Casinomeister's Newsletter
24 June 2003
GIGSE ~ Montreal Special Edition



Dear Reader,

This is the Montreal Special edition. Normally, I will break these down to two or three issues. But there is so much to tell, I would feel that I was short-changing you by not giving it to you in one scathing full fledged, unabridged, and unadulterated issue.

So if you care not to read about online casino news, tantalizing gossip, girls making out with each other, and other scandalous activities, let your eyes drift elsewhere. But if this is for you, read on...

Telltalingly yours,

Bryan

MY TRIP TO MONTREAL
My French Sucks

So where do I begin? I could begin at the airport, where for once my entire flight(s) from Nürnberg to Montreal were unproblematic except at the Canadian immigration desk. Another good starting point would be the in-flight film "About Schmidt", where the tear jerking ending made me cry, and I had to hide this embarrassing fact from the passengers around me who were getting up to use the restroom while the credits rolled. Yet another place could be downtown Montreal, the night before the Grand Prix; the streets were packed with partygoers, and live bands churned out their groovyness. Yes, that's it. Groovyness. I ducked into a really nice Sushi restaurant and ordered almost more than I could possibly eat in one sitting.

I sat at the bar. And as I scribbled some notes together for the panel discussion that I was to participate in at the Affcon (Affiliate Conference), the young looking Sushi chef chided with the manager. They both were looking at me smiling, and then he spoke in broken English that I "Look like movie star". I smiled, and said that yeah, it's been said before, but I don't believe I look like him. They argued with me saying that I was wrong. It was at this point I decided they were both gay (not that there is anything wrong with that), and decided just to play along, smiled and went back to my notes.

Tuesday was the day that Maryann Morrison (GambleGoddess), Debbee Silverman (Gonegambling), Hilly Ehrlich (Onlandonline Group), and I were participating in a round-table discussion for affiliate marketers. Main topic? Promoting online casinos responsibly and with the bottom line in mind: the player, not profits. This is one of the biggest problems this industry faces, too many affiliate managers, affiliates, software providers, and casino operators fail to understand that making a buck is not the bottom line, but the player is. No affiliate managers? The industry exists. No affiliate? Industry exists. Software provider or operators fail? There will be others.

No player? No industry. Simple fact. And it's absolutely shocking that so many related entities out there are leaching off of the player and not providing the player with the entertainment that they pay for. Scandalous! But more on that later.

I caught my $35 cab ride back to the hotel (yes, I was in the middle of nowhere). My room was absolutely bitchin'. It was the Jacuzzi room at the Best Western that I got for the same price as the normal rooms (some special deal, don't ask). Unfortunately, there was a wedding reception being held in the main court that my room faced which went on until 1 am. It was pretty damn loud, but I didn't care. Sleep was not an option.

The next morning I enjoyed my complimentary (because of the noise) breakfast buffet, where I met Brian Cullingworth from Infopowa news. Infopowa is by far the leading news agency that specializes in online gaming news. No one else does what they do. They provide 90% of Casinomeister's news here /news. We were staying at the same hotels throughout our Montreal trip. Mainly because we share intelligence on the best deals in the city. Arriving during the Grand Prix was no picnic, so we were switching to another hotel on the following Monday.

The next day was spent meandering downtown together checking out the sites. We had lunch in a very nice restaurant in the old harbor area, where we got up to snuff on the latest gossip; yes, we probably talked about you my dear ${token2}, um but maybe not.

From there we meandered some more and then ran smack dab into Tyrone Zinman and Errol Goott from Vegas Partners. They had been dropped off by their cab looking for a sports bar; they were too early to check into their hotel. Brian and I were wondering what the weird droning was in the background; we were hearing the actual race from a couple of miles away.

So we found a little sandwich shop that served beer and had a TV. We watched the German Schumacher kick ass. They all congratulated me, but I stated that I couldn't give a flying rat's butt (they forget that I am an American, I only live in Germany). But we drank to him anyway. Tyrone learned a swear word from the waiter, and from there we went to the Intercontental Hotel where they checked in. We all went upstairs to chill out.

