Swedish Appeals Court Acquits Svenska Spel Botters for Dumb Reasons

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Attention online poker botters: head over to Svenska Spel if you know what’s good for you. Then again, you might all just be competing against each other, so your efforts might be futile. Why, you may ask? Recently, a group of five Svenska Spel account holders who were proven to have used bots to win thousands upon thousands of dollars from players were acquitted of fraud charges by Sweden’s Svea Court of Appeal. Botting may be against the rules of the poker site, but hey, the worst that will happen is that you have your ill-gotten gains taken from you!

Svenska Spel is owned and operated by the Swedish government, the de facto “official” online gambling site of the country. Five players (or programmers or botters or whatever – they weren’t necessarily real players) were discovered to have used bots – automated poker playing computer programs – on the Svenska Spel poker room, pulling in a profit of about 2.5 million SEK, or around $290,000 U.S. dollars, from an estimated 25,000 players on the site.

Using bots is against the terms of service of the poker site. The five botters were originally found guilty of aggravated fraud, but the appellate court overruled that decision, saying that because luck is involved in poker, the bots could have just as easily lost as they won. Of course, this is just stupid, it simplifies things to the point even my 7-year old would shake his head and say, “No, that’s not how it works. That is not at all how it works.”

Yes, of course a bot could lose, and many do. But well-designed bots put in the right situations will win in the long-run. They make perfect decisions based on the mathematics of the hand and probabilities of opponents’ actions. They also never fatigue, never tilt, never make an error in their calculations. They win because they play better poker than their human counterparts and never mess up.

But the appellate court just doesn’t get it. They’d probably think a burglar should be found guilty because he could have gotten unlucky and slipped on a roller skate in the living room, thus foiling his escape.

Below is the translation of the court’s reversal, in part:

The prosecution had argued that the five persons guilty of serious fraud by inducing together about 25 000 people to play poker against the robot on the Swedish Spel site. According to the prosecutor had the procedure entailed gain for the defendants with 2.5 million and the corresponding harm to plaintiffs.

The District Court sentenced the five defendants for aggravated fraud to probation. Both the prosecutor and the defendants appealed against the judgment.

The Court of Appeal has now acquitted the five defendants of the charges.

According to the Court of Appeal, the defendants through misleading persuaded a large part of the 25,000 plaintiffs to play poker on the poker robot. However, it is not proven that the procedure entailed harm to the plaintiffs or gain to the defendants in the manner required for liability for fraud. The Court of Appeal has considered that it is the question of a game where the outcome in substantial part due to chance. It is not proven that the software has been designed so that it has had a greater ability – skilful been – other than the defendants themselves when they have played without software. Chances of profit for the injured party has not been less because the defendants used the software at the game.

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