UK Gambling Commission Stepping in to Ensure Online Poker is Fair
It comes as little surprise that with UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) tightening its grip on the online and mobile gambling industry, online poker would get its fair share of reviews and regulations. Up until now, little has been done, so the announcement that the governing body will be conducting an extensive review into the use of third party software in online poker was kind of expected and long time coming. Especially so after the hacking scandal at Full Tilt and the recent changes in policy for using third-party software at Party Poker and PokerStars. So what exactly will the UKGC be doing?
Although neither sites nor players like the increased surveillance and an extensive list of rules that they must follow, the UKGC is doing an important job at ensuring that gambling of all sorts is safe and socially responsible. And it’s understandable that the organisation has decided to conduct a review into online peer-to-peer poker after multiple security breaches and even cheating scandals.
Why Is The Review Taking Place
As we’ve already mentioned, UKGC announced on October 8th that it will reviewing, simply put, online poker. More specifically, they will take their time and conduct a multi-stage revision to see how cheating and collusion can be avoided. But why all of a sudden?
Well, as we already hinted in the intro, the hacking scandal at Full Tilt and the recent changes in third party software policies at PokerStars and Party Poker are to blame. First, Full Tilt was hit by hackers who infected the computers of some of the poker players by placing a trojan in third-party software. When the software was used, the hackers could see the hands of the player and unfairly win against them.
In light of this, two major networks – PokerStars and Party Poker – decided to implement widespread changes to its policy when it comes to third party software. Now, all reference material must be ‘basic in nature’, hand analysers can no longer be used, game state reporters can no longer automatically retrieve information and so on. As you can imagine, these are huge changes and although they affect both casual and professional players, those who play poker for a living are particularly unhappy about the changes.
How The Review is Going To Work
That’s why the review is important – it will ascertain whether the changes that were implemented in terms of third party software are necessary and whether third party software should be banned altogether or allowed again.
First, they will ask all UK operating licence holding sites for information and their opinion on the issues relating to online poker. “We want this information in order to asses whether the current controls in Licence Conditions and Codes of Practise (LCCP) and the Remote Gambling and Software Technical Standards (RTS) are sufficient to ensure online poker is crime free, fair and open and children and vulnerable people are protected.”
Then, they will take that information from this formal consultation and implement the necessary changes in terms of technical standards. This can mean anything: defining what is meant by third party software, banning all third party software devices that give some players an unfair advantage when peer-to-peer poker games happen or, on the contrary, allowing some third party software and instructing all licenced operators to allow it too.
What’s It Going To Accomplish?
Although no immediate effects will be visible to players at their favourite poker sites, the review will have more underlying and long-term effects, and it will accomplish three important things.
First, it will gain insights into the industry and the regulatory changes that need to be made to protect the operators and the players alike. Although the primary focus of UKGC is that the players are treated fairly, the review will also allow for the industry voices to be heard before any changes are committed to and made into law. The networks will also get a chance to try and sway any forthcoming legislation towards a direction that is beneficial to them.
Second, it will try to level the playing field for casual and professional players, making it the fairest environment that is possible for everyone to compete in. While poker is undoubtedly a game of skill and some luck, more experienced players already have an edge over the beginners. However, they still feel the need to bump up their advantage unfairly by using third party software, which might not even be on the radar of inexperienced players. If the review finds that third party software is unjustified in online poker, all players will have the same playing conditions.
Lastly, UKGC will gain back it’s position as the leader in regulating the industry. It is a little absurd that networks such as PokerStars and Party Poker have taken the initiative to review and outlaw some third party software and the main gambling regulatory body has done nothing to that effect. The review will thus reestablish UKGC as the authority when it comes to changing the guidelines and the technical rules of all gambling products out there under UK jurisdiction.
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