Svenska Spel Botters Acquitted on Appeal

A Swedish appellate court has reversed a lower court ruling in a case involving five accountholders on the state-run Svenska Spel site who operated poker-playing “bots” on the site, acquitting the five on fraud charges brought as a result of an investigation into the group’s activities.  The reversal (complete translated text below), by the Svea Court of Appeal, represents a bad precedent in regard to rules-breaking activity by such botters, leaving the site facing little means of recourse against illicit activity.

swedenWorse, the open knowledge that botters have been able to profit openly on Svenska Spel may well cause a crisis in confidence in the site by the majority of Svenska’s honest, non-botting players.  Should a crisis of faith grow, it could drive these players from the official Swedish site — Svenska Spel — to other Euro-based sites which are officially frowned upon by Swedish authorities.

The botting activity on Svenska Spel was widely suspected, triggered in part by the site’s below-market rake on low-limit games, which helped create ideal conditions for the group of five player-programmers to operate their warez.  The five were found guilty of aggravated fraud and were believed to have profited, as a group, by some 2.5 million SEK (Swedish krona), or about €270,000, collectively won from as many as 25,000 other Svenska Spel customers.

The five were clearly operating their bots in direct violation of Svenska Spel’s Terms of Service (TOS), which also had the purported backing of Swedish gaming authorities.  Yet the five players, who in accordance with the country’s laws have not been publicly identified, nonetheless managed to win in their appeal?

“Exactly how?” a rational mind might ask.  It’s because the appellate court decided, in a lengthy moment of pure insanity, that the fact that there is an element of chance involved in every poker hand meant that no “aggravated fraud” had occurred, because there was still some lowered chance that the victimized players who were up against the bots could win some of the time anyway.

It’s a horrible precedent, based upon both an illogical pretense and a clear misunderstanding of the nature of poker as a game.  Bots profit from their victims precisely by slowly tilting the odds in their favor, and the appellate court’s decision showed no understanding of mathematical principles beyond the presumed ability to count to ten on one’s fingers.

Or in other words, being a judge doesn’t preclude a person from also being an idiot.

So what’s next for Svenska Spel?  It’s hard to say, though one can expect that there’s a behind-the-scense push to rewrite the applicable gambling codes to make the violations for botting more clear.  Otherwise, frankly stated, there’s really no reason for Swedes to continue playing on Svenska Spel, which today operates as a standalone network.

The official ruling, translated, from the Svea court:

The Court of Appeal has today issued a judgment in proceedings for a game with so-called poker robot on the Svenska Spel site. The Court of Appeal acquitted the accused from prosecution for serious fraud.

The case concerns five persons who together designed a computer program on its own can play poker online, called a poker robot, or bot.

The prosecution had argued that the five persons guilty of serious fraud by inducing together about 25 000 people to play poker against the robot on the Swedish Spel site. According to the prosecutor had the procedure entailed gain for the defendants with 2.5 million and the corresponding harm to plaintiffs.

The District Court sentenced the five defendants for aggravated fraud to probation. Both the prosecutor and the defendants appealed against the judgment.

The Court of Appeal has now acquitted the five defendants of the charges.

According to the Court of Appeal, the defendants through misleading persuaded a large part of the 25,000 plaintiffs to play poker on 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. The Court of Appeal has considered that it is the question of a game where the outcome in substantial part due to chance. It is not proven that the software has been designed so that it has had a greater ability – skilful been – other than the defendants themselves when they have played without software. Chances of profit for the injured party has not been less because the defendants used the software at the game.

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