Rob Yong, John Duthie Announce Launch of Anti-Cheating Cooperative Fairplay

UK-based online-poker stalwarts Rob Yong and John Duthie have announced the launch of Fairplay, an anti-cheating initiative for online poker that seeks to create a shared database of information on known cheating players to better safeguard other players and the industry at large from the adverse effects caused by online cheats.

Fairplay has created its online hub at https://fair-play.org.uk/, though the site is in its infancy. At present, it offers little more than a video from Yong, a managing partner at PartyPoker, explaining why the industry needs a clearinghouse of information on known online-poker cheats.

Yong is joined in launching the Fairplay initiative by John Duthie, the president of partypoker LIVE!, who will serve on Fairplay’s board of directors. Though Yong and Duthie are both senior officials at party and Fairplay will begin with partypoker, sister site bwinpoker and Yong’s Dusk Till Dawn operation as initial member operators, Fairplay is being launched as an independent initiative.

A few days ago, Yong posted an informal poll on Twitter in which he asked, “‘fairplay’ launches soon – a non profit independent org connecting online & live poker operators who commit to sharing their information with eachother on known cheats, colluders & bots – what’s your view on this?” About 80% of the respondents agreed that such an anti-cheating cooperative was a great idea, at least in theory, though several respondents pointed out possible pitfalls in the idealistic plan.

Duthie, also posting on Twitter, wrote, “This is a great initiative and I will be reaching out to all major poker industry professionals over the coming week to invite them to join this non-profit collective with an aim to join forces in combating cheating in all its guises. You cheat anywhere, you can’t play anywhere.”

Certainly Yong and Duthie as respected veterans of the online-poker industry, are well aware of many of the potential problems the Fairplay initiative will have to overcome. For them and many others, however, the effort is still worth it, due to enduring and possible increasing damage caused by bots and other forms of cheating.

“The objective of Fairplay,” states Yong as he leads off the brief video, “is to eliminate, as much as possible, the use of bots in online poker, cheating and collusion in online poker, and also any cheating in the live-poker environment.” From there, Yong extends an invitation to live online poker rooms, poker tours, casinos and other entities to share information with Fairplay for the betterment of the game.

One of the likeliest hurdles Fairplay and its members will have to face is the thin legal possibility that the sharing of user data will run afoul of the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which places strict limits on how user data can be shared in the interests of privacy and data protection. Yong counters that in two ways, first by noting that Fairplay member operators will be required to disclose to consumers that in the event of cheating, their personal data will be shared in Fairplay in much the same way as bad-debt information is shared with global credit-tracking agencies.

Second, as Yong notes, cheating of the type that would be reported to Fairplay is already a violation of virtually any poker operator’s terms of service. “Cheating is [a] violation of TOCs so it’s debatable whether GDPR applies to cheats,” Yong Tweeted.

Assuming Fairplay does get off the ground in a larger way, it’ll also be interesting to see how enthusiastic and diligent member operators will be in reporting violations by cheating players. Years ago, an informal sharing of cheaters was rumored to have existed, this in the days when virtual all operators were “grey market” entities. At least a couple of the contributing sites were alleged to have intentionally sabotaged the sharing of cheaters’ info, instead supplying the info of their own whales, falsely claiming them as cheats, in the hope that if the whale tried to gamble, elsewhere, he would encounter difficulties in opening an account or gambling large sums and thus be forced to continue gambling on his falsely-reported accounts.

Even then, online gambling was cutthroat in such a manner, though Fairplay may well find that in order to protect itself, it will accept operators only from well-policed jurisdictions, and may also have to impose the possibility of financial penalties for those who knowingly submit false info.

That doesn’t even touch on gambler and poker players who are banned following disputable situations. Eventually, such a “false positive” is bound to occur, and Fairplay will inevitably have to create some form of safety net to deal with such a situation.

Still, Fairplay is an interesting and perhaps long overdue initiative. Whether it will be truly workable remains to be seen.

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