias Santos posted:
“Nothing from Midway Poker Tour so far !! Only empty words !!”
Santos is owed roughly $3,500, the difference between the claimed value of the silver he received and what he was actually able to sell it for.
As odds increase that the situation will end up in the courts, it’s worth noting that the Midway Poker Tour is far from the first operation to go belly up while leaving players holding empty bags. In 2017, the Florida-based Players Poker Championship (PPC)failed to pay nearly $300,000 in prize winnings owed to the top five finishers at a heavily promoted event in Aruba. That led to a lawsuit against Tampa Bay Downs, the poker room which hosted and helped promote PPC events, and PPC founders Sandy Swartzbaugh and Bryan Oulton. Earlier this year, a settlement returned something less than $200,000 to the five players, given them at least partial compensation. Oulton filed bankruptcy during the case’s course, while the PPC was shown to have commingled funds instead of properly protecting prize payouts.
In 2016, the Minnesota-based iNinja Poker Tour collapsed under financial mismanagement, though the regional tour was later resurrected after being transferred by initial owner and founder Issac Tucker to a new investment team. And of course, one can’t overlook the collapse nearly a decade ago of the Annie Duke / Jeffrey Pollack venture, the Epic Poker League. In the process of plowing through millions of dollars of investors’ money, Duke and Pollack also failed to deliver a million-dollar freeroll that had been promised to the EPL’s participants. The EPL entered bankruptcy -- nearly killing the Heartland Poker Tour in the process -- and it remains one of the biggest tour failures in all of poker history, perhaps rivaled only by the collapse of the first edition of France’s Partouche Poker Tour.
In that sense, the seeming failure of the Midway Poker Tour isn’t that unusual, though other irregularities with the MPT’s operation suggest further storylines may emerge. The tour’s attempt to pay the cashing players with silver and gold bullion was itself a thinly-veiled attempt to work around Illinois’ charitable-gaming laws, and the inflated value claimed for that bullion adds another curious factor to a complicated equation. It is even possible that Bekavac has already obtained legal advice and has been cautioned to no longer comment publicly, though that in turn raises the likelihood that the matter will eventually need legal resolution.
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