One of the biggest questions with online poker – and online gaming overall – is the proliferation of online cheating. There have been many suggestions for combating this situation, but few solutions. The state of Nevada has stepped up with proposed legislation that would look to take on the subject once and for all, and with a solution that they have already used.
If It Works for the Casinos…
Last week, legislation was introduced in the Nevada Assembly that would look to create a “Black Book” for online poker players. The bill is called AB380 and would give the Nevada Gaming Commission the power to maintain and police a list of people known to have cheated in the online game. The bill has been sent to its appropriate committee, the Assembly Judiciary Committee, but there is not a partner bill in the Nevada Senate, something that would be necessary for the bill to move forward.
The proposed legislation is the brainchild of Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) and the former Patient Protection Commission Executive Director, Sara Cholhagian Ralston. The bill would depend on the online poker operators, presumably only those in the state of Nevada, to provide a list of whom they have banned from their sites for cheating the game. This would provide a level of transparency and protection for players that currently does not exist, according to Ralston.
There’s a reason for the drive to further regulate online poker sites. As a part of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement, there is a need to ensure that the games are legitimate. Through the regulation (and banishment) of players from the sites involved, it is hoped that the integrity of the game is maintained.
Not everyone is on board with the efforts in the Assembly, however. Caesars Entertainment, which operates the WSOP.com online poker site in Nevada, vehemently opposes the intrusion by the state legislature into their operations. Danielle Barille, the Vice President of online poker for Caesars Digital, stated to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that WSOP.com already goes to great lengths to prevent cheaters from playing on the site.
The organization that would be responsible for administering the “Black Book,” the Nevada Gaming Control Board, surprisingly has not taken a position on the subject as of yet.
Should There Be a “Black Book?”
Online poker has always had difficulties in policing itself. Many online sites will ban players and seize their funds, but the Average Joe doesn’t hear about these moves, much less know who is involved in the cheating. Furthermore, with the anonymity of the online world, a previously banned player can simply create another persona and get right back in the game (although this is becoming more difficult).
In the past year, there has been one notable exception, although specifics have not been divulged. Poker professionals Ali Imsirovic and Jake Schindler were both prevented from entering a “High Rollers” event in Monte Carlo because of alleged violations of the Terms & Conditions of an online poker site. The removal from the tournament also resulted in the banishment of the two players from the PokerGO Tour, where Imsirovic won the Player of the Year in 2021 (Schindler, for his part, won a World Series of Poker bracelet before disappearing from the poker world).
An outcry from the players led to GGPoker creating the Poker Integrity Council during the summer of 2022, but it has been less than forthcoming in its work. The PIC was established to be an arbiter of “integrity issues” in the online game. While the PIC did announce that players who had previously been banned could apply for reinstatement to GGPoker; there has been no statement on whether players have taken the time to apply or whether players have been reinstated nearly eight months later.
The ”Black Book” of NGCB lore is actually called the “List of Excluded Persons,” which formally lists all individuals who are currently prohibited from entering the casino grounds in the state. These people have usually been convicted of trying to cheat the casinos while playing their games and it is a lifetime ban. A person does have the due process afforded to them to be removed from the “Black Book,” but nobody ever has been taken off the roles.
The online “Black Book” would be different in that the online gaming operators would be REQUIRED to provide a list of those that have been banned from their offerings (casinos request that people be placed on the NGCB list). The official language in the proposed bill would require that online sites provide the full names, birth dates, and known gaming account handles that have been “suspended or banned” for cheating. Ralston does admit that she doesn’t want this to be a “burden on the operator,” but there seem to be other things that might be problematic in passing the proposed legislation.