Almost halfway through the year, the cheating accusations involving online poker site UltimateBet.com have still to be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and this week simmering player anger was again evident on leading Internet message boards such as 2+2 and Casinomeister.
The incident has worrying similarities with a major cheating scandal at sister online poker room Absolute Poker last year, which culminated in the venue receiving a half million dollar fine from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, but little public indication that the perpetrators of the scam had been criminally pursued.
Absolute, which had initially shrugged off allegations of cheating by an insider, eventually paid players disadvantaged by the scandal, which was uncovered largely by astute detective work by the poker playing community.
UltimateBet and Absolute Poker are both fully owned by Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG, a privately owned company run by Joe Norton, the former Grand Chief of the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake. Both sites are are licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission in a First Nation enclave near Montreal in Canada.
Disclosures over the past few months indicate that the players at 2+2 have again been instrumental in uncovering the alleged UltimateBet cheating involving a player using the handle "NioNio". In a summary posted this week at: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/showthread.php?t=208114 the thorough steps leading to the expose are detailed by Steven Ware and Cornell Fiji, but briefly the history is as follows:
Some 5 months ago allegations concerning suspicious activity in the high stakes no limit games on UltimateBet were first made public at 2+2 in a thread on the High Stakes No Limit forum. UltimateBet and the KGC were informed of the suspected cheating amid allegations that millions of dollars had been obtained through questionable high stakes play, and that it was likely that:
* UltimateBet had known about the cheating for at least nine months.
* UltimateBet knew about but did not make any attempt to acknowledge the cheating before it was exposed by the 2+2 poker portal.
* Insiders working for UltimateBet had facilitated the cheating.
* UltimateBet actively took steps to cover up these crimes and thwart any investigation.
* UltimateBet did not make any public statements or acknowledge that cheating had occurred until March 6th, 2008, three full months after the allegations became public knowledge. Then, a release advised that after "extensive inquiry involving an independent third-party expert, NioNio account's winning statistics were indeed abnormal" but did not reveal whether an unfair advantage existed or what it may have been. It is claimed that this press release is the only occason on which UltimateBet has publicly addressed the issue.
* UltimateBet has not reached out to any of the players who were cheated, many of whom still don't know that they were cheated.
* Communications with players involved in the dispute have been slow and uniformative, assuring only that an investigation is in progress.
* UltimateBet has yet to offer to reimburse any of the victims of the theft.
The investigators at 2+2 are at some pains to note that the Absolute and UltimateBet scandals are not typical of online poker operators.
The authors of the report comment that it is important for online poker players to know about the unethical business practices of UltimateBet and Absolute Poker….but that it is also imperative to understand that these ‘unscrupulous activities' are not an indictment of the entire online poker industry.
"As you read this thread please keep in mind that UltimateBet and Absolute Poker are owned by the same company. They are also regulated by the same puppet regulatory commission. Most poker sites are run with the utmost integrity and security. UltimateBet and Absolute Poker are the exception and not the rule," they stress.
In the apparent absence of action by Tokwiro or the KGC the authors are concerned that the wider poker playing community should be informed of the allegations for their own protection.
The investigative work of 2+2 posters such as ‘trambopoline,' ‘dlpnyc21,' Nat Arem, and ‘Josem' is acknowledged and praised.
Concluding a highly detailed and itemised report on the 2+2 investigation and the information uncovered, the authors comment:
"Out of the hundreds of online poker sites, the only two sites to ever be caught exploiting a ‘superuser' account to steal from customers are both owned by Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG and licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.
"The players on UltimateBet were victims of a serious crime: grand larceny facilitated by a company that operates virtually outside the law. I hope that the efforts spent investigating and publicizing this story will help the victims of these crimes find restitution. I hope that this story will also highlight the need for independent regulation in the online poker industry."
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