eCOGRA: Q & A with Andrew Beveridge

Pinababy69

RIP Lisa
Joined
Oct 15, 2004
Location
Toronto, Ontario - Canada
After the debate that (once again) took place last week in the latest eCOGRA thread, Andrew Beveridge offered to do a Q&A session with me. I had been busy and not as yet gotten around to emailing him myself. I would guess he had read some of the comments here and wanted to try and answer some of the outstanding questions/issues that myself and others have. So I think it important that people know he volunteered to do this, before even being asked. And I would hope that people can remain civil in this thread, and that the debate that will undoubtedly ensue, can remain polite and on point.

I will just post this exactly as it was sent to him. He has relayed that he will work on this over the next week, and his replies will be posted in this thread.

I'd like to thank Ted (Spearmaster) for helping me, and Rusty for providing the General Questions. Rusty had many more questions, but it was felt that maybe not all were entirely relevant (ie. more Microgaming related as opposed to eCOGRA, and also some questions that the answers can be found on the website www.ecogra.org

I'm sorry this is so long. I know that some people already have knowledge of the specific issues I've raised, but there are also people who are not familiar with all of them, and I wanted those people to at least have a general background, for understanding. Also, don't forget the search function on the forum here if anyone feels they need more info.

Thanks once again to everyone involved. :thumbsup:


INTERWETTEN

In February of 2008, Interwetten ran a 10% cashback promotion ($10 bonus for each $100 lost) for blackjack players. There were problems the second weekend, and any players who had made a profit, had their winnings voided and accounts locked. The casino claimed a technical malfunction, even though the identical promo had run and been honoured the weekend before.

The affected players filed complaints with the LGA in Malta, and some with CM. At the time this originally occurred, Interwetten was using Chartwell software. Sometime in May of 2008, eCOGRA awarded a Play It Safe seal to Interwetten. I'm guessing this is when they switched the casino over to Microgaming software. There is some discrepancy as to whether the seal applied to only their poker room, or to the casino and sportsbook as well. The casino was most definitely displaying the seal at that time. At the time the seal was awarded, there had been no resolution of this matter one way or the other, including no response from the LGA.

1. Was eCOGRA aware of the the player complaints regarding Interwetten?
2. Was the seal awarded to just the poker room? Or poker and casino?
3. Even if the seal were awarded to only the poker room, is it still the same ownership/management/policies, etc? How do you justify awarding a Play It Safe seal to a company with this many outstanding player complaints?
4. The casino itself now definitely falls under the eCOGRA umbrella. Given the fact that you "certified" this operation while these complaints were outstanding, would you be willing to revisit this issue with the 15 or so players who were affected by this?


CASINO ACTION/TUSK

On February 15, 2008 eCOGRA suspended the seals of the Casino Action Group and the one poker room (Arctic Poker), currently under their umbrella. The reason given at that time was "failures in compliance with eCOGRA's Generally Accepted Practices (eGAP)". A representative from Casino Action posted on the CM forum citing "purely administrative issues, seals to be re-instated soon, business as usual". On February 27, 2008 Microgaming announced they were terminating the software licence with Tusk Investment Corporation (to include the six CA casinos, and the 28 My Poker Profit poker rooms). They further stated that the company was in the liquidation process.

It was at this time that the player community found out that the "failures in compliance" that eCOGRA referred to was "the Group failing to maintain ratio of reserves to obligations".

On March 20, 2008 it was announced that Casino Rewards would be taking over the Casino Action properties, that being the casinos only, but not the poker rooms. Player balances and bonuses were transferred over, and all seemed fine. However, this left a gap of five weeks or more that players were unable to access their accounts, initiate withdrawals, etc.

1. Were you aware of the dire situation that CA/Tusk was in financially?
2. Why did eCOGRA not think it acceptable to give more of an explanation when the seals were revoked? Do they not believe that the player community has a right to know when their funds are at risk?
3. There had been mention of an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), and this being the possible reason why you could not provide us (players) with more information. Are there NDA's in place that prevent you from disclosing these issues to the player community, prior to the company actually folding?
4. If the answer to the above is yes, then how can you protect the players from this ever happening again?
5. While the casino players have been taken care of, the poker players affected are perhaps going to get 20% of their account balances returned to them, via the liquidators named to the case. At least one poker room, Arctic Poker, was a member of eCOGRA when the seals were revoked. How can you expect players in the future to have confidence that eCOGRA will protect them, when the only explanation players were given for revoking Arctic Poker's seal was "non-compliance with eGAP policy"?
6. eCOGRA is advertised as being in the business of player protection, not casino protection. What assurances do we have that if this whole scenario repeats itself in the future, that players will be protected? The players from Arctic Poker were certainly not helped in any way by the poker room they chose to play at, having an eCOGRA seal.
7. If these same operators popped up again in the future, wanting to open a new casino/poker room, would you consider certifying them again, given their past mistakes and mismanagement of funds?

GRAND PRIVE

On December 1, 2008 Grand Prive made the decision to back out of the U.S. market completely. It was later revealed that their affiliate program, Grand Prive Affiliates, were going to cease operations, and all affiliate accounts would be closed. The final payment due to affiliates would be made in December, for November's revenue. Yet, the casinos continue to operate, business as usual. When affiliates sign up to a program, they sign up with the understanding that they will be paid their commission for life on the players they have referred (with the exception of a CPA deal). This whole issue has been viewed by most as a serious breach of contract. Many affiliate sites (including Casinomeister) have blacklisted all of the GP casinos. While I understand that the GP affiliate program is not certified under eCOGRA, many within the industry believe that the affiliate programs and the casinos they represent, are all one and the same. If a casino treats its players badly, chances are the affiliate program isn't top notch, and vice versa. It all comes down to ethics and common business practice.

