The 60 Mintues Story–with a week’s perspective

by Lou on December 8, 2008

OK, it’s been a week since 60 Minutes aired their story—dubbed “The Cheaters”—about the Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet cheating scandals, and I’m still so frustrated I want to pound sand! Steve Kroft’s segment included interviews with most of the people who unearthed the scandal, and I’m assuming he spoke to many more who never made it on air once the segment was edited down to fit the time available to it.
And he still got it wrong. At least he got a lot of it wrong. The first error was his statement that online poker is illegal in the United States. Untrue, and we all know that. What’s illegal outside of eleven states that specifically have legislation regarding online poker is that banks and other financial intermediaries can’t transfer funds to and from online gaming sites. However, in all but 11 states online poker is not illegal at all.

That’s the way it’s been since the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was enacted two years ago. There’s nothing new there and surely the 60 Minutes team and their attorneys ought to have known the truth—and they should have reported it!

Although 60 Minutes called gaming law expert and law professor I. Nelson Rose to talk about the legality of online poker, they failed to include his opinion on air. Rose is on record as saying that online poker’s legal status depends on a number of factors, and “You can’t say for sure that online poker is illegal. There are too many variables.”

To their credit, 60 Minutes did an accurate job of telling how a number of online players first suspected, then uncovered the fact that cheating was taking place, and were able to trace the points of emanation where the cheating started, unearthing some of the guilty parties in the process.

As expected, Russ Hamilton was thrown under the bus, and once again identified by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) as the main man responsible for cheating on Ultimate Bet. 60 Minutes also noted that no charges were filed and that Hamilton still resides at his Tournament Players Club (TPC) golf course home in Las Vegas. They also asked why no action was taken against Hamilton, even if affected customers had been repaid.

No one believes that this entire scandal can be placed at Hamilton’s doorstep exclusively. What 60 Minutes failed to do was to out some of the others who were identified as perps in the scandal. Scott Tom’s name was never mentioned. Neither was A.J. Grimard, (aka A.J. Green). The role of former host/consultant Mark Seif was not brought up at all, and Seif’s role in this affair is still a bit cloudy. An interview with Seif would have given him a chance to tell his side of the story, shed more light on this scandal, and clear his name in the process.

In addition, the 60 Minutes segment seemed very demeaning to the KGC, even going so far as to diss their facilities for being “non-descript,” as though a server farm in a remote location really needs an impressive building to transact business. Had the tribe located their facilities in luxe digs, they probably would have been skewered even more for a lavish lifestyle and “excessive” profits.

The quality of tribal buildings were not the subject of the story at all, didn’t relate to the scandal in the least, and given the short time 60 Minutes was able to devote to such a complex, and in some ways convoluted story, the show’s producers would have been far better off sticking to the main thrust of the story and not spinning gratuitous remarks to their listeners about the tribe’s architectural environment.

So what can I say? They got part of it right, didn’t get other parts of the story at all, ignored much of it, and spun a sort of elitist, incorrect view about much of it. I’ll grade them a “C,” and I’m being generous.

{ 1 comment }

Damien December 8, 2008 at 9:30 pm

You got it wrong too Lou, which is impressive because I believe you understand this.

“What’s illegal … is that banks and other financial intermediaries can’t transfer funds to and from online gaming sites.”

That’s incorrect. The UIGEA makes it illegal to transfer funds to or from *illegal* online gambling sites. That does not include online poker sites if those sites are not illegal.

This is very easy to confuse. The banks, and the regulators who are charged with enforcing the UIGEA cannot distinguish unlawful Internet gaming transfers from other transfers.

Also, the Department of Justice in the current administration claims online poker violates the 1960 Wire Act, which is patently false.

60 Minutes is probably the best news reporting on television, but like every television show their goal is to sell advertising, not get a complete and accurate story.

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