So! Another year's PABs are in the bag -- mostly -- and it's time to look at the numbers and make a few comments and observations.
When I do these annual reviews of the PABs, I like to cast an eye back over the ground we've covered in the year past and (hopefully) extract some sense of what's happened "in the biz". In a way the PABs are a form of industry health check-up and I think they have something to tell us about the internal goings-on of both the player's minds and the casino people, not to mention the shifts within the overall industry.
Ok, the unmissable thing to note this year is a huge shift toward the UK, largely because the UKGC in now well and truly up-and-running. There's been a significant migration of casinos toward the UK license -- especially casinos coming out of Malta -- and the PABs reflect that very strongly: almost half of our PABs this year were UK-related and fully 3/4 of the money returned to players this year went to UK players. EU player issues has dropped off significantly, largely I think because of the Malta-to-UK shift.
On the surface this looks like a good thing and I think that for the most part it is. On the other hand there were a large number of PABs generated this year precisely because of the new UKGC policies, specifically those concerning self-exclusion (SE). For this first time in casino licensing history -- AFAIK -- the UKGC has decided to make a distinction between SEs related to gambling addiction, aka "problem gambling", and those done for "account management" reasons. Because of this a lot of players who had used SE for reasons other than addiction-related issues found themselves being handled as if they were addiction-related. The result being that many player's winnings were being cancelled and their deposits returned per the UKGC rules. As alarming as this may at first sound I think it's really just a "growing pains" issue: as the UKGC rules on SE are finalized and everyone learns them the confusion -- and problems -- will largely dissipate.
While we're on the SE subject though I think it needs to be said that the wave of bogus SE complaints that started early in 2014 continued to plague us well into 2015. This is the situation where players are trying to use SE to their advantage where casino groups are not entirely consistent and/or thorough in the application of their SE policies. To explain: player goes to Casino X, eventually self-excludes (often for undisclosed reasons), then goes to sister casino Y to register and play. If they win at Casino Y they take the money and run but if they lose they complain that Casino Y should never have accepted their registration because of the SE at Casino X and, of course, they ask for their deposits at Casino Y to be returned. Pretty scumbag behaviour I'd say but then fraudsters are hardly model citizens.
As to the actual settlements to players there's not a lot to say. Certainly the totals are down from last year certainly but that's mostly attributable to a few inordinately big-ticket cases in 2014 that skewed the totals pretty significantly. If anything I'd say that complaints and settlements this year were more prominently mid-range than in previous years -- a lot of $1000-5000 cases -- and the numbers dropped sharply at both ends of the curve. In particular there were much fewer nickle-and-dime cases, a continuing trend if I recall correctly. As previously mentioned fully 3/4 of the settlements in 2015 went to UK players.
The overall number of PAB cases was down this year and we had proportionally more cases where the complainant was (eventually) unreachable (aka AWOL). I believe the problem here is on me. After 13 years in France I decided that enough was enough so I packed up and moved to the UK. The gargantuan effort that that turned out to be had a direct impact on the PAB process for April, May and June. My apologies to those that were inconvenienced and/or didn't receive the quality of service they had every right to expect. Of course the word got out that the summer PABs were dragging on and I think we can see the result through the fall: fewer PABs submitted in those months and consequently fewer PABs overall. But I'm settled now, happily so, and things are back on track. The early numbers for 2016 are already looking good.
And finally a bit of reporting transparency: in previous years we've reported on the numbers of valid cases attributable to each of the software providers: Microganing had 30 PABs, Playtech had 25, etc. This year I've decided to discontinue that bit of the PAB summary. There are two primary reasons and both relate to the fact that the nature of casino software licensing has changed over the years.
Up until a few years ago most casinos ran a single brand of software, so you could say that this casino was Microgaming and that casino was RTG, etc. That has almost completely changed in that most casinos now license and offer games from several providers: what used to be a Microgaming casino is now a Microgaming + NetEnt + BigNewGames + whatever casino. So reporting on providers the way we used to is now very much more difficult and convoluted than in the past.
The second reason is that such reporting is, I think, simply less meaningful than it used to be. Whereas before you could look at the numbers and say "Whoa! Why so many problems at Rival casinos?", for example, you generally can't do that now. That same casino now uses most everyone else's software in addition to Rival's, again, for example. So there's simply less info to be gleaned from those numbers now, so why bother? I didn't.
There you have it, adios 2015. Tighten up your panties and pass the ammunition because 2016 is gonna be a trip!
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