Greg Pierson, CEO of the newly licensed in Nevada Iovation, opened up about his relationship with Russ Hamilton in an exclusive interview with Gaming Intelligence (GI) on Thursday.
The former senior executive and major shareholder of disgraced online poker site UltimateBet.com, Pierson got through the interview almost as easily as he landed the Silver State Class II gaming license.
It’s the first interview Pierson has given on the events surrounding the Ultimate super-using cheating scandal, in which fellow shareholder and former WSOP Russ Hamilton used a program created by Pierson’s company to cheat players out of some $20 million.
Pierson’s name has been indelibly linked with the scandal ever since, and many were shocked by the news last week that the Nevada Gaming Control Board had awarded Iovation a Class II gaming license. Iovation has now been green-lighted to offer its geolocation services to Nevada’s online gambling industry, despite its past.
Friendship with Hamilton
Pierson reveals disappointingly few details about the UltimateBet scandal itself in the GI interview. What he explains about the licensing process is interesting, though. Two of the three members on the Gaming Control Board panel, he said, recommended him for a license, while the third, Shawn Reid, was extremely reluctant, and found it “impossible” to see beyond his close ties with Hamilton.
Of that relationship, Pierson says in the interview:
“He [Hamilton] was a larger than life figure. When we ran out of money, he asked ‘how much do you need?’ With one phone call, he got a $1m investment. The likelihood of him being a crook was the furthest thing from my mind.
“Maybe I’m stupid or naïve,” he added, “but I don’t believe he wanted to rob players. The success of the site was his success. It never occurred to me that he wanted to rob players. He certainly could have because he had access to everything. He just wanted the site to be perfect.”
Burden of Proof
Pierson also says Reid couldn’t understand why Pierson had chosen not to defend himself against the ubiquitous attacks from bloggers, some of whom have accused him of having a pro-active role in the cheating, although there is no real hard evidence for that.
Reid has a point. And while there is no proof Pierson had an active role in the cheating, he was recorded in a meeting with Hamilton and others discussing ways to contain and cover up the scandal.
He is at least implicated in the cover-up, so you would think the burden of proof must be on Pierson to clear his own name. This interview was the perfect opportunity to do so, but it left so much unanswered.
“Pierson was trying to calm a paranoid Hamilton and was pleading with him to come clean and admit his wrongdoing,” explained GI of that meeting eight years ago, and then lets him off the hook.
The tapes, released by Travis Makar, a former assistant of Hamilton, were a smoking gun, and surely deserved more than one sentence in this interview.
But instead of probing, GI turns its ire on the “conspiracy-minded” bloggers, the very people who helped to uncover the UB scandal.
“Of course, Iovation’s chief blogger critic, Haley Hintze, continues to snipe on poker player message boards, accusing the ‘disgraceful’ Nevada regulator of only paying ‘lip service’ to her claims,” states GI.
Indeed she does, and one such snipe came today, just hours after the Gaming Intelligence article was published.
“Re: Greg Pierson and @iovation, Greg ordered all records connected to his ‘ATM’ UB player account to be deleted. Should the NGC [NGCB] ask why?” tweeted Hintze.
Perhaps we all should.