1. Do you view the GP affiliate program and the GP casinos as two different entities?
2. Considering how unethical it is for the GP affiliate program to treat its business partners in this manner, what assurances does the player have that the casino side of the business will treat its players any better?
3. Was the removal of the seals from the casinos ever considered when it was revealed what the affiliate program was planning on doing?
4. Grand Prive opened a new casino called Villa Fortuna, and a new affiliate program, Villa Fortuna Affiliates, catering to the European/UK market. eCOGRA has recently gotten involved in certifying affiliate programs (Roxy and Fortune Lounge at present). Would you ever consider awarding a seal to VF Affiliates, given the unethical business practice of GP Affiliates? If so, how do you explain that to affiliates who were affected by the GP mess?
5. Do you believe that casinos and their affiliate companies should be judged together, or individually? Do you believe that the industry as a whole, would be better off (and more legitimate), if everyone (regulatory bodies/agencies, industry advocates, webmasters, players, etc) considered all aspects of a company's business prior to awarding certification or a stamp of approval?

REPUTABLE PORTAL SITES LINKING

Within the last year or so, eCOGRA ventured into cross linking with portal sites. I refrain from using the word reputable, as there are many on the list that are anything but reputable. I didn't spend a ton of time on this, but did click some random links (today) to see what sort of sites eCOGRA was linking to.

Two of the criteria that are listed at ecogra.org in respect to what is required of these linked sites:

"Sites that link to eCOGRA will be continuously inspected by independent eCOGRA contractors at least once monthly".

"eCOGRA prefers not to be associated with sites that promote known rogue operations".

The third link I clicked on had a listing for almost every casino available on the internet, including Cool Cat, Club Player, Palace of Chance and Prism. These casinos wrote the book on rogue business practice, and are blacklisted at any true reputable gaming portal.

The next link I clicked on "theonlinecasinogamblingdirectory.com" is not an affiliate site, it is merely a search engine with a search bar on the main page, and not much else. No content, no banners, no casino reviews....nothing. There are some links at the bottom of the page. I clicked on the About Us link, which took me to a page that stated "we provide the most comprehensive search of online gaming sites". There is also a link on their main page to Gambling Tools and Systems. That directed me to a page full of links to topics like "Beating the Casino - Win Every Bet" and "How to Win Consistently at Baccarat". One final link from the homepage I checked out was Affiliate Programs, which took me to a page loaded with links to almost every casino affiliate program in existence, including some that this particular webmaster had marked as blacklisted, one of those being Villa Fortuna Affiliates (see above). I gave up after this as I had seen enough.

1. In respect to the monthly inspections, who are the independent contractors that perform this duty? Do they have any knowledge of online gaming, and what constitutes a rogue operation?
2. Given what I've posted above, are you satisfied that these contractors are doing an adequate job?
3. The second site I mentioned has links to gambling tools and systems. Any savvy player knows that there is no system that is going to allow you to consistently beat a casino and house advantage. Many are nothing more than scams to bilk yet more money out of unknowing players. Do you think that by linking to sites such as this, it lessens your own credibility in the player protection arena?
4. Would you agree that this aspect of your operation needs a lot more work and time devoted, for it to truly represent a list of "reputable" sites? Are you planning on ramping up the inspection procedure to ensure that this happens?
5. What is the purpose of exchanging links to sites such as these? Many people/players believe that it is nothing more than self-promotion, with no actual value. What do you think you can do to change this perception?
6. Have you ever considered asking the player community for help in matters such as this? Perhaps a "player liaison" (unpaid position) would lend some credibility to the claim that player protection is your primary goal. Any thoughts on this?

GENERAL QUESTIONS

1. What safeguards, if any, for the player does eCOGRA offer that a site's licensing authority does not?

2. How is eCOGRA funded and is it a profit making organization?

3. Are there any plans to make eCOGRA funding more transparent?

4. Does eCOGRA have any plans to have auditing done by an independent third party?

5. Does a player have the right to appeal an eCOGRA decision?

6. What plans does eCOGRA have to improve as an organization in the future?
 

RobWin

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A Vault!
All great questions there Pina and I truly wish you good luck in getting "Clear Cut" answers to them. I'm sure though that you won't mind me not holding my breath waiting on them to actually be "truly transparent" answers, but we shall see. I'm willing to give Andrew the benefit of doubt until proven different. Is Andrew actually going to make an appearance here or is he doing this back and forth thing with you thru email?
 

Tengil

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Location
Finland
Good questions, altough I would have left out Grand Prive. They actually had it in their T&Cs for affiliates. So they didnt actually breach the contract.
 

Pinababy69

RIP Lisa
Joined
Oct 15, 2004
Location
Toronto, Ontario - Canada
All great questions there Pina and I truly wish you good luck in getting "Clear Cut" answers to them. I'm sure though that you won't mind me not holding my breath waiting on them to actually be "truly transparent" answers, but we shall see. I'm willing to give Andrew the benefit of doubt until proven different. Is Andrew actually going to make an appearance here or is he doing this back and forth thing with you thru email?

Fair enough Rob, I guess time will tell. Like you, I'm willing to give anyone a chance and the benefit of the doubt. Like I always say (well okay, to myself)...you never know unless you try. Some of these questions relate to things that have been bugging me for a very long time, if I didn't take the opportunity when it was presented....to at least TRY and get some answers, then I don't really have much room to bitch about things I don't like.

My understanding is that Andrew will either post his reply/replies himself, or someone (I guess a rep from eCOGRA, not sure) will post. I don't believe that it will be me. Personally, I'd love to see him here to interact directly with the players, but that could be pretty time consuming.

Good questions, altough I would have left out Grand Prive. They actually had it in their T&Cs for affiliates. So they didnt actually breach the contract.

Thanks Spider...and you're right. I had forgotten that it was in the T & C's. I don't think I would have wanted to leave it out, as IMO, it's important. Legalities aside, what they did is unethical, and I'm a firm believer in the fact that each faction of this industry is inextricably tied together. And that each and every one of those factions needs to conduct itself in an upfront, honest and ethical manner...whether that be players, casinos, software suppliers, affiliates, industry overseers, etc. I bitch and complain all the time about unethical affiliates, but that doesn't mean I enjoy seeing the good ones getting shafted as well. Fair treatment for everyone...in a perfect world, lol.

