In a question I posed to Olivier Busquet in his excellent in-depth interview (Part 1 is up - http://www.gosugamers.net/poker/features/2788, Part 2 coming Monday), I asked what his thoughts were concerning the visible cheating scandals of late.
"The biggest issue with cheating is related to legalization. There is an incentive that exists for scammers and cheaters because if they get away with it they make money. And there is almost no recourse available to the individuals who are scammed or to the websites on which the scams are taking place. If we get poker legalized there should be strong consequences and penalties for people, whether it's multi-accounting, trying to superuse or cheat. If people start getting prosecuted, a lot of these people will stop trying this stuff."
I wholeheartedly concur that the way forward to remove the majority of cheating and scamming in the poker world is to establish clear and well communicated rules of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior and then create proper penalties with a strong but reasonable detection and enforcement mechanism to back up the standards.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board recently released their first draft of regulations for intrastate "interactive gaming." In section 5A, the NGCB lays out their suggested framework for online gaming. In addition to issues related to licensing,application requirements, expected internal controls, self-exclusion rules, and dispute resolution, there are elements that should assist in cutting down on cheating:
1) Player registration requirements - Players may only have one account at a given operator and may not use fake names. If there is a mechanism to prevent players from setting up multiple accounts at a poker room, that will help in cutting down multi-accounting. Regulated and enforced IP tracking and other security technology will help detect and cut down on other instances of cheating.
2) Incentives for poker rooms - Licensees will be required to maintain a revolving fund of $20,000 to pay for compliance investigations. If there are costs and penalties associated with violating the rules, the poker rooms are given more incentives to regularly police and enforce the new rules.
3) Hand histories must be kept by the operator for five years - Poker rooms will need to provide documentation to prove they are hosting a fair game and provide hand evidence of players who might be cheating.
4) Operators must take proactive steps to prevent bot use - Poker should be a single human vs. single human game and removing the specter of bots from internet poker would be a big improvement.
5) Legal online gambling age will be 21 - While I would never categorically say that younger players cheat more, I will assert that the moral compass for younger players isn't as fully developed and the temptation to find and push the gray area edges is likely greater in younger players who have yet to see consequences in their life.
6) Inter-account transfers between players are not permitted - While likely to be quite unpopular with players, this is a step to clean up the very murky money flow online. For too long, poker players have used poker accounts as pseudo-banks. They transfer money to other poker accounts for a variety of reasons including to settle prop bets, debts, or stake other players. There is no real trail for this money. Speaking to one poker room manager recently, he spoke of the dirty secret that high stakes players often create the impression they are laundering money with all the deposits, transfers and withdrawals. If each player can only move and manage their account's funds, in an environment where depositing and withdrawing is much easier and faster, the ability to track your wins and losses and the resulting tax burden should be easier and clearer.
As Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli stated, "Internet poker has become a multibillion-dollar business around the world. The technology supporting it, while not perfect, has improved dramatically since its introduction. Similar to our land-based requirements, Nevada will establish high standards giving players as much confidence as possible in the entities and technologies that might eventually gain approval."
These statements from Nevada, the leading state that will likely influence eventual U.S. legislation, compliance and enforcement, give me increased confidence that when online poker returns to the U.S. cheaters will find a much more challenging environment to operate. Poker is a hard enough game when played on an even playing field against other hyper-competitive players. I would happily embrace some reasonable restrictions that could effectively remove the specter of everyday cheating from the poker world and the stain it gives the game in the public's eye. Only with clearly communicated and enforceable consequences for cheating will greed-driven poker cheating be curbed effectively.