At this point, we discussed the industry a bit more, and it was amazing how much research they had done, especially in the Asian market. And they are thoroughly convinced that this industry needs to be better committed to the player. But they were frustrated at the fact that the US is still trying to ban casino use for their residents instead of regulating it. These guys are definitely committed to this industry via Crazy Vegas, Sun Palace, and the Arthurian group of casinos. In fact, I found out that my favorite slot game, Sun Quest, was initially designed by these guys. This is an option for Microgaming clients. They are allowed to design a game of their choice that their casino will have exclusive use of for six months. From then, it's distributed to other casinos. We then polished off a bottle of scotch, and ventured back into the city to find someplace to eat.

And we found it, a little outdoor restaurant that had great food (I had the lamb chops), but they didn't serve alcohol, no liquor license. And neither did any of the restaurants around there. What they would do is direct you to a neighboring liquor store, where you could purchase whatever at a reasonable price. Ingenious! BYOB! The restaurant saves money from not needing a liquor license, the liquor store has increased sales, and the customers are happy because they save money in the long run. Things were getting cloudy now.

And I guess I should mention at this point that Montreal is a French speaking city. It's the second largest city (Paris is the first) where French is the primary language. I don't speak more than a few words of French, my French sucks. And what I found out is that most of the cab drivers don't speak English, or not much of it anyway. I also found out that most of the cab drivers don't know the city, they rely on your instructions on where to go most of the time. The cab driver that drove us back to the hotel was embarrassingly lost. He even stopped at a gas station to ask for instructions.

Tuesday began the Affcon, the Affiliate Conference that the River City Group had organized. This made perfect sense since most everyone involved with the online gaming industry attends the GIGSE which was running on Wednesday and Thursday. The morning began with a number of very informative talks that covered the present state of the industry, to the use of cookies and predatory software, and "White Label" casinos.

The panel discussion that I was a member of kicked off in the afternoon. It was well attended with only a handful of vacant chairs. In a nutshell, we discussed our observation that the ones who fail in this industry are the ones who use a short sighted goal of making quick cash, as opposed to a long-visioned goal of providing a service to the player. I discussed briefly the basic elements that are close to a player's heart:

safety; the player needs to know that privileged information isn't going to be distributed throughout cyberland
dependability; they need to know that the casino will be there tomorrow,
honesty; the casino needs to do as they say and not use deception as a marketing tool
fairness: the games are fair, the promos are fair, the management is fair.

And I am completely resolved in the matter that it is affiliates who share this responsibility with the casinos they promote. Affiliates need to be aware that if they refer players to rogue casinos, they should be sharing in the rogueness.

I reflected back five years ago when I first got involved in this business. At that time, I balked at the idea of an online casino. "What a joke!" I thought. Another place where the stupid are financially raped in cyberland. Well, after doing what I have been doing over the past five years, I can honestly say that there are a great many fine individuals running stellar operations. Honest, dependable people dedicated to the player and to their operation. There are a load of crooks out there as well, but the good outweigh the bad. Nevertheless, this is my perception. Yet, if you were to ask the average Joe on the street what he thought about online casinos, he would have the same knee-jerk reaction that I did five years ago. Why? Because of the idiots who spam, the geniuses who send naked men running across our football fields, and the masterminds who grease pencil our boxers' sweaty hairy backs. The public perception is directly related to the marketing of online casinos. The public perception sucks. And you wonder why the US Congress is coming down hard on online gaming.

What also sucks is that one organization, the GPWA, which could have been a powerful contender if they joined in this train of thought, decided to boycott the Affcon. The reason? Gator was supposed to speak and they don't like the fact that Gator steals traffic from affiliates. Gator bailed out at the last minute because of a prior engagement (the conference was moved), yet the GPWA thought they were the power that moved them, high-fiving each other "Yeah, GPWA rocks!!" What they fail to realize though, is that an Affiliate Conference is not merely a place where they get wined and dined and listen to a presentation that can be found on the Internet, it's a place to gather information be it for affiliates, affiliate managers, or operators. It's ironic that the GPWA was so vocal about Gator and its apparent thievery of traffic (thus loss of profits),yet they attempted to do the same thing to the River City Group. In the short run, kudos for the GPWA in organizing a cute little walking tour; in the long run, I don't think anyone will take this organization seriously ever again.