Couple that with the fact that eCOGRA is branching out into awarding seals to affiliate programs now, I thought that it was relevant. I could have worded it differently though....ahhh, the beauty of hindsight. :laugh:

Thanks for the correction though..that's what I get for doing six things at once.
 

GrandMaster

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Location
UK
4. The casino itself now definitely falls under the eCOGRA umbrella. Given the fact that you "certified" this operation while these complaints were outstanding, would you be willing to revisit this issue with the 15 or so players who were affected by this?
I know the answer to this one. I was in a similar situation when Casino Kingdom pulles a bait and switch trick on me shortly before becoming ecogra certified. I suggested that it should be advertised widely when a casino wants to become ecogra certified, and players should be asked to send their grievance to TeX Rees, and the seal should only be awarded if all the outstanding issues have been settled satisfactorily.
 

vinylweatherman

You type well loads
Joined
Oct 14, 2004
Location
United Kingdom
Many casinos have those "we can do what we like" clauses in their terms and conditions.

What eCogra SHOULD be looking at is whether these terms comply with consumer protection legislation in the UK and EU. If not, eCogra should ban such non-compliant terms before granting a seal, and if they find such a term in a casino already bearing the seal, should strike it out when investigating a player complaint. The UK gambling commission, and particularly the office of fair trading, can advise on the legality of individual clauses.

One grey area is whether an affiliate is considered a consumer, or another business, since there is far stronger protection for consumers against unfair contracts. Clearly, a player is a consumer.
 

mojo

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My understanding is that Andrew will either post his reply/replies himself, or someone (I guess a rep from eCOGRA, not sure) will post. I don't believe that it will be me. Personally, I'd love to see him here to interact directly with the players, but that could be pretty time consuming.

Great job putting those questions together and it must have been time consuming.

Just an fyi..

As a result of the previous eCOGRA thread I had written Mr. Beveridge with my question about Grand Prive seals (which you covered, ty). To his credit Mr. Beveridge did write me back promptly. He indicated he agreed to respond to a list of questions from Pinababy and would respond to mine as well at that time. Which makes sense since otherwise he would have been all over the place trying to answer.
 

Pinababy69

RIP Lisa
Joined
Oct 15, 2004
Location
Toronto, Ontario - Canada
Where in the T&Cs did it say they did not have to pay monies owed?

Hey Dom, here is the term, as it was on their website at that time.

TERMINATION IS AT WILL, FOR ANY REASON, BY EITHER PARTY.

The Webmaster (Affiliate) will not be entitled to referral fees occurring after the date of termination.

I know that some can argue that it is open to interpretation. In my mind, it is clearly an FU clause, which is the type of thing that players have been dealing with for ages...yet one which many affiliates have never taken into consideration when deciding which programs to promote (ie. is the casino arm of the program fair to players, in all aspects of their operation, including T&C's).

Many casinos have these FU clauses in their terms and conditions, yet not all of them invoke them at will. In MY perfect online world, they wouldn't exist at all. Like I said to Spider, I'm less concerned with the legality of things, and much more concerned with the ethics. The ethics of eCOGRA, casinos, affiliate programs, affiliates, industry overseers and yes, the ethics of players as well. Each part of this industry goes hand in hand with the next part...with the player being the one who supplies the money who makes it all work. The player is the engine, with all the other factions being the parts of the engine. When one part breaks down, the whole thing is broken.

Those of us who want to see true progress made have to start seriously working together, it's the only way. Affiliates have to put players AHEAD of themselves, agencies who say they are in the business of player protection have to have some teeth and put the player first, and players have to start caring about more than just if they get paid when they win. They SHOULD care about other players, about affiliates, and about a company (casino's) general business practices. Am I dreaming too big? :laugh:

Mojo, I'm ecstatic to hear that you took the initiative and wrote to Andrew. :thumbsup:

I really wish more people would do the same, be that affiliate, player, whatever. People find it very easy to bitch and moan about one thing or another, but very few want to take the time to actually try and do anything about it at all.
 

lots0

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Hell on Earth
When is Mr. Beveridge supposed to answer your questions?

I have been awaiting his response to your questions with some anticipation.

BTW - Damn good job Pinababy69
 

Pinababy69

RIP Lisa
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Location
Toronto, Ontario - Canada
When is Mr. Beveridge supposed to answer your questions?

Hey lots0, it will be next week sometime I think. More than likely the end of the week. He didn't get them until late Thursday, and he did already say that this coming week was a busy one for him. He should have had them the beginning of last week, but I was busy too....and didn't have it ready. :oops:
 

dominique

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The Boonies
Hey Dom, here is the term, as it was on their website at that time.

TERMINATION IS AT WILL, FOR ANY REASON, BY EITHER PARTY.

The Webmaster (Affiliate) will not be entitled to referral fees occurring after the date of termination.



I know that some can argue that it is open to interpretation. In my mind, it is clearly an FU clause, which is the type of thing that players have been dealing with for ages...yet one which many affiliates have never taken into consideration when deciding which programs to promote (ie. is the casino arm of the program fair to players, in all aspects of their operation, including T&C's).

This is indeed a common clause used all over the business world to discourage lawsuits.

These clauses do not stand up in court. The contract always stands once the contracted item has been delivered. Delivered items have to be paid for.

Items delivered after termination do not have to be paid for.

If the courts did not uphold this law, just imagine what a mess everything would be. It would be impossible to conduct business, anyone could refuse payment at any time.
 

aksana

Aksana
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Feb 2, 2006
Location
Europe
Thanks Pinababy for all your work. I'm not familiar with Andrew Beveridge, but I have already contacted Tex Rees to explain me why Belle Rock Entertainment is approved by eCogra.

Earlier, I thought eCogra was a fair independent watchdog and for me it was a very serious step when I sent a request to eCogra to review my site. But now I see it was not so important than I thought.
 

