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Online poker provider Caesars opposes listing of poker cheaters

Updated April 11, 2023 - 7:27 pm

A bill that would require the Nevada Gaming Control Board to publish a list of poker players banned from playing online doesn’t have the support of the only company that offers online poker play in the state.

Representatives of Caesars Entertainment Inc. told the Assembly Judicial Committee last week that it opposes Assembly Bill 380. The legislation was introduced March 22 and drafted by professional poker player Sara Cholhagian Ralston, a former public health care advocate, working with Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, a part-time poker player.

Danielle Barille, vice president of online poker for Caesars Digital, which manages WSOP.com, and Mike Alonso, a Caesars lobbyist, told committee members Wednesday that they opposed the bill, even though it had been amended to remove concerns some critics had raised.

“Caesars is doing everything it can reasonably do to keep bad actors off the site based on its terms of service,” Alonso told the committee. “In other words, bad actors shouldn’t be on the site and you shouldn’t be playing against them.”

Advocates of AB380 say they are trying to increase transparency and developing a poker-centered list — similar to the Gaming Control Board’s List of Excluded Persons — would discourage cheating.

The Control Board’s List of Excluded Persons, commonly referred to as the “Black Book,” lists players who are banned from Nevada casinos because of their past record of criminal activity. The Black Book not only includes gambling cheats, but people with a track record of thefts from players and, more recently, persons involved in human trafficking inside casinos.

But Alonso said while the Gaming Control Board provides a list of cheaters, it also offers due process for persons accused. He also said publicly listing online poker cheaters could have other consequences.

“Caesars is concerned that the bill as proposed and the proposed amendment may provide actually less transparency than what is there at a very significant cost to Caesars and its customers,” Alonso said. “Caesars believes that publicly listing its customers will only lead to expensive and burdensome litigation for damaging someone’s reputation or from players who think that they lost money to an alleged cheater and want compensation.”

Barille said through her company’s terms and conditions, Caesars monitors play and can take action to ban someone from playing if they’re found cheating. Nevada players also compete against players from Delaware, New Jersey and Michigan, thanks to a Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement established in 2014 and amended in 2017 and 2022.

“While we do not disclose security protocols, every hand played on WSOP.com is monitored through advanced algorithms and our software and dedicated full-time staff,” Barille said. “We flag things like sharing the device with another player, running prohibited software while playing, IP address changes and physical movements. We monitor game-play patterns to previous patron history and investigate every accusation made to our customer service.”

Common online poker cheating techniques include collusion among players and running software that monitors the odds of a particular card being dealt and tracking by computer how certain players usually respond when particular hands are dealt.

Representatives of the Gaming Control Board had no comment on whether they favor or oppose the passage of AB380, which would likely increase the need for manpower to keep a poker cheating list current.

Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, said her organization has concerns about the bill.

“There are some valid questions around due process and libel from publishing a list of suspected cheaters,” Valentine said in an email.

“Although the amendment seeks to address that issue, it would instead require gaming companies to publicly publish their customer database which invades our guests’ privacy and puts our members at a competitive disadvantage. Further, the industry already works very closely with the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission to ensure the integrity of the games and alert gaming regulators to suspected cheating for further investigation. We welcome the opportunity to continue the discussion with lawmakers.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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