Poker Bots Invade House Internet Gambling Hearing

Date: 2013-12-11
Author: Dan Cypra

It's not very often that the U.S. House of Representatives discusses online poker, but that's exactly what happened in the Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee on Tuesday. As part of a hearing on the state of internet gambling in the U.S., poker bots were mentioned from the get-go and permeated much of the hearing, similar to what occurred in an internet gambling hearing back in 2011.

Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky told the assembled crowd of several dozen people in her opening comments, "This is an important issue… The issue of online gambling just increased in complexity and is deserving of our attention. It's also becoming increasingly important… Many states are considering similar action. I understand that some amount of gambling is occurring online… I do have serious concerns about expanding online gambling… It's critical that Federal legislation to expand online gambling do so with consumer protections as a top order."

Schakowsky also said she was wary of the use of poker bots, but admitted she didn't know what a bot was, at one point guessing it was a typo in her comments.

One of the six witnesses at the hearing, Chapman University Professor of Law Kurt Eggert, clarified to Schakowsky and company what a bot was and noted, "There have been poker sites that have used bots to stimulate games. There, [the sites] should be telling people it's a bot, but they haven't always done that. The bots we should be concerned with are run at home."

Eggert advocated a built-in rating system for players so consumers would know who the sharks are, who the house-backed bots are (if any), and who the fish are at all times.

To that end, Eggert explained during a question-and-answer session, "There are good consumer protection devices that can be built in. The problem of poker bots is going to be a different one. I don't know that there is good consumer protection for bots. For slot machines, I think we can have better information than we have in most places in the country. We can also design good ways for people to control their gambling." Eggert relayed a variety of anecdotes surrounding the use of programmed poker bots.

The use and effectiveness of age verification software was also a central theme. Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas, who was a witness, detailed, "Age verification technology exists in all forms of e-commerce that are age restricted. If a person wants to make a deposit on an i-gaming website, they have to go to rigorous lengths [not only] saying who they are, but also proving that they are 21 years of age… Age verification is here. It's working very effectively today."

Pappas added that there has not been a reported incident of an underage player competing on a regulated Nevada online poker room to date.

We'll keep you posted on the latest bot developments right here on PokerSoftware.

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