GoFundMe refunds donations to poker player who lied about cancer for tournament buy-in

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Poker Graphic(Angel Alvarez)
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 6:29 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The fundraising platform GoFundMe said Thursday it has refunded money to donors after a poker player admitted to lying about a terminal cancer diagnosis and accepted thousands of dollars in donations so he could play in a World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas.

GoFundMe said it has also banned Rob Mercer from the platform and removed the poker player’s fundraising campaign from its website.

“GoFundMe has zero tolerance for the misuse of our platform and takes swift action against those who exploit the generosity of our community,” the company said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.

Mercer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he made up a stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis for his GoFundMe page in June, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

The California resident was trying to raise enough funds to meet the $10,000 buy-in for the No-limit Hold’em World Championship. He received contributions worth between $30,000 and $50,000, including a stay at a suite in the Bellagio. Even a fellow player from Arizona who suffers from chronic illness donated $2,500.

“I’m sorry for not being honest about what my situation was,” Mercer said. “If I would have done that from Day One, who knows what would have happened.”

Las Vegas police didn’t immediately respond Thursday to an inquiry about whether an investigation has been opened into Mercer. GoFundMe said in its statement it would cooperate with a law enforcement investigation.

However, the 37-year-old said he would not be refunding anyone because he believes he has undiagnosed breast cancer.