Online poker fans outraged by the Absolute Poker.com and more recent UltimateBet.com hole card scams may be mollified by a report this week from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission following an independent investigation carried out by gaming regulatory expert Frank Catania.
For months players have bemoaned the apparent lack of action against the alleged perpetrators of the multi-million dollar scam, and a perceived lack of transparency by ownership company Tokwiro Enterprises and the KGC itself.
In the statement on the three-and-a-half year scam, the KGC says that Catania has uncovered the identity of the chief perpetrator, and names him as former World Series of Poker champ and former UltimateBet affiliate executive Russ Hamilton. The statement claims that over $60 million in fraudulent play was involved.
The scandal was first discovered by members of the popular online poker community 2plus2, and initially denied by the operating company, but the KGC subsequently became involved and levied a fine of $500 000 on Absolute Poker..
Chuck Barnett, spokesperson for the Commission, said Hamilton is not the only individual involved, and other names are likely to come out in the final report. The Commission is in contact with the appropriate law enforcement agencies and intends to fully cooperate with the prosecution of all individuals involved.
The full report will be published later this year, but in the meantime the KGC has imposed serious sanctions on UltimateBet:
1) All players cheated in the scam must be immediately refunded; in this context the company has already disbursed some $6.1 million to date, and must meet all other legitimate claims.
2) Remove from the company all persons deemed by the commission as "unsuitable," at all levels of ownership, management and operational activity.
3) UltimateBet to pay a fine of $1.5 million to the Commission, and is required to continue to provide complete details of all day-to-day operations of the company to the Commission for monitoring purposes.
4) Failure to meet any of these requirements will result in the immediate rovocation of the UltimateBet licence.
The full KGC statement reads as follows:
Kahnawa:ke Gaming Commission ("KGC") Chairman Dean Montour today announced the initial findings of the audit conducted on licensee Ultimate Bet, as well as the sanctions to be imposed.
According to KGC Chairman Montour, the Commission has reviewed the information provided to it over the past months from Frank Catania of Catania Gaming Consultants of New Jersey; Gaming Associates, an Australian game testing company; and the permit holder.
Chairman Montour said, "The Commissioners have made several findings of fact with regard to the cheating that occurred on the Ultimate Bet web site that included the identification of some of the individuals responsible for these incidents as well other significant violations of the Kahnawa:ke Interactive Gaming Regulations."
The Commission found clear and convincing evidence to support the conclusion that between the approximate dates of May 2004 to January 2008, Russell Hamilton, an individual associated with Ultimate Bet's affiliate program, was the main person responsible for and benefiting from the multiple cheating incidents. Furthermore, the KGC is currently in contact with the appropriate law enforcement agencies and intends to fully cooperate in the prosecution of all individuals involved in the UB cheating incidents.
Mr. Catania states, "My intention is to provide further information as it is uncovered, although the information already submitted to the KGC relating to Ultimate Bet warrants the KGC taking the actions it has today. Any further evidence uncovered with regard to cheating, withholding or destroying records in our continuing investigation will be reported to the KGC and the proper agency for appropriate action."
As a result of the KGC's findings of fact, the Commission called a special meeting, at which time it was unanimously decided to impose the following sanctions against Ultimate Bet:
1. Ultimate Bet is directed that by November 3, 2008 it shall, under the close supervision of the KGC, its employees and agents, commence refunding all players accounts found to have been adversely affected by the cheating of individuals under the control and supervision of the licensee. It is estimated that Ultimate Bet has to date reimbursed $6.1 million USD to players' accounts found to have been adversely impacted by the cheating activity
2. Ultimate Bet is directed that by November 3, 2008 it is to remove any and all persons deemed as "unsuitable" by the KGC from all involvement with the company, which shall include all levels of ownership, management and operation. Ultimate Bet during that time period until November 3, 2008 is required to continue to provide complete details of all day-to-day operations of the company. These shall include financial as well as daily gaming records to Frank Catania and or his assigns. It is anticipated that this action will provide full disclosure and prevent any further improprieties or wrongdoing from occurring while ensuring that the public is being offered fair and honest games and all player monies will be protected.
3. Ultimate Bet's control system as defined in section 9 of the Kahnawa:ke Interactive Gaming Regulations has been modified to prevent any further incidents of cheating or related improprieties.
4. Ultimate Bet will not delete or modify any logs including but not limited to web logs and game logs as required by the Kahnawa:ke Interactive Gaming Regulations and will continue to have those logs immediately available for inspection by the KGC or its agents.
5. Ultimate Bet shall immediately pay a fine of $1.5 Million USD to the KGC for its failure to implement and enforce measures to prohibit and detect fraudulent activities.
6. Ultimate Bet's failure to comply fully with these measures will result in the immediate revocation of its KGC gaming permit.
PS: The long anticipated CBS investigative program “60 Minutes,” examining the Tokwiro-Absolute Poker- UltimateBet -KGC affair is apparently scheduled for screening in the United States on October 26.