Tengil

Senior Member
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May 4, 2006
Location
Finland
This is indeed a common clause used all over the business world to discourage lawsuits.

These clauses do not stand up in court. The contract always stands once the contracted item has been delivered. Delivered items have to be paid for.

Items delivered after termination do not have to be paid for.

If the courts did not uphold this law, just imagine what a mess everything would be. It would be impossible to conduct business, anyone could refuse payment at any time.

Sorry for derailing but where would you take it to court? Most T&Cs for players would not stand up in court either yet when they are used you usually get answers like "you accepted the terms when you signed up".

Sucks to be in the same boat as players, doesnt it?

It was wrong and I dont accept it either. Now off to see Blackhawks run over Redwings
 

Pinababy69

RIP Lisa
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Oct 15, 2004
Location
Toronto, Ontario - Canada
Thanks Pinababy for all your work. I'm not familiar with Andrew Beveridge, but I have already contacted Tex Rees to explain me why Belle Rock Entertainment is approved by eCogra.

Hi Aksana, would you care to elaborate on your problems with Belle Rock? I'm no fan of theirs either, and personally don't play at their casinos, but I'm just really picky, lol. I'm curious what problems you've had with them, and why you think they shouldn't carry an eCOGRA seal? Thanks.

Sorry for derailing but where would you take it to court? Most T&Cs for players would not stand up in court either yet when they are used you usually get answers like "you accepted the terms when you signed up".

Sucks to be in the same boat as players, doesnt it?

It was wrong and I dont accept it either. Now off to see Blackhawks run over Redwings

Completely agree Spider. And Dom, I don't think that two wrongs make a right...but clauses such as these are EXACTLY what players have been dealing with for years. And I would love to see affiliates pay more attention to not only T&C's within their own contracts, but to the T&C's that players are expected to abide by.

As Spider said, it's wrong for both...and I doubt that any terms such as these would stand up in court, against player or affiliate.
 

aksana

Aksana
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Feb 2, 2006
Location
Europe
Hi Aksana, would you care to elaborate on your problems with Belle Rock? I'm no fan of theirs either, and personally don't play at their casinos, but I'm just really picky, lol. I'm curious what problems you've had with them, and why you think they shouldn't carry an eCOGRA seal? Thanks.
Oh, no, it's a misprint, I thought about Grand Prive's casinos, but wrote Belle Rock here, because in the same time I was updating my reviews of their casinos.
 

KasinoKing

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TERMINATION IS AT WILL, FOR ANY REASON, BY EITHER PARTY.

The Webmaster (Affiliate) will not be entitled to referral fees occurring after the date of termination.
That's a rather ambiguous sentence which could be interpreted in many different ways.
If they had said "...will not be entitled to referral fees accrued after the date of termination." it would have been crystal clear.

But in it's original form I read it as "...will not be entitled to fees for referrals occurring after the date of termination." which is totally different.


BTW, for anyone confused how players could take advantage of this:
INTERWETTEN

In February of 2008, Interwetten ran a 10% cashback promotion ($10 bonus for each $100 lost) for blackjack players. There were problems the second weekend, and any players who had made a profit, had their winnings voided and accounts locked. The casino claimed a technical malfunction, even though the identical promo had run and been honored the weekend before.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the casino screwed up by giving the cash back on all lost bets, and not on the nett loss as it should have been.
i.e. A player could start with say $2,000, wager $100,000 and still end up with $2,000 at the end. His nett loss = $0, but the cashback was applied to each hand he lost in the process, which could have been up to $50,000 in this example, earning the player $5,000. (Playing Blackjack with this promotion would increase the players overall return by almost 5%).
The upshot was the players were punished for the casino's cock-up.

KK
 

DiamondGeezer

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NOT Pennsylvania!!!
KK you are wrong about Interwetten. IW advertised it as being a refund on every bet lost. The wording was very clear. They also paid everyone that way on the first week the promotion ran.

This was the wording:



Sunday Cashback Madness

How it works:

For every EUR 100,00 you lose at the Interwetten Online Casino, you get EUR 10,00 back.

Terms and Conditions:

This promotion is valid to all Interwetten Casino Real Money customers.
Promotion days in February 2008 are:

Sunday, 03.02.2008 00:00 CET bis 23:59 CET
Sunday, 10.02.2008 00:00 CET bis 23:59 CET
Sunday, 17.02.2008 00:00 CET bis 23:59 CET
Sunday, 24.02.2008 00:00 CET bis 23:59 CET

This promotion is subject to Interwetten Casino standard rules, terms and conditions.

To qualify for the cashback bonus you must make a transfer of funds from your Sportsbook real money account in to Casino chips and wager at least EUR 100,00 on the respective promotion day at Interwetten Online Casino.

For each EUR 100,00 loss at the Interwetten Online Casino, the customer will get EUR 10,00 Chips credited to his Interwetten Casino account.

The bonus will be credited to the customers account on one of the following days. There are no wager requirements for the Cashback Bonus.

Interwetten Casino reserves the right to refuse all promotions and bonuses to players who do not comply with this condition.

Interwetten may cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the promotion or these terms and conditions at any point and for any reason, including for technical reasons such as and not limited to computer viruses, bugs, tampering or technical failures.

We will remove prize credits from the account of any member who fails to comply with any of the above conditions.

Management decision is final. No discussion will be entered into.


Despite the advangage being huge it was no certainty atall that you could profit from it. You could only hope to do well by making big bets and hey we know what BJ is like :rolleyes:. Some players lost heavily and they kept the money while others won and they removed both winnings and bonus.

If that wasn't bad enough they then ignored everyone and hoped it would all go away - which thanks to the LGA 'investigation' it did.
 

dominique

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The Boonies
And Dom, I don't think that two wrongs make a right...but clauses such as these are EXACTLY what players have been dealing with for years. And I would love to see affiliates pay more attention to not only T&C's within their own contracts, but to the T&C's that players are expected to abide by.

