Since being revealed in May the Ultimate Bet cheating scandal has served as the source for no end of controversy. Evidence that certain accounts, linked to the former owners of UB, were able to view other players hole cards dealt a forceful blow to the reputation of online poker. These allegations coming only months after similar evidence of cheating was uncovered on Ultimate Bet’s sister site Absolute Poker.
Both Absolute and Ultimate Bet are regulated by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC), an independent regulatory agency based in Canada. Since being founded in 1996 the Commission’s influence has heightened, now monitoring 60% of global online casino traffic. The group is largely autonomous and operates exclusive in-house investigations.
This policy of opaque procedure has come in for condemnation by the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), a political pressure group that look to protect the legal rights of online poker players. The PPA has over 1 million members, it’s board containing such notables as Howard Lederer and Chris “Jesus” Ferguson. On July 22nd their chairman, former senator Alfonse D’Amato, released a statement criticizing the KGC for their lack of effective action on dealing with the scandals.
The document emphasizes that although the PPA are not a regulatory body they do seek to provide “the political and public policy voice for poker players in America.” However the perceived ineffectiveness of the KGC has prompted them to speak out. They claim that the unfolding situation with Ultimate Bet underlines their concern that there is no legal means of punishing cheating players, or the companies that allow them to operate. There is also no properly defined procedure for investigation, and as such poker players can have no confidence in the insular activities of the KGC.
In response to these claims the KGC, yesterday, released a statement of their own, outlining their efforts in dealing with the issue. They were at pains to point out that a statement detailing their actions will be released in the near future. Their primary concerns, they claim, are not to deal with the cheaters themselves but rather to see that the affected players are adequately refunded and that extra protective procedures are put in place to prevent similar breaches of security.
Challenges to their competency as a regulatory agency were countered by referencing the sanctions they have imposed upon Absolute Bet since their investigation closed in January this year. The most obvious response to the PPA come in their contention that “the KGC’s actions were not well communicated to the poker industry or public at large, creating an incorrect perception that the KGC was ‘doing nothing’.”
Such reposts are unlikely to appease the PPA, as the KGC have made no moves to add an element of transparency to their procedures or release the full evidence in either the Ultimate Bet or Absolute Poker cases. The more pressing issue for the PPA is the overturning of the UIEGA. Before online poker is officially permitted in America it seems highly unlikely that any form of government regulation will be forthcoming.
To read the PPA’s full statement go here: http://pokerplayersalliance.org/press-releases/2008/07/22/press-release-statement-of-ppa-chairman-senator-alfonse-damato-in-response-to-online-poker-cheating-scandals/
The full version of the KGC’s response can be downloaded in pdf format here: http://www.kahnawake.com/gamingcommission/kgc072308.pdf