Good to its word last week, when it promised further developments within days, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission has issued another statement on the continuing furore over multi-million dollar cheating at the UltimateBet and Absolute Poker online poker websites.
The statement advises that an independent monitor has been appointed to investigate KGC Licensee, Tokwiro Ent., parent company of both Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. The investigation will be led by former New Jersey State Gaming Regulator, Frank Catania.
A respected regulatory expert in online gambling circles, Catania is a former Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), the regulatory and enforcement agency responsible for maintaining integrity and trust in all Atlantic City gaming operations. As division director, he was a driving force in updating the New Jersey Casino Control Act by fine tuning the balance between regulatory necessity and economic stewardship.
After leaving the DGE, he served as the vice president in charge of compliance for Players International, Inc. where he was instrumental in resolving compliance issues the company had encountered in the State of Louisiana, prior to his appointment. He is a principal in Catania Gaming Consultants and the Law Offices of Catania & Associates LLC.
Unfortunately, the KGC release does not disclose a key element that is already being seen as an impediment to Catania's independence: he was involved with the KGC at a formative stage of the jurisdiction, acting as a consultant and framing the regulations used by the Commission. Before the ink on the statement was dry, players were remarking on this, raising doubts as to the real effectiveness of the investigation when so many pressing ownership and value questions remain unanswered.
The statement claims that the Independent Monitoring Team will be given the task of completing a full forensic audit/investigation of the online gaming business of both licensed entities.
"The main purpose of the investigation is to ensure that the games offered to the public are fair and honest and that all player protections as required by the Kahnawake Gaming Regulations are being complied with, without exception," the statement advises.
"The monitoring team will also be charged with verification that all those involved in the fraudulent activities in any manner, no matter how slight, have been or are removed from the licensee company and verify that Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker have submitted to full compliance with the directives issued by the KGC and recommended by the independent monitor.
"Furthermore, Mr. Catania's team will be empowered by the KGC to have full access to interview all employees, past or present, review all records, contact and interview all sub contractors and individuals whom the monitoring team believes necessary.
"Any failure by the licensees could result in immediate revocation of their license privileges with the KGC. In the event that any criminal activity is found to have occurred, such activity will be reported to the appropriate authorities for possible prosecution."
The KGC says its licensee, Tokwiro Enterprises has agreed to comply fully and submit all assistance required by the team.
KGC Chairman, Dean Montour added: "While the ongoing investigative process has dominated the attention of the KGC in recent months, we are fully confident in the ability of the Independent Monitoring Team to deliver results and assist the Commission in bringing this matter to a decisive conclusion."
Early player reactions were that the KGC would be better advised to appoint an investigator who was not associated with the jurisdiction and was totally independent of both the KGC and the companies involved. At this late stage it would probably be difficult to corral all of the evidence, important questions remained unanswered and little appeared to be happening regarding the prosecution of the perpetrators. Whilst it was accepted that a clean-up operation was necessary, there was a danger that the latest move could be perceived as a cosmetic attempt to repair seriously damaged trust and reputation rather than get to the bottom of the affair and publish all the details.