These clauses are everywhere, players, affs, and most any contract you sign that includes activity from two parties.

They are designed to keep people from suing. Legally, they do not release anyone from paying for what is delivered up to the date of cancellation of contract, no matter how it's worded.
 

KasinoKing

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KK you are wrong about Interwetten. IW advertised it as being a refund on every bet lost.
That's what I said. isn't it? :confused:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the casino screwed up by giving the cash back on all lost bets, and not on the nett loss as it should have been.
I wasn't saying their actions were different to the terms, but that the whole bonus was screwed up right from the beginning - including the T&C's.

KK
 

AussieDave

Banned User
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Location
Australia
Excellent thread Pina :thumbsup: and that goes for everyone else too!

Just don't say the "S" word :D

I would love to see affiliates pay more attention to not only T&C's within their own contracts, but to the T&C's that players are expected to abide by.

I agree.. But I think peeps (players) also need to know that not all affiliates are driven by the dollar$. Like dodgy casinos there are also affs who don't care who they promote. Fortunately there are those who do.

This is one drum I've been beating over at the GPWA for years now.

Cheers
T
 

Pinababy69

RIP Lisa
Joined
Oct 15, 2004
Location
Toronto, Ontario - Canada
I just wanted to let everyone know that I have received Andrew's answers. I'm going to make a tea, and give it a good read (it's pretty lengthy), and then I'll post them. Rob, I guess it will be me, lol.

I myself am not going to make any comments initially...I'm just going to make the post with the questions and answers, and let everyone have a read. I'll be curious to see the feedback. One thing I do have to say is that IMO, he spent some time on this. It isn't something he just threw together.

I sensed he was as transparent and candid as he could be, and actually moreso than I thought he would be. That's my opinion, after a quick skim of the document.

He has said that I'm welcome to send him any follow up questions. If there is anything specific that anyone wants to know about, post your questions here....and in a week or so, I'll follow up on it.

Thanks again Andrew. I sincerely appreciate the time and effort you put into this. And thanks for your input Rusty. :thumbsup:
 

Pinababy69

RIP Lisa
Joined
Oct 15, 2004
Location
Toronto, Ontario - Canada
Andrew's Reply

Before I proceed to answer your questions, Id like to emphasise that eCOGRA protects the player in three main ways - it creates a safer playing environment by maintaining internationally appropriate best practice business and integrity standards at its accredited online gambling operations; it guides players to those establishments where it is confident they will be well treated, and it provides a free and impartial mediating service to handle any disputes.

Our mandate is not to moralise generally and subjectively over issues, but to objectively ensure that a fair and professional regime of standards is in place, and is complied with, by major companies that have made the considerable commitment that accreditation by eCOGRA demands.

Although three major and competing companies provided the substantial funding to get eCOGRA off the ground six years ago, the intention was always that the non-profit organisation would in time become independently self-funding, and we are currently on the threshold of that achievement, with only 8 percent of funding coming from bwin, 888 and Microgaming in the way of members fees and the balance derived from professional fees from both accredited companies and a growing number of external companies who see value in our range of business services.

INTERWETTEN

1. Was eCOGRA aware of the player complaints regarding Interwetten?

Yes, we monitor the Casinomeister forum constantly as we see it as a valuable source for identifying issues with existing and potential sealholders, and a number of players also contacted us about this problem around the time it happened.

2. Was the seal awarded to just the poker room? Or poker and casino?

Our seal was awarded to Interwettens poker room on 14 April 2008 and to their casino on 28 January 2009 a year and a software provider on from the Chartwell Tech incident.

In January 2008 the seal was displayed on the Interwetten homepage which provides access to all their products (casino, poker and sportsbook), but the certificate which is displayed when the seal is clicked clearly stated that only the poker operations had been awarded the seal at that time.

We try to insist that the seal is not displayed on sites from where non-approved products are accessed, however this is something which needs to be constantly monitored and Interwetten did subsequently sort this out.

It is very important that if players want the assurances that the eCOGRA seal affords, they should check the validity of the seal and which operations have been reviewed by clicking through to the linked certificate. Players can also verify this on the eCOGRA site at www.ecogra.org/approved. My staff and I always welcome reports of any irregularities in this respect from the player community.

3. Even if the seal were awarded to only the poker room, is it still the same ownership/management/policies, etc? How do you justify awarding a Play It Safe seal to a company with this many outstanding player complaints?

In this instance, it is the same ownership/management/policies, but this is obviously not always the case with all the operators we review. This is one of the reasons that our seal is always specific to particular URLs and products we have actually reviewed, and we are very careful not to imply that it applies to all products and sites which might be seen to be associated with a particular operator, regardless of whether or not we have reviewed the URLs and products.

Some background information on the review process might be helpful at this point. eCOGRA certification is about self-regulation, and although we encourage the operators to submit all their products and sites for review, ultimately it is at their discretion which sites and products are submitted. We ensure that detailed planning before hand is undertaken, and we insist upon visiting every appropriate location in order to review all operations relevant to the specifically requested products and sites, and typically our auditors will spend about a week onsite at the various operations.

While onsite the auditors, who are usually qualified Chartered Accountants with online gambling industry experience, ensure every relevant aspect of the operations applicable to the eGAP standards is reviewed.

These auditors also provide guidance and best practice documentation to the operators to assist with closing non-compliant areas and improving business efficiencies, and one month following the review issue a detailed report identifying weaknesses and non-compliant issues.

Casino or poker room management is then required to respond in writing to these findings, and where necessary provide evidence of steps taken to achieve compliance.

Once we are satisfied that full compliance has been achieved, a report is submitted to eCOGRAs Seals Compliance Committee, comprised of the Independent Directors on our Board, and the results are discussed in a meeting with all Committee members present and the head of our Compliance and Advisory Services Department. If all are agreed, the Committee will award the Safe & Fair seal to only those sites and products that have been reviewed and found to be fully compliant with the standards.

