Regulations and Penalties for Online Poker Cheaters in the US

For online poker players, one of the most welcomed features of the new regulated online poker market is the prospect of having real-world ramifications and penalties for cheaters and players intent on skirting the rules.

To varying degrees, the definitions and penalties for cheating have been written into the regulations regarding online gaming in all three states that have passed online gaming laws: Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey.

Below you will find these details governing cheating, as well as the potential penalties for players caught breaking the rules.

Nevada regulations covering cheating

Nevada regulators have left much of the leg work up to the casinos and online providers. It is up to the providers to put in place (with the approval of the NGC and NGCB) the methods of detection.

Along with prohibiting specific items and acts, the blanket language inserted into the law can be applied to a variety of different cheating methods, or for breaking the online site’s terms and conditions.

Below I have listed three separate passages from Nevada’s online gaming regulations that reference cheating:

* 6. Reasonably ensuring that interactive gaming is engaged in between human individuals only;

* 7. Reasonably ensuring that interactive gaming is conducted fairly and honestly, including the prevention of collusion between authorized players.

* Each operator shall implement procedures that are designed to detect and prevent transactions that may be associated with money laundering, fraud and other criminal activities and to ensure compliance with all federal laws related to money laundering

As you can see, Nevada regulations cover everything from collusion to bots, and call on the sites to be diligent in their security and put the appropriate measures in place. Nevada regulators will then review these safeguards and policies to see if they are adequate.

Reading through the regulations, the definition of cheating also extend to any measure employed that changes the fairness of the game, which would theoretically cover everything from ghosting to multi-accounting; making these practices punishable offenses.

Penalties for cheating in Nevada

Penalties for online cheaters will mirror those already in place at brick & mortar casinos.

The current process gives Nevada Casinos the chance to give a player caught cheating a “slap on the wrist” or “throw the book at them.” A far better system than the current one in place in the unregulated online poker market; where your only recourse is public shaming on poker forums while the perpetrator counts your money.

A quick look at the penalties listed on the webpage for casino cheating shows just how harsh the penalties can be for online cheaters.

Delaware regulations covering cheating

Delaware’s online gaming regulations contain very little in the way of language regarding how sites and the State Lottery will deal with cheating, or conduct investigations into potential cheating.

A search of the regulation’s document returns zero results for the terms cheating, collusion, or poker bot. The word fraud or cheat appears less than a handful of the time, and mainly in reference to player funds or internally at the online site.

The Delaware Lottery is leaving security to what it is calling “Internal Control Systems,” otherwise known as “in the hands of the provider,” and any policies put in place will need the approval of state regulators before they can be implemented.

In some cases this type of loosely written law can be beneficial, as it allows the interpretation of the law to be written as situations arise (especially useful in new industries such as online gambling), but most poker players were probably hoping for something a bit more definitive, and along the lines of the Nevada or New Jersey regulations.

Penalties for cheating in Delaware

In Delaware, with its vague language, penalties for cheating will likely be hammered out along the way.

That being said, I expect the penalties to be consistent, as all online games (offered by Delaware’s three “Racinos”) are run through the state lottery by only a single provider, the partnership of 888 Holdings and Scientific Games.

One indication of how severely Delaware will come down on online poker cheats can be found in this story from 2011 where three men were arrested for marking cards. Another blackjack cheat was arrested in 2010 and faced 17 counts of misdemeanor cheating, as well as some other felony charges unrelated to cheating.

New Jersey regulations covering cheating

The regulations that cover online cheating in New Jersey are extremely comprehensive, but also leave just enough wiggle room in their interpretation to cover just about every form of cheating not specifically mentioned.

Compared to Delaware’s zero mentions of the word “collusion,” a quick look through the NJ regulations turns up multiple uses of the term (I stopped counting after 10), along with several instances of the term “bot.” New Jersey expressly prohibits collusion, the use of poker bots, and goes so far as to prohibit account sharing, which would extend to ghosting and other forms of soft-collusion.

Penalties for cheating in New Jersey

Like Nevada, New Jersey will apply their brick & mortar penalties to online cheaters, which mean pretty stiff penalties for anyone caught cheating or breaking the terms and conditions at a New Jersey online poker site.

Additionally, all New Jersey online casinos will share information on known cheaters, and being banned at one NJ Internet poker site means being banned at all NJ Internet poker rooms.

In New Jersey, cheaters will no longer be able to just jump to the next site and continue their disreputable behavior.


About the Author

Steve Ruddock

Steve is a seasoned veteran of the online gambling industry, having written about it from every possible angle in his many years as a freelance gaming writer. Based in Massachusetts, Steve especially focuses on regulatory and legislative news coverage pertaining to the U.S. market.