Swedish Court Acquits Bot Ring3 years ago
The use of bots in online poker has been a source of huge and often frenzied discussion recently, and a ruling by the Swedish Court of Appeals will only add to the furore, as they have overturned a lower court’s decision that it does not constitute fraud!
Svenska Spel, the state-owned gaming company, had sued five players for serious fraud after discovering that they had used bots (poker robots) against 25,300 separate players early in 2013.
After reporting the players to the local police, and suspending 14 accounts in total, they sought redress in the District Court – having paid out almost $450,000 to the players affected by the cheating.
However their claim for damages valued at $300,000 ended unsatisfactorily. The court handed down sentences of probation to the five defendants, who were found guilty of the lesser offence of aggravated fraud.
With the prosecutors unhappy with this lesser conviction, and the defendants perhaps seeing a chance to avoid any penalty, both sides appealed this judgement to the Swedish Court of Appeals. The resulting decision has thrown a spanner in the works of poker sites seeking to rid themselves of the poker bot problem.
The Court of Appeals surprisingly overturned the original sentence, finding in their ruling that there was insufficient evidence that the defendants’ actions "entailed harm to the plaintiffs".
The verdict stated:
"According to the Court of Appeals, the defendants -through misleading - persuaded a large part of the 25,000 plaintiffs to play poker against 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.”;
Just as shockingly for the Swedish poker operator, the verdict also brought into question the element of skill involved in the game.
The Judges stated:
The Court of Appeals has considered that it is the question of a game where the outcome in substantial part is due to chance. It's not proven that the software has been constructed to be more able - more skillful - than themselves when they've played without the (bot) program. Chances of profit for the injured party has not been reduced because the defendants used the software at the game."
Outside of Sweden’s state-regulated online gambling sites, poker bots have been increasingly in the news. PokerStars began freezing the funds of many players recently, in a hunt for those using bots, Last year also saw a Pokerstars PLO bot-ring based out of eastern Europe taking players for millions of dollars, which saw several discussions about compensation claims being made to put right the losses incurred.
The question of poker bot ‘legality’ has been discussed before, but the Swedish case seems to be the first which has reached such a high-level court judgement. Onlinecasinos.co.uk ran an article on just this area of ‘poker bots and the law’, describing that although such use of robot programs is “against the terms of service of the poker sites… the problem is that most online poker companies are forced to operate in a legal grey area.”
Continuing with the claim that:
Party Poker allegedly employs more than 100 people whose sole task is to scan for and eliminate accounts with behaviour that suspiciously looks like poker bot activity“, the article hits the nail on the head by explaining that “It's clear that poker bots hurt poker players, which is why online poker companies work so hard to get rid of them. But they're not actually breaking the law. They're just being evil, which isn't in and of itself illegal.”
With regulation being such a varied and sensitive area world-wide, it seems that – as in the Swedish case – “lawmakers aren't about to help poker sites police the terrain.”
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