I would estimate that for each operator this process annually involves at least 150 man hours of eCOGRAs staff time, and sometimes double this amount during initial reviews. This does not include the time we also invest to ensure that the software suppliers behind each of the products are also compliant with our standards.

I trust you can therefore appreciate that when we issue our seal to a particular site, it is because we have done everything reasonably possible to ensure compliance with the eGAP standards. We cannot be expected to provide assurances and assistance to players for those sites which operators either dont want us to review or are not committed to our standards.

Back to your question about why we awarded a casino seal to Interwetten with many outstanding complaints.

At the time the problem was reported, which was a year prior to us issuing a casino seal to Interwetten, we were in contact immediately with Interwettens senior management to better understand the situation. After considerable discussion, and careful attention to the public debates and input from the affected players, we were comfortable that this was in fact a software malfunction which resulted in players being credited bonuses in a manner which was not in accordance with the T&Cs, and under the T&Cs the casino was entitled to withhold the winnings in the event of such a malfunction.

There was therefore no infringement of eCOGRA requirements.

Since first certifying Interwettens poker operations in April 2008, followed by the casino operations in January 2009, weve received only 3 disputes (which were for poker) which were unrelated to this particular issue. This is remarkable given the substantial size of the operation and the number of players and daily transactions.

It is also worth noting that Interwettens casino, poker and sportsbetting operations were again reviewed by eCOGRA in October 2008, and as a result of this latest review Interwetten has the distinction of being the first operator in over 100 audits to be issued a clean report with no areas of non-compliance requiring rectification prior to renewing the seal. I believe they are currently an extremely worthy sealholder and a credit to eCOGRA.

4. The casino itself now definitely falls under the eCOGRA umbrella. Given the fact that you "certified" this operation while these complaints were outstanding, would you be willing to revisit this issue with the 15 or so players who were affected by this?

Im afraid not. On the basis of our own investigations and those of the Lotteries and Gaming Authority of Malta, we are comfortable that the casino was within its rights to act in the manner it did, and we have not been given any subsequent justification to question managements integrity or representations made in relation to this matter. We will continue to carefully monitor this operator going forward.

CASINO ACTION/TUSK

1. Were you aware of the dire situation that CA/Tusk was in financially?

Shortly before we suspended the Casino Action seals, our onsite review which was performed as part of our normal seal renewal procedure at the operations for the casinos identified the fact that there was potentially a liquidity problem.

2. Why did eCOGRA not think it acceptable to give more of an explanation when the seals were revoked? Do they not believe that the player community has a right to know when their funds are at risk?

Indications suggested there may be problems that merited suspending the seals, mainly for the protection of the players, although the indicators were not at that time of sufficient clarity to justify a general public warning. We suspended the seal pending further investigation into a specific area of non-compliance, and to give the operator an opportunity to provide us with the necessary assurance that there was actually full compliance with the standards. The operator made a concerted effort to achieve compliance, but ultimately this wasnt resolved, the suspected problems proved to be real and overwhelming, and the company entered into a liquidation process.

I trust it is appreciated that matters of this nature are very carefully considered by eCOGRAs Independent Directors, who have been appointed to this position based on their industry experience, integrity and ability to make the right decisions under each particular set of circumstances for the players. They are simply not going to willingly make decisions to the detriment of the players and their personal reputations.

3. There had been mention of an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), and this being the possible reason why you could not provide us (players) with more information. Are there NDA's in place that prevent you from disclosing these issues to the player community, prior to the company actually folding?

We are governed by NDAs with the operators we review precluding us from releasing certain unauthorised information, as obviously our staff are privy to very sensitive operating and financial information. Any announcements we make need to be made balancing the constraints of the NDAs with the need to properly inform the players of the appropriate findings.

4. If the answer to the above is yes, then how can you protect the players from this ever happening again?

We clearly cant give the players the guarantee that something like this will never happen again. What we can do though is assure the players that we will do everything reasonably possible to ensure that sealholders are always in compliance with our standards, and if we do become aware of a high risk area of non-compliance, our Independent Directors will take appropriate steps to ensure the players receive the best possible protection under the circumstances, usually through the suspension of the seals and an announcement that offers as much information as we can legally and sensibly impart.

5. While the casino players have been taken care of, the poker players affected are perhaps going to get 20% of their account balances returned to them, via the liquidators named to the case. At least one poker room, Arctic Poker, was a member of eCOGRA when the seals were revoked. How can you expect players in the future to have confidence that eCOGRA will protect them, when the only explanation players were given for revoking Arctic Poker's seal was "non-compliance with eGAP policy"?

Arctic Poker was not an eCOGRA sealholder at the time the seals were suspended. We made this clear in our first statement relating to this issue dated 15 February 2008.

6. eCOGRA is advertised as being in the business of player protection, not casino protection. What assurances do we have that if this whole scenario repeats itself in the future, that players will be protected? The players from Arctic Poker were certainly not helped in any way by the poker room they chose to play at, having an eCOGRA seal.

We can only offer effective protection at those sites which we have been requested to review by the operators, and are confirmed by us to be compliant with the standards. If we dont have a thorough knowledge about a particular product or site obtained through rigorous professional review, and sufficient comfort that there is compliance with our standards, unfortunately it would be a very risky proposition for us to offer any assurances.

7. If these same operators popped up again in the future, wanting to open a new casino/poker room, would you consider certifying them again, given their past mistakes and mismanagement of funds?

It is difficult for me to say, as a decision of this nature would be left to our Independent Directors and the Seals Compliance Committee. Given these past events and the fact that there would be poker players still out there who have gone unpaid, I would say further certification is highly unlikely!

GRAND PRIVE

1. Do you view the GP affiliate program and the GP casinos as two different entities?

Our eGAP standards applicable to casinos dont provide any assurances in relation to the fair treatment of affiliates. This seal is clearly intended to convey only to players where they will be protected.

Equally, if it were alleged that Grand Prive hadnt paid their advertising agencys fees, or any other third party creditor not covered by the eGAP standards, their casinos would not lose their Safe & Fair seals.

