Thursday, September 18, 2008

Former UltimateBet Owners Face $75 Million Claim

UltimateBet cheating scandalWow. Do you think report of this will reach the desk of the eleven-star general of the UB Army?

Kind of a double bombshell here. First, just the fact that MSNBC would be reporting on the Ultimate Bet/Absolute Poker scandals at all is of significance in and of itself.

We all know that 60 Minutes feature on the scandal(s) is coming in the not-too-distant future. And there have been a couple of other instances over the last year when major news media outlets did deign to give ’em a looksee, such as last October right after the AP scandal first hit the fan.

But generally speaking, there has been scant notice of the UB/AP brouhaha beyond our little, admittedly insular corner of the globule. You didn’t hear Norman Chad mention anything about it the other night on ESPN’s broadcast of Day 2 of this year’s Main Event, did you? And that was with both Phil Hellmuth (the face of UB) and Mark Seif (the face of AP) at the feature table!

As I have said before, even if some in the poker world would rather it all be kept hush-hush, I maintain that the mainstreaming of online poker scandals is a overall a very good thing.

But did you read the article? Mike Brunker reports that a $75 million claim is being made against the company that once owned and licensed software to UltimateBet. Apparently MSNBC has been in touch with a “court-appointed liquidator in charge of overseeing the voluntary dismemberment of Excapsa Software Inc. of Toronto, which formerly owned and licensed the poker software to UltimateBet and other gambling sites.”

Voluntary dismemberment. Aye-yi-yi.

Excapsa is, of course, the one-time owner of UltimateBet and Absolute Poker, who apparently sold the company in October 2006 -- right around the time the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was signed into law. That would be the “former” owners the current owners are blaming for all the trouble, even though cheating on the site continued until the beginning of 2008.

The article actually provides very few specifics regarding the claim. We are told that claim was filed by Blast-Off Ltd. of Malta -- i.e., the company that owns Absolute Poker that purchased UB back in 2006 -- but there’s nothing about the potential strength of the case or anything about a timeline moving forward. Nor is there any explanation of the significance of that $75 million figure, other than a reference to the liquidator saying “the amount of the claim did not directly correlate with the amount believed to have been stolen from UltimateBet players.”

After taking care of delivering that bit of news at the start, the bulk of the very lengthy (3,000-plus) word article provides a recap of the sordid AP/UB saga, chronicling the major events and players for an audience unfamiliar with the complex labyrinth of licentiousness and lies we’ve all been hearing about for over a year now.

It will be interesting to learn more about the claim itself, as well as to see what effect the news might have on UltimateBet. It could happen this bit of buying-off may help the current owners (and spokespersons) of UB further distance themselves from the scandal, given that Excapsa is the target here. And after all, in effect, this appears to be the new bosses suing the old bosses -- if appearances are to be trusted, anyway.

General Hellmuth at the 2008 WSOPThen again, that caption under the picture of Hellmuth on the MSNBC site certainly doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the current regime: “Phil Hellmuth, the winningest player in the history of the World Series of Poker, makes a grand entry to this year's event in Las Vegas in his guise as general of the ‘Ultimate Bet Army.’ The company that owns has stated that players in high-stakes online poker games were victimized by a vast, long-running cheating scheme.”

Which is how it should be, frankly. No one should be that confident about UB, no matter how many stars Hellmuth has crazy-glued onto his helmet.

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