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HEADLINE: Online Poker Industry Fearful of Proposed 60 Minutes Expose
An anticipated piece slated to air on CBS' 60 Minutes regarding the online poker industry and a notorious "insider poker cheat" has much of the sector wondering what type of damage may occur as a result. Previous reports airing on 60 Minutes related to the industry have been fair for the most part though not entirely flattering. One investigation demonstrated "how easy it was for a minor to access an online casino with his or her parents credit card" even though the industry overall has addressed the issue of underage gambling quite well. It took a fourth attempt by the minor used to finally access an online casino that has not always proven among the most responsible - Golden Palace. They were later indicted we might add.
According to the Nat Arem Blog, 60 Minutes, in conjunction with a reporter from the Washington Post, contacted Arem regarding a story about the Absolute Poker scandal from last fall. Here is a quick recap of what transpired with this controversy:
In September 2007, Absolute Poker began defending itself following accusations made by members of several Internet forums that the online poker room has a "superuser" account which allows one player to read the hole cards of another during a game. By October, widespread Internet allegations of cheating led to the Kahnawake Gaming Commission opening an investigation. Kahnawake is the licensing arm of Absolute Poker and many other online gambling establishments, including Bodog Life.
Although allegations had been made about several accounts, one of the most remarkable pieces of evidence was a complete history of a tournament in which a player called "POTRIPPER" played. This history was far more complete than normal, and included all hidden hole cards for all players. It was sent out, perhaps by accident, when a player complained about suspicious play.
Absolute Poker and Kahnawake would later confirm the "internal breach".
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission issued its report on the incident in January 2008. Among other consequences, Absolute Poker was fined $500,000.
Absolute Poker also pointed their finger at AJ Green, whose real name is Alan John Grimard. The company insisted he was a mere "consultant", and had no "management duties".
Grimard was in fact a long time employee of Nine.com (formerly known as Grand Central Sports). He and a founder of Absolute Poker were friendly a few years prior to Grimard's work with the online poker room. Nine.com and Absolute Poker shared an entire wing of a Costa Rican mall, though neither company was related.
Also see: Alan Grimard Hooks Up With Clooney Girl
This Can't Be Good For Online Poker
While politicians and the powerful million plus member strong Poker Players Alliance appeared in Washington this week for a hearing on hopelessly bogged down Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act regulations, online poker players expressed concern over what direction the 60 Minutes piece might be taking.
60 Minutes has told Gambling911.com that much of what is being posted over the Internet is based on rumors and nothing more. They haven't yet elaborated on the story.
But one thing is certain, exposing the Absolute "internal breach" to the masses will hurt not only Absolute Poker but all other online poker rooms - Full Tilt Poker, Poker Stars, Bodog and the list goes on. The average viewer will not differentiate one from the other. Bottom line: If it can happen at one Internet poker room, it can happen at all of them.
That's not to say 60 Minutes shouldn't venture into this territory. Gambling911.com finds it incomprehensible that Mr. Grimard is seemingly running around free and neither Absolute nor the Kahnawake Gaming Commission have filed a complaint against this individual. If the intention is to focus on Grimard, make no mistake about it - 60 Minutes will locate him. Absolute/Kahnawake or both would be wise to file a complaint against this person.
By most accounts, Absolute Poker has not been seriously hurt by the incident. Real cash player numbers have remained steady according to PokerSiteScout.com.
One of the reasons for this - despite a slow response time on the part of Absolute, they eventually reacted in the proper fashion by paying back any players who may have been affected by the breach. They also flew down two of the individuals who were especially vocal about the incident, supplied them with hookers, booze and more hookers - then everything was great. Not so - Grimard has yet to be held accountable to the best of our knowledge.
Gambling911.com refused to take part in this "dog and pony show" but Absolute Poker was eventually allowed back onto the G911 website as a sponsor after a one month period once they assured us this matter would be rectified and such an incident must never happen again. The assumption of course is that "engaging in such activity again would be the Absolute dumbest thing imaginable. Make no mistake about it, the principals behind this poker room weren't exactly celebrating their names and photos being plastered all over the Net.
Having Absolute Poker on a short leash is one thing. Gambling911.com has no way of knowing whether customer accounts continue to be jeopardized. That's up to the regulators who - we can presume - is Kahnawake.
While the relationship between Kahnawake and Absolute Poker seemed a "little too cozy" to some industry observers, it should be pointed out that Kahnawake has come a long way from the time when their only licensee was Sports Interaction, known for their notoriously poor customer service and slow pays. When concerns over a Kahnawake licensed establishment appear on the Gambling911.com website, their response time is often less than 10 minutes. The same cannot even be said of Antigua, which has yet to address the issue of Alladins Gold Sportsbook shutting down and stiffing all its customers. Alas, the owner is the richest man on the island.
So while regulation isn't perfect, it is present to some degree and there is of course plenty of room for improvement.
Unfortunately, the US Government has expressed little interest in regulating what is now a billion dollar industry.
The best thing that could have happened to the online poker industry is the Absolute debacle. Operators are now placed on notice. Poker players are smart. They will eventually catch onto any monkey business that might be occurring and it could be said they are watching very closely these days.
But the worst thing that can happen in this industry is when an online gambling establishment abruptly shuts down and stiffs all of its customers. We here at Gambling911.com can name dozens over the last 10 years that have done just that. Absolute Poker did not go that route.
Grimard - and we suspect others - need to face the music however.
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