Funny, I spotted the president of the GPWA's automobile in the hotel's parking lot, some indescriptive American sedan. Obviously, the success in her portals aren't reflected in the choice of her transportation. I left my calling card on her windshield as a memento.

I digress. The River City Group's reception ball was most receptive. I ran into most everyone from RTG that mattered. Brian Cullingworth and I had a long conversation the new affiliate manager at Angel City - Ricardo del Sol and the new Chief Operating Officer, Wilson Lee. Both are recent arrivals who assured us that they are trying to get the Angel Citi Group situation in hand in the face of some shareholder reluctance. They appear genuine and have open minds. So for those of you who have lost hope with Angel Citi, hang in there. I'll give them a few more days before I'll request an update.

The Global Interactive Gaming Summit & Expo kicked off Wednesday morning with presentations throughout the morning. Licensing, Marketing, Payment Resources, Technology, and a number of other topics were covered. My focus at the moment is licensing and its importance to the player. What does licensing really mean to Joe the player?

Well, Joe the player ought to know that there are certain safety nets that licensing affords players. Isle of Man, Alderney, St. Kitts, Cagayan, perform criminal background checks on the principal owners of the casinos, require backup funds, and other items of accountability. There is no real safety net for the players, but most casinos that have or will be licensed by these entities are guaranteed to be safe by the hoops they have to jump through in order to receive one.

Finally the exhibition hall doors opened. The usual familiar faces and a lot of new ones. I talked again to the guys at RTG and asked them about whether or not Cirrus Casinos belonged to the Virtual Casino group. They weren't sure. I then asked them if they thought it was odd that Cirrus Casino traffic statistics were on the same account as the rest of the Virtual Casino casinos. They said it was kind of strange, that it probably belonged then. Anyway, it looks like there will be some more interesting developments concerning arbitration and RTG casinos. More details to come soon.

I stopped by and talked with the Chartwell group. Remember last week I had issued a warning for players who had accounts at Chartwell powered casinos. A player had $600 in Carib-Sunshine Casino which up and disappeared. Chartwell said they could do nothing about it. I felt that since there was no initiative to accommodate the screwed over player, that all players were in jeopardy. Well, after speaking with their representative, I've decided that it's not so bad. Most of the Chartwell clients are solid land based casinos. The owners of Carib-Sunshine Casino were high profile lawyers in the states (damn lawyers!) who up and closed shop. There were only about $2000 in unpaid dept, to include unpaid players. At press time there is still an investigation going on.

That evening, we had a memorable dinner reuniting the Major Millions' 1.3 million dollar jackpot winner (Tony P. and wife) with the Monte Carlo entourage from last year. Roger Raatgever, Julie Sidwell, Ted Loh, Wizard of Odds Michael Shackelford, Brian Cullingworth, and significant others sat down to a splendid meal and recanted what we've been doing since we last got together nearly a year ago.

The following day brought more of the same, meeting with people, meeting with friends, and then the closing of the GIGSE. Kudos to Sue Schneider, Nancy Krause, Mark Balestra, and everyone else at the River City Group for pulling this one off. To an observer like myself, it seemed flawless. I could only imagine what went on behind the scenes to move it from Toronto to Montreal in such a short notice. One other noteworthy observation, they had the best catered food I have had at ANY conference. I eat a lot of fresh fruit and raw vegetables, and most of the catered food is none other than the Americanized stale white bread sandwiches and potato chips. I weaken at the mere thought of these "buffets" knowing I have to eat it anyway. But at this conference, the layout was sublime. Fresh fruits and fresh raw veggies, yummy cold salads of every kind (lettuce, couscous, pasta, etc.,) and tasty little sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Very healthy stuff to consume during a week of restaurant food. But I digress again.

You're probably reading this far, because I mentioned scandal and decadence. Well, within the next few paragraphs you will be shocked with what I have to say. Should I tell more? Okay, read on...