For this reason we have also developed a separate set of standards specific to affiliate programs (www.ecogra.org/affiliates), but it is up to the affiliate programs to request the affiliate seal which will only be awarded once we have performed a thorough investigation of their operations to ensure they are meeting the standards that have been specifically developed for this sector. And if affiliates want to rely on our assurances with regards to these programs, then they need to make sure they choose the programs that have gone the extra mile to get certified.

2. Considering how unethical it is for the GP affiliate program to treat its business partners in this matter, what assurances does the player have that the casino side of the business will treat its players any better?

I have had various discussions with Grand Prives management to understand what transpired with their affiliate program, and I dont believe all the facts are properly understood by the affiliate community.

I am of the opinion that Grand Prive would have been judged less harshly if a certain watchdog in the affiliate community had taken advantage of Grand Prives offer to explain their side of the story.

We have had a 6 year relationship with Grand Prive, because this was one of the very first operators to apply for our seal in 2003. As with most of the eCOGRA operators that have been awarded the seal for so many years, there have been incidents where weve had to work with this operator to address player disputes. However, based on their ongoing maintenance of the eCOGRA standards, we have no reason to believe that the players are at risk.

3. Was the removal of the seals from the casinos ever considered when it was revealed what the affiliate program was planning on doing?

No, because I dont believe Grand Prives actions are properly understood, we havent investigated this incident fully because it is not part of our mandate, and most significantly contractual obligations towards affiliates do not form part of the eGAP standards applicable to casinos.

4. Grand Prive opened a new casino called Villa Fortuna, and a new affiliate program, Villa Fortuna Affiliates, catering to the European/UK market. eCOGRA has recently gotten involved in certifying affiliate programs (Roxy and Fortune Lounge at present). Would you ever consider awarding a seal to VF Affiliates, given the unethical business practice of GP Affiliates? If so, how do you explain that to affiliates who were affected by the GP mess?
Should Villa Fortuna Affiliates apply for our seal, we would require a full investigation into the GP Affiliate issue. Only after the investigation has taken place would we be in a reasonable position to judge GPs actions with regards to these affiliates. We would also require a full review of Villa Fortunas affiliate program before the seal could be considered.

5. Do you believe that casinos and their affiliate companies should be judged together, or individually? Do you believe that the industry as a whole, would be better off (and more legitimate), if everyone (regulatory bodies/agencies, industry advocates, webmasters, players, etc) considered all aspects of a company's business prior to awarding certification or a stamp of approval?

The industry would definitely be better off if every aspect of a companys business could be considered prior to certification. But this would become prohibitively expensive and onerous for the operators and software suppliers, unless a very light touch in terms of review work were to be adopted. eCOGRA was established to ensure player protection, and in order to achieve this effectively we need to be able to focus on those issues which are most important to the players themselves and are directly under the control of those parts of the business that have elected to be subjected to self-regulation.

As the software suppliers play a significant and critical role in making sure the games are fair and that the operators provide adequate player protection, we wont award our seal to an operator whose gaming software hasnt also been reviewed against our standards.

However, it is not practical to cover every aspect of the operators business, such as verification software, payment processors, affiliate programs and other third party marketing agencies, because it is often very difficult to get the commitment from these parts of the business to be subjected to such a time consuming and costly exercise.

Equally with our new affiliate program reviews, although we require the affiliate program software to be reviewed, it would be impractical for us to insist that every one of the promoted products and websites should also always be fully compliant with our standards applicable to gambling products and gambling software providers.

REPUTABLE PORTAL SITES

I think it would be helpful if I provided some history of this initiative first. In 2004 we contacted a number of leading portals to provide guidance to eCOGRA management on matters of player protection. We met regularly and we learnt a lot from these webmasters, and to give something back for their efforts we listed these sites on the eCOGRA website as Reputable Portals, which they undoubtedly were and are still. A little while later we began corresponding with other helpful webmasters representing some very good gaming portals, and they requested us to include them in the list too. As a result of this we developed a set of criteria for inclusion on this list, and we outsourced the initial and ongoing reviews of these sites to an independent contractor.

This arrangement worked very well until we started to become inundated with applications for inclusion on the list as eCOGRAs activities became more widely known. Ultimately the cost of using an independent contractor to review the sites became prohibitively expensive and we decided to take the task in-house.

We are currently receiving on average more than one application a day from webmasters requesting association with eCOGRA, and each application is scrutinised prior to being listed. We turn down many of these applications that dont meet with our linking criteria.

However what we are neglecting to do is monitor this list regularly, and this is resulting in new content being displayed on these sites which no longer meets our criteria. Our assertion that sites will be inspected at least monthly is now incorrect and simply not possible, and will be amended.

I acknowledge that this initiative has grown well beyond our initial intentions and needs to be reorganised. About a month ago we did initiate some changes which will improve the situation, and these are currently being implemented. But as you correctly point out, some of these sites are now by no means reputable and I have asked my colleagues to perform a thorough review of all listed sites and ensure every site either complies fully with the criteria or is promptly removed.

In this context, once again we would welcome reports from the affiliate community (which seems to be the sector most interested in our activities with other webmasters like this) on sites which they do not feel we should be associated with. I undertake to consider these seriously.

Weve also considered scrapping our Reputable Portal section entirely, however Im reluctant to do this because it is a very effective way of informing players about the role eCOGRA plays and heightening awareness of how we can help.

1. In respect to the monthly inspections, who are the independent contractors that perform this duty? Do they have any knowledge of online gaming, and what constitutes a rogue operation?

As mentioned above, the initial and ongoing checks are now done in-house. We use Casinomeister as a guide for rogue operations, as well as our own knowledge and research.

2. Given what I've posted above, are you satisfied that these contractors are doing an adequate job?

Im definitely not comfortable with the fact that we arent managing to review these sites as regularly as I would like for new content that doesnt meet our criteria. However, with over 200 sites now listed, we will need to find a more practical and cost effective method of making sure on an ongoing basis that the displayed content is appropriate.

