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Kevin Smith

Nevada Meeting Focuses on Access-Blocking Technology

31 July 2001

Tension filled a Community College of Southern Nevada lecture room today as the Nevada Gaming Commission hosted an exploratory meeting regarding the future of Internet gambling. It was the first day of a two-day session.

Representatives from several leading Nevada gaming companies attended the public meeting. The fireworks, however small, were felt during one of the first speakers of the day.

James Sargent, an official with BMM North America, a firm that specializes in the testing of systems for the interactive gaming industry, created a buzz during the second session of the day.

Sargent, who was speaking to the commission on the safety and security of the Internet, made some claims that had some in the audience stirring.

"There is no interactive gaming system that can defend from an attack by a first-world attacker who throws all their resources at them," he said.

Hearing that, Nevada Gaming Commissioner Brian Sandoval pressed Sargent during much of the remainder of his presentation to quantify his remarks.

"You can get a system that could repel 99 percent of the attacks against it," Sargent finally admitted.

He also eventually eliminated some of Sandoval's concern when he pointed out that, no matter how good a system of checks and balances is, its effectiveness comes down to who's running it.

"A system could be tested and approved and then problems arise later," he said. "The onus is on the operator to properly maintain the system."

In the afternoon session, Steve Mulcahy of gaming software developer Access Gaming Solutions challenged Sargent's comments. He agreed in principle to Sargent's feeling that no system is 100 percent safe from attacks, but reiterated that a system can come awfully close.

"We can reach a point where we are so close to 100 percent for all practical purposes, the system can't be cracked," Mulcahy said.

The day ended with a presentation from the former Technical Director of AOL, Steve Williams, showing the commission different technologies that could be used in blocking minors and those from restricted jurisdictions from gambling at Nevada licensed sites.

He showcased numerous biometric devices--everything from facial scans to fingerprint readers--and GPS-based systems, which can be used to locate where a user is.

Although he recommended no specific device over another, he admitted that the best answer is probably in a device yet to be made.

"I think the perfect solution for the commission would be the use of a system that combines all these different aspects, maybe a GPS-based device that is also capable of scanning a thumb or finger with some type of built-in video to reconfirm everything," Williams said.

Steve Toneguzzo, a representative with Australian-based GSS, agreed with Sandoval that the commission should take the proper steps in deciding what standards will be used in protecting the players and operators who chose to go online.

"Can you image if someone walked into a casino on the Strip, stole everyone's credit card out of their wallets, and walked back out of the casino without anyone ever knowing anything happened?" Toneguzzo asked. "That is exactly the potential that exists with the Internet."

To reach that end, Toneguzzo recommended the commission take what he called a "regulated risk management approach."

Under this approach Toneguzzo said the checks and balances could be set in place to make sure both operators and players are protected without there being too much of a dictatorship.

He pointed out that many of the operators in Australia chose to go offshore when they realized the regulatory bodies weren't going to be very cooperative and offered an analogy:

"They said you have to have a front door that opens forwards," he said. "Some operators said, 'we don't even need a front door,' and the regulators went back to them and said that they had to have a front door that opened forward."

Toneguzzo took the comparison one step further by explaining that the commission should be prepared to make adjustments to whatever decisions are made.

"If you decide that all operators should keep their doors locked at all times, but one operator is going to have a security guard stationed at the back door, 24 hours a day, they should be able to plead their case to you," he said.

While there still remains a legal gray area as to whether the commission can even license online casinos, the commission and the online gaming industry agree that the Nevada Legislature was right passing a bill that allows for a current Nevada licensee to seek an online license. With that in mind, Gary Ramos of Online Gaming Systems pointed out that the Internet gaming market is too big for the United States to ignore.

"There is a popular question," Ramos explained. "How do you eat an elephant?"

"One bit at a time," he continued. "Ladies and gentlemen of the commission, dinner is served."

Nevada Meeting Focuses on Access-Blocking Technology is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith