Feel that you’ve been ripped off by an online casino? Can’t get satisfaction from the casino management? Many players in this situation expect the software supplier to help – but that may not necessarily be in the cards.
Gambling software suppliers hold divergent views – and some apparently have no views at all – on their obligations in terms of fair and efficient treatment for casino players.
Prompted by three recent confrontations between players, casinos and software suppliers, Winneronline asked thirteen well known software providers for their views on this controversial topic.
The fact that only six of the thirteen responded despite frequent reminders would suggest that at least some suppliers do not see a commitment to assist the end-user (the player) as part of their obligations at all.
Three of the “Big Four” – CryptoLogic, Boss Media and Starnet – responded with professional and encouraging input which showed a real concern for how aggrieved players are treated.
Of all respondents, CryptoLogic, Boss Media and Australian software provider Access seem to have the most player-oriented approach, and their strictly controlled casinos arguably offer the best player protection.
CryptoLogic’s e-cash is insured up to US$100,000 per player
“We believe that both casino management and software providers should be responsible for addressing and helping to resolve player concerns or issues,” says CryptoLogic’s Director of Communications, Nancy Chan-Palmateer.
“CryptoLogic provides a total turnkey gaming solution to our licensees, which includes customer support for technical, gaming and e-cash. Our licensees operate their Internet casino business determining business strategy, market focus, marketing plans, promotions, setting fair odds within established gaming rules and regulations. The nature of the issue may determine which party – casino operator or software provider – is in the best position to help, but both parties have a responsibility to work together to assist the player.”
It doesn’t end there with CryptoLogic, either, says Chan-Palmateer. “Both 789betting casino operators and software providers should be well capitalized to fund their businesses especially prompt payouts to players. Insurance is an option if either casino management or software provider do not have sufficient funds to pay the player (ie. bankruptcy). CryptoLogic’s e-cash service to its licensees is insured up to US$100,000 per player and is available in the unlikely event that CryptoLogic is financially insolvent. CryptoLogic is well funded with about US$56 million in cash.”
CryptoLogic provide their own financial facilities through CryptoLogic E-Cash.
Boss Media does not tolerate dishonest licensees
Boss Media’s Investor Relations Manager, Ulrika Persson, has a similar view regarding responsibility for sorting out player hassles:
“In our case it’s both the licensee and us. We do not tolerate dishonest licensees. In our case we have full control over the systems, database and money transactions. The licensee has no involvement in this. His job is to market his Internet casino… we take care of everything around the Internet casino, even the money transactions, we are the ones who are responsible (to) make sure that everything goes right with the product the company has sold and that all players get their winnings.”
Boss Media runs their own financial services through WebDollar.
Starnet puts greater emphasis on the operator
Starnet tends to put the emphasis more on the operator, but is prepared to get involved in the process as a last resort.
Starnet’s Jason King, CEO of Inphinity Interactive, holds the view that the licensee is primarily responsible, but that the software provider should play a role when all other avenues of complaint have been exhausted by the player.
“(The main responsibility) lies with the licensee. (But) the company licensing the software also holds a great deal of responsibility and should ensure that the licensee is properly screened prior to obtaining a license, that the customers’ money is held in trust so that the player is protected, and that there is an internal auditing function to ensure that there is no tampering with the system.
“All operators and suppliers in the industry have an obligation to ensure a very high degree of self-regulation. We all have an effect on the views of the online gaming industry, and we should take this responsibility extremely seriously.
“I believe the onus (to resolve problems) should be on the organization, not the player. The player is the customer, and the operator is there to service the customer.
“I believe that the software supplier should be willing to step in if all other avenues have been exhausted.”
A Starnet subsidiary, EFS Caribbean, handles Starnet’s e-cash.
RealTime Gaming prefers “hands-off” approach
RealTime Gaming’s Program Manager Diane Foster has a different, and more “hands-off” approach.
“The player should always contact the casino support personnel and give them a chance to fairly sort out the inefficiency to the satisfaction of the player. Most issues are related to miscommunications or oversights rather than pre-meditated ‘cheating’. However, in the case where a player cannot get ‘satisfaction’, they should have a source for escalation.”
She does not, however, see the software provider as that source: “If the software supplier has built software that will not allow the owner to ‘cheat’, then they have done their job and should not be directly involved as an escalation point for player disputes.
“Once (RTG has) sold (a casino), I do not agree that the software supplier has the responsibility to continue ‘policing’ their licensees. There are a few very good 3rd party watchdogs that will get the message out when a casino has been proved fraudulent.
“Again, if the software is built correctly, then the provider has no responsibility to the player other than to provide them with information on the software so the player will know that the problem is not the software, but rather the operator. The operator/owner should be held strickly (sic) responsible…”
Access must meet Government regulations
One software supplier who is confident of his position due to strict government regulation is Michael O’Brien, Marketing Director for Access Systems. This respected provider will only do business with casinos in truly regulated jurisdictions and serves a number of major Australian online casinos, including the successful Lasseters Online.
Because these operations are genuinely state-regulated with player protection paramount, says O’Brien, complainants can rely on a full hearing from regulatory bodies which have teeth, and they have no need to turn to the software provider, who is also governed by state requirements.
“This ensures that Access’ clients operate in an honest and efficient manner,” O’Brien emphasizes “So, with regard to the markets that Access Gaming Systems operates in, the responsibility rests with the operator who operates within a set of enforced legal guidelines, thus guaranteeing player protection and a safe and secure gaming environment.
“An online casino should never be above reproach and the player should pursue a complaint to the jurisdictional regulatory body and the casino itself.”
Gambling Software Systems focuses on software and support
Gambling Software Systems, presently involved in a player/casino dispute, supplies licensees with a turnkey operation which includes “third party” outsourced financial processing and support services.
Business Development Director Mark Waters is at pains to point out that “processing” does not cover cutting checks when a licensee has run out of funds.
“By ultimate responsibility, I am referring to the obligation of the owner operator to pay out winnings won by players at his casino. GSS, as a software and support provider, does not underwrite the liabilities of each of its licensees. Like any business, each casino is responsible for its own debts.
“Under our license agreement, GSS is responsible for developing and maintaining the software, providing technical and customer support, and processing purchase and redemption requests. Our job is to make sure the games and the site are working, and to make sure that all financial transactions are processed in a timely manner. The payment processing requirement does not include the obligation to cover player losses when the owner/operator is not sufficiently funded.”
Waters feels that players with hassles should complain to the casino support, and after that the manager/operator, who has an obligation where appropriate to refer complaints to GSS.
Dissatisfied players turn to software providers for unpaid winnings
Dissatisfied players will usually approach a software provider with two objectives: hope that he will put pressure on the licencee to reconsider a rejected complaint, or that he will actually pay all or part of the player’s disputed and unpaid winnings.
This is because many players believe that the software provider has an obligation to them in terms of the conduct of the operator. It is widely felt that because the provider can reject an applicant for software, he has a duty to ensure that his licencees are honest and properly funded to run an efficient operation. This is particularly important in a de facto largely unregulated industry.
Players also know that most software providers receive significant percentages of casino profits in the form of royalties. The widespread belief among players is that this places an obligation on the provider too, as he directly profits from the perhaps questionable practices of a licensee which disadvantage the player.
And it is true that most software providers have clauses in their licensee contracts which enable them to act against operators who are behaving to the detriment of their reputation, so they do have some influence.
Conversely, some providers feel that their responsibility ends with the provision of good software and perhaps other services, and that the operator is solely responsible.
The ideal is somewhere between the two and lies in teamwork between provider and operator with the satisfaction of the player as a prime concern. The last thing a player wants to see is the provider and the operator playing tennis with the question of responsibility, leaving him or her dissatisfied in the middle.
Complaining is often a frustrating process. A frequent refrain in complaints to the Online Player’s Association and across the message boards is that player’s efforts are literally ignored. Certain providers appear to believe that the best tactic is not to respond to the complainant at all in the hope that he or she will simply go away.
Clearly this merely aggravates the situation and is in any case downright discourteous. In the case of determined players it simply postpones the day of reckoning and makes a solution more difficult.
“Player Power” is growing
There is little doubt that “player power” is growing as the online gambling industry matures. Players are more knowledgeable and more cohesive in their approach to problems. They are becoming more demanding of good service and less tolerant of unfairness and inefficiency.
And they have the power of choice when it comes to where they will spend their money – US$ 6 billion of it within the next few years – either by casino or by software.
The much anticipated move online by the major US land-based casinos, together with the strong possibility of player-friendly US regulation rather than prohibition will have a profoundly positive effect for the player in the key US market. The less-responsive providers need to factor that into their plans for the future if they wish to prosper.
Experienced online gamblers usually like to know who the software supplier is before they gamble at a casino. It is becoming increasingly obvious that this is not a criteria based only on the games on offer, but on that provider’s sense of responsibility and commitment to the player as well.