3. The second site I mentioned has links to gambling tools and systems. Any savvy player knows that there is no system that is going to allow you to consistently beat a casino and house advantage. Many are nothing more than scams to bilk yet more money out of unknowing players. Do you think that by linking to sites such as this, it lessens your own credibility in the player protection arena?

This site does not meet the criteria and will be removed from the list (along with any others that do not meet our criteria).

4. Would you agree that this aspect of your operation needs a lot more work and time devoted, for it to truly represent a list of "reputable" sites? Are you planning on ramping up the inspection procedure to ensure that this happens?

Yes.

5. What is the purpose of exchanging links to sites such as these? Many people/players believe that it is nothing more than self-promotion, with no actual value. What do you think you can do to change this perception?

For some reason not apparent to me, it seems to be mainly affiliates who take exception to what we view as a legitimate and ongoing project to spread awareness of eCOGRA and what it can do to assist the player. I acknowledge that this needs considerable attention, and we need to take additional steps to ensure that we are not seen to be endorsing other information displayed by these portals which is potentially harmful to players.

6. Have you ever considered asking the player community for help in matters such as this? Perhaps a "player liaison" (unpaid position) would lend some credibility to the claim that player protection is your primary goal. Any thoughts on this?

Any input of this nature is always most welcome and will receive serious attention.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

1. What safeguards, if any, for the player does eCOGRA offer that a site's licensing authority does not?

Our efforts are designed to complement, rather than compete with, the efforts of the jurisdictions. Im not entirely familiar with each jurisdictions specific regulations and how effectively they are being implemented and monitored, but as with any industry offering a contentious product which is potentially harmful to parts of the public, self-regulation can only be a good thing for the consumers.

Our industry is characterised by rapid innovation and the introduction of new products and technologies. eCOGRA is structured in such a way that it has the flexibility to quickly introduce new standards and product areas for review to ensure that the player has a comprehensive level of protection.

The eCOGRA seal is evidence that the operator is willing to go the extra mile for the players by being subjected to an exhaustive review process to ensure compliance with a set of player-oriented standards, and in the event that the player has a grievance, in addition to the licensing jurisdiction the player can also contact our Fair Gaming Advocate for mediation.

There can be little doubt that the services of the Fair Gaming Advocate have been widely used by players over the past six years, often to their advantage in disputes with accredited operations.

2. How is eCOGRA funded and is it a profit making organization?

eCOGRA is constituted by law as a non-profit organisation in the United Kingdom. Currently the founding software suppliers (888, bwin and Microgaming) members fees in total amount to 8% of the organisations total funding requirements. The other 92% is derived from fees from review work involving over 50 different software suppliers and operators, including related businesses and associations beyond our accredited list.

3. Are there any plans to make eCOGRA funding more transparent?

I think we have always been transparent about the funding, and made it clear that the organisation was initially fully funded by the founding software suppliers. I expect we will be fully self-funding in the not too distant future.

4. Does eCOGRA have any plans to have auditing done by an independent third party?

Im assuming you mean independent of eCOGRA, since our audit team is effectively totally independent of the companies we service.

Initially we used PwC to perform the audit work, and we also considered including various other leading auditing firms on our Audit Panel. However, in late 2007 we realised that we needed to provide a review service which was less risk averse, more flexible, and a lot more cost effective than what the traditional audit firms are able to provide.

A significant part of the review process is providing consultancy type advice to the operators, in order to assist them in becoming compliant with the standards. To achieve this we need dedicated resources who are highly qualified auditors with relevant industry experience, and sufficient time available to perform thorough review and follow-up work.

One of the problems I have experienced with using audit firms is that often the allocated staff members are assigned to other audits so that they cannot attend to urgent eCOGRA review matters, or the staff move on to other jobs and need to be trained from scratch on industry matters.

As an added level of assurance to our clients and players, each year KPMG, as a recognised international accounting firm, performs a quality assurance review to ensure that the governance structure, responsibilities, processes and approach implemented within eCOGRAs Data Services, and Compliance and Advisory departments are in line with best practice and industry requirements, and comply with recognised audit practices and principles.

5. Does a player have the right to appeal an eCOGRA decision?

Yes, we are quite simply only interested in reaching a decision on player disputes that is fair to both parties. However, we would unlikely be prepared to revisit decisions if a considerable amount of time has lapsed since the initial decision and no new information is brought to our attention.

6. What plans does eCOGRA have to improve as an organization in the future?

It is only in the past couple of years, by bringing the audit team in-house, that we have been able to effectively grow the business and provide professional services to many more software suppliers and operators.

This has enabled us to largely move on from misconceptions about eCOGRAs independence, and we need to build on this success to get as many operators and software suppliers under an umbrella of industry self-regulation as possible.

I acknowledge that we cant offer a service which is a perfect model for all stakeholders, and there are a few things we could possibly have done better in the past.

Like all endeavours, there is always the possibility that we will make mistakes going forward in an environment where we are involved with massive numbers of daily transactions from millions of players at some of the Internets biggest online gambling venues. If we do, it will certainly not be intentional and we will do everything in our power to redress any wrong and learn from the experience.

But the reality is that eCOGRA right now is the industrys best shot at effective self-regulation, and constitutes a real benefit to the player who is at the core of our concern. We need the encouragement and support of the webmaster and player community to help ensure all online gambling operators buy in to self-regulation. This can only be good for the industry and the players.
 

Tengil

Senior Member
Joined
May 4, 2006
Location
Finland
To quickly address some of the points he made.

Interwetten: It was not a software malfunction, I think its clear to anyone with even half of a brain.

Arctic Poker: Didnt have a seal? then what is this? from 10th feb 2008
You do not have permission to view link Log in or register now.

Look at approved poker rooms. What do we have there? Yes, Arctic Poker.

Dear Mr.Beveridge dont underestimate our intelligence.
 
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