The climax of the working week was at the Gambling Federation's closing celebration party at the Newtown that Thursday evening. Open bar - free food. And that wasn't the only thing that was free. Most of us arrived after dinner around nine or ten, and after presenting the bouncers with our "ticket" entered the downstairs bar and dance floor. As the evening wore on, I saw more and more "hot" looking girls streaming in. It was obvious that they had been invited by some innovative party planner who was thinking that there was probably a lot of lonely guys attending this convention, and would probably need someone to dance with. I didn't recognize any of these girls from the GIGSE. Anyway, it was nothing but eye-candy that began to outnumber the guys three to one. I had my share of beers to bear, and I was getting ready to leave when up came a guy who introduced himself as Brian Woods, the operator of Black Widow casino.

I was a little uncomfortable at first since I had rogued this casino last fall, but what he had to say was quite odd. He shook my hand and said, "I want to thank you for blacklisting me last fall, because since then traffic just shot up."

"Oh, yeah?" I said.

"Yeah," he replied. "You know, when they read your reviews, they click through your site and download the software, you've been bringing in a hell of a lot of traffic."

"Oh, yeah?" I said.

"Yeah," he replied. "And here's the thing…your followers are not loyal. They read your stuff, but they don't care. They don't give a shit if we're blacklisted or not. They'll come to our site from yours and still play. In fact, you should be profiting from this. It'd only be fair that I pay you or something for bring this traffic in. How much traffic to you get at Casinomeister?"

I told him. He mumbled a few calculations and said, "My top affiliates earn about $120,000 a month. I clear about $kajillion dollars a month as well. There's no reason why you couldn't be earning around $4000 a week. I want you to give me some more bad publicity, and I'll pay you for it."

"Money's not where it's at," I said.

"Oh, but you're wrong. Money is a very good thing," he said smiling at me. "It can be very nice." This was getting interesting.

I thought a moment and I suddenly remembered why I was hoping to run into him earlier. I took a swig of my beer and began, "I have a question. What is this bullshit that you have posted in your T&Cs that state "Fastest Online Casino Payouts." You know that's deceptive. What's up with that?"

He laughed, "That's just ad copy. It doesn't mean anything. First time players are paid within 72 hours, so that's not bullshit. But when they come back and use a bonus we start stalling payments. The first time, it's a week. The second time two weeks, three times…well you get the picture. We don't want those players. Honestly, these are not the players we want."

It was at this point that I looked over at the bar, and no more than three meters away were two hot blondes deep throat French kissing each other. All the guys around me, including the operator from Black Widow, began gasping and pointing at the spectacle, some even giggled like school boys. For those unschooled in the realm of sexual fantasies, this is a fantasy that is shared by most normal heterosexual males. Perhaps this is why we're so boring; this is how far our imagination goes. One guy, who was apparently associated with one of these girls, was rubbing up against them in a most decadent manner.

And this decadence suddenly made this conversation so surreal. He went on further, "so, how about it? Give me some more bad exposure since there's no such thing as bad publicity." I was thinking of different scenarios to write about, how we took it outside and beat the crap out of each other. Or how he chased me with a goon squad through the darkened streets of Montreal. But I thought, nah, I'll just write it like it is. What the hell, it's not really that bad. "Bad" is subjective; this is only the truth.

Before leaving Montreal, I had to catch at least one film. "Matrix Reloaded" was playing at the IMAX. What a wild thrill!! I had no idea what the story was about, since I hadn't seen the first film in about a year. But the fight scenes were mind-blowing. It's unbelievable what they can do in the cinema these days.

And on the way back home, I sat next to a dentist who was scheduled to speak at a conference in Oslo, Sweden. She was looking forward to meeting some of her colleagues and seeing some of the sights there. This got me to thinking how really weird my job is. But I like it.

Coming this Thursday: Anything else I forgot to mention (or had no space for) in this newsletter..

Photographic evidence here: /montreal2003.html

Complaints? Kudos? Please let me know.

Peace
Bryan Bailey
Webmeister
Casinomeister
me