ACBL CEO Robert Hartman created the ACBL Bridge Integrity Task Force in midOctober.
The members are Karen Allison, Larry Cohen, Per-Ola Cullin, Eric Kokish, Jeff Meckstroth, Brad Moss,
Steve Weinstein, Chris Willenken, and Kit Woolsey; Howie Weinstein is the Chair.
We are trying to thwart cheating on several fronts: detecting and deterring any illicit transmission of information, creating a database of as many hands as practical, investigating potential cheating when there is any reasonable suspicion, and eventually prosecuting cases where cheating can be demonstrated. This prosecution will not be limited to cases where cheating codes have been broken; overwhelming statistical
evidence of cheating may be sufficient.
Above and beyond cheating, we are looking to improve ethics at all levels. We will be using broad educational efforts to try to teach proper ethics, from the top down and from the grassroots up. Our goal is to instill in all members of the ACBL the mentality that playing ethically is the only way the game can and should be played.
The AntiCheating Commission
To combat the issue of collusive cheating, we are recommending the creation of a standing Anti-Cheating
Commission composed of five members, each a top-level player with an unquestioned ethical reputation.
The Commission will have broad and comprehensive powers and responsibilities, including:
- Reviewing reported hands to determine if suspicion of cheating is justified
- Conducting investigations of suspected cheaters (enlisting outside help if necessary)
- Recommending prosecution
None of the procedural changes we are recommending have been approved yet, but here is our vision.
When the Commission feels something warrants further attention, it will commence an investigation, under the leadership of at least one of the Commissioners. The investigative team assembled by the
Commissioner(s) will not be limited in number or areas of expertise; it may employ top players, statisticians, fraud experts, or anyone else whom the team believes will help. The only constraint is that those involved with the investigating team and the Commission, either directly or indirectly, must pledge confidentiality until charges are filed.
If the Commissioner and his/her investigatory team believe they have evidence of cheating sufficient to prove guilt, they will go to the rest of the Commission and ACBL management, and with their mutual concurrence charges will be filed. At this point, the charges will be disseminated publicly, allowing further crowdsourcing of potential evidence without the constraint of confidentiality. Once charges are
filed, the accused will automatically be suspended from play in ACBL-sanctioned events pending the outcome of their hearing.
Collusive-cheating cases in which charges are filed will go to an arbitration hearing, where the decision is final, with no right to appeal the substantive issues. The arbitration will be heard by five arbitrators, selected from a large pool approved by the Commission. The details of our proposed arbitration rules and the process for selecting arbitrators will be posted separately on Bridge Winners in the near future. A player or pair, upon being charged, may choose to avoid arbitration through a written confession and mutually agreed sentence.
Conduct and non-cheating ethical issues will still be handled either by the ACBL Disciplinary Committee or Ethical Oversight Committee (EOC). Some improvements to EOC procedures were already underway before the Task Force was formed, and we will be suggesting others.
Fixing the Recorder System
We are recommending a significant upgrade of the ACBL Recorder’s capabilities and responsibilities.
This process begins with improving the database of suspect hands and incidents and inter-jurisdictional communications (both within the ACBL and outside of the ACBL). All hands filed at the unit and district level must reach the national Recorder, and the national Recorder must ensure that each district has the proper people and procedures in place to collect and transmit data and when appropriate hold a hearing.
Similarly, the Recorder will share information with other jurisdictions, from suspicious hands through pending and issued disciplinary actions. We are in discussions with other jurisdictions to get this process started.
Anyone can file a report of suspicious actions through the Recorder, either manually or through the new electronic recorder forms, which will be accessible from the ACBL website and from Bridge Winners.
You may also send suspicious occurrences directly to the Commission or any of the individual Commissioners. The Commission and the Recorder will maintain an open channel of communication, so any relevant information received by one will be shared with the other. The essential elements here are
- All allegations of collusive cheating reach the Commission
- When the Commission needs data for its analysis, it can obtain a comprehensive set of reports
quickly and easily
Our intent is to make recording any unusual occurrence the expected action; the entire bridge community benefits from eliminating cheating and must do its part by reporting all suspicious incidents. To foster this new environment, we aim to remove as many of the practical and social burdens of the current system as possible. To that end, anything reported to either the Recorder or the Commission will be confidential; it will never be revealed to the subject of the report without specific permission. This is a major change from the current recorder system.
Going forward, cheating allegations should never be reported directly on forums such as Bridge Winners.
While we must do everything we can to eliminate cheating, unsubstantiated rumors or innuendo are antithetical to our efforts and incredibly unfair to the accused.
In all cases heard at the national level (EOC or arbitration), the standard of proof will be “clear and convincing evidence,” and attorneys will be allowed to be present for the accused. To deal with player(s) convicted of cheating, we have drafted a general policy that vacates results, masterpoints, and seeding points for all convicted players, plus their teammates for any shared events. This policy will be disseminated to the public if and when it is approved by the ACBL board.
We will be reviewing the ACBL’s Code of Disciplinary Regulations (CDR) and recommending changes to its definitions of “cheating” and “unethical behavior.” We will also be reviewing the CDR’s sentencing guidelines. Our intent is to generally increase potential sentences for purposeful violations of the Laws that attempt to improve the offending side’s result.
Improving Security and Detection
The ACBL and USBF have bought several cameras, which work very well in conjunction with BBO. The
ACBL brought in Marcin Waslowicz from Poland to help, and the USBF plans to do so as well. Videos from the cameras used in Denver are available on YouTube.
The Task Force has formed a technology subcommittee and has so far appointed Greg Humphreys and
Uday Ivatury. We are looking at the best ways to detect Bluetooth or other transmitting technologies that could allow information to be passed surreptitiously. If you have special expertise in this area, please contact the Task Force. We are also looking for ways to automatically record all bidding and play into a database.
We will be examining other security issues as well, including better enforcement of rules related to kibitzing and bathroom breaks.
The ACBL has committed to using screens much more extensively in the future. We intend to recommend more uniform screen procedures to inhibit passing UI or collusive cheating. We are examining other screen designs and methods to inhibit transmission of UI or illicit signaling.
Enhanced screen procedures to reduce UI:
We are working to reduce UI when playing behind screens and to police it more effectively when it occurs. We will make a comprehensive recommendation along these lines in the near future.
Policing UI when not playing behind screens:
- For players who should know better, we will provide guidance for proper tempo, combined with
more severe penalties for repeatedly taking advantage of UI.
- For less experienced players, we will provide friendly and clear ethical education.
The Task Force has received a tremendous amount of outside help, which has been critical to its progress.
We have relied upon expert volunteers to help us in areas where we lack knowledge, particularly attorney
Mark Friedlander, who has been instrumental in helping to craft our cheating prosecution recommendations. We have also received active support from ACBL Management and the Board of Directors, which is critical because those groups will be responsible for approving and implementing the changes we recommend. While we will try to establish the basic structure as soon as we can, parts of the anti-cheating efforts will not be immediately possible to implement — it will be a process. We cannot do it alone, and it will be incumbent upon the bridge community to help, by playing as ethically as possible, calling others out to do so as well (in a civilized manner, especially where the violation is potentially from ignorance), being proactive in reporting potential issues, and volunteering to serve if called upon.