logo-svenska-spelSvenska Spel, Sweden’s state-owned online gaming company in that country’s highly regulated gambling market, has locked down 14 poker accounts that allegedly used bots to win big money.  The company says the suspended accounts had a total of $108,000 in them presently, but had won more than $1.8 million over the course of the past year.

Players Get Suspicious

In a scenario reminiscent of PokerStars and other online sites’ cheating scandals in recent years, it was a player who initially reported suspicious activity to the Swedish gambling site, which ultimately determined the accounts had been using bots.  Bots are illegal computerized players, masquerading as humans in online games, but in actuality mechanized programs with sophisticated algorithms for how to initiate play or react to other players moves in various situations.

Svenska Spel ultimately reported on its own players’ forum that the bots in question had been used in No Limit Hold’em games ranging in big blinds from $50 up to $500. The site said most of the big winnings occurred over the last six months, and that the matter was now in the hands of the Swedish Gaming Board as well as local authorities.

Company Initially Failed to Report

Again mirroring past online cheating scandals with Absolute and other poker sites, the company admitted it had known about the matter before the player reported it, and yet had failed to report it to authorities.  Svenska Spel has not revealed the screen names of those involved in the lockdown while investigations continue; as one of Sweden’s limited number of state-authorized gambling providers and the only one licensed to provide online poker to players, it leaves wary gamblers with few options but to accept the risk or give up online play completely.  The company uses GTECH G2 software in their online poker games.

Issues Plague Online Poker

As several U.S. states, most notably Nevada and New Jersey, stand poised to launch legalized and regulated online poker at any moment now, these issues of cheating on online poker sites and how to prevent them have become of paramount importance to prospective as well as current players. A recent online study of poker players revealed that 12% of online players were either apprehensive or had completely stopped playing online in light of the numerous bot allegations and proven scenarios.

But the cheating issues are not limited to only bots.

PokerStars had a massive scandal in 2010, in which a team of 49 Chinese players were caught colluding in Double or Nothing SNGs, resulting in an estimated $2 million dollars being stolen from some 25,000 players. PokerStars ultimately paid out $2.1 million in compensation to the affected players. Absolute Poker also had a well-publicized cheating scandal in 2007, in which “superuser” accounts were shown to have been able to see opponents’ hole cards, obviously making it very easy to win time and time again (a reality which ultimately tipped off players and made Absolute investigate).  Ultimately, $15 million was reimbursed to players at Absolute as well as Ultimate Bet, which was also caught up in a cheating scenario; the reimbursement was made after the software company used by both poker sites, Excapsa Software, came to a settlement with Tokwiro Enterprises, which owned both companies.

The Future

Clearly, there is still a ways to go with some of these providers to prove to potential online players that the environment is as safe and security is as tight as in a brick-and-mortar casino.  With billions at stake, one can only hope they figure it out soon.