By Simon Collins, Director, Cashcade Ltd.
The famous US news programme 60 Minutes is preparing a show which could be a substantial blow to US facing poker sites – sites, which in the eyes of the US government, are illegal.
When combined with the Kentucky Ruling, which is targeting the related issue that sites like Poker Stars should not be allowed to offer real Poker play to Kentucky based residents, the US marketplace looks increasingly challenging. [Update : the show went out on 30/11/08).
About the 60 Minutes show, Eolis, an online gaming legal consultant, said, “60 Minutes is wrapping up critical pieces for the blockbuster program. It spotlights cheating scams discovered over the past year at online poker sites, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. This week’s game plan for the investigative team includes a visit to Las Vegas to reel in at least one more protagonist for a sizzling interview related to the Absolute Poker story and a full throttle effort to ‘catch up’ with Russ Hamilton, the 1994 WSOP Main Event Champion who is allegedly at the centre of the Ultimate Bet scandal. “
60 Minutes has interviewed a wide range of high-profile internet players-turned poker detectives and at least one poker media reporter who has served as a consultant on the project. Steve Kroft, the show’s award-winning correspondent, is expected to applaud the dogged efforts of these so-called poker detectives, in cracking the cheating schemes and forcing Tokwiro and the regulators to take the matter seriously.
Background to this electric topic are online rumours about the Absolute Poker “Super User” account started last year. These became a story widely believed by internet poker players, one that finally has become an all-but-proven scandal. The twisted tale of how a user named PotRipper could see other players cards was bad enough, but to hear allegations that this poker cheat was actually an employee of Absolute Poker has sent shock waves throughout the world of US-facing online poker.
The controversy that shook the $12 billion online poker industry to its core began last month with a high stakes poker tournament that was played at Absolute Poker. Marco Johnson, a 21-year old resident of Las Vegas finished second place in that tournament. Even though he was happy to claim the $20,000 prize, something about the game just seemed odd to Johnson.
Johnson requested a copy of his hand history for the tournament so that he could take another look at his play and the hands he dealt. What he received was something entirely different. The hand history report should have been a simple list of the hands Johnson was dealt during the course of the poker tournament. What Absolute Poker sent, presumably by mistake, was an excel spreadsheet that showed the cards and IP addresses of every player. With this file in hand, questions were raised. Of particular interest was the activity of a player using the name PotRipper, who claimed a $30,000 prize for taking first place. PotRipper’s play was highly suspicious, enough that Johnson immediately felt as though he had been cheated. Before making such an accusation, however, Johnson reviewed the file with industry experts.
Hopefully, this show will encourage the US authorities to take a more reasonable stance towards online gaming, having shut off legitimate listed companies from the space such as Ladbrokes, William Hill and Party Poker. In their place a series of sites have benefited who are prepared to operate offshore and without the same level of oversight.
It is astounding companies like Wynn and the Vegas Strip elite do not offer online services replicating their massive offline empires. Your average American player would surely feel comfortable and relaxed playing with a major Vegas strip based outfit as opposed to a brand without the same checks and balances in place. How much money are these US gaming companies missing out on?
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