Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why I Am Anti-Casino

I ripped this from posts on Casinomeister, an online casino message board.

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My earlier post brought up some issues that I want to address more directly. Again, this is half catharsis and half-activism. Also, I want to further affirm that I am not some tin-foil-hat loon.

Pro-Player/Anti-Casino language

I should have better explained my choice of these words, since people read too far into what I was saying.


  • I do think that believing the T&C's to be righteous, and thus defending them, is anti-player, even when the person doing the defending is a player him/herself.
  • These terms defy casino logic, and I do not blame anyone who is taken in by them.
  • Information available from the PAB history reveals an industry that has a long history of confusing its users. I believe that this evinces major problems with the psychology of the online casino world.

I hope to fully explain my feelings with the following information.

T&C's Are Anti-Player

Did anyone else see the episode of South Park where Steve Jobs creates the Human CentiPad? That no one actually reads the T&C's is the running gag of the entire show. In the T&C's of Apple products, in this episode, the user gives permission to be kidnapped, imprisoned, and have their mouth sewn onto the rump of another person. The joke is that the condition being there makes it copacetic and everyone agrees that it is completely fine.

Do you read the legal declaration before clicking “I Accept” before EVERY web page you load? How about every new program that you install? I click “I accept” all the time without reading the terms because they operate on logic that one would expect: do not copy, not liable for damages, etc. If they tried to break the logic of the terms, such as saying that I give up ownership of my computer if I use their website, there would be an outcry and it would not be ruled legal.

Even if the terms are explicitly and boldly stated, I still don't completely blame the users. The terms fly in the face of casino logic. It becomes the logic of a company that is selling bonuses, not casino games. And people unfamiliar with this bizarre bonus world would not understand that. They think that a casino takes bets and pays out winnings, and that's how things work.

To use car dealers as an example again, I would never get angry at someone who went to a dealership, bought a car for a great price, then discovered that the car had no engine. It would not matter that this little proviso was included in the papers, because no one would ever expect a car to be sold without an engine. And if this ever happened, newspapers, television, message boards, and blogs would be alight with the controversy. The practice would not be allowed to continue.

To illustrate my feelings, I looked over MaxD's annual PAB lists, which are ENORMOUSLY helpful. I wish I had found them before making my first post on this subject.

2011:
processable PAB's: 200
Rejected for T&C violations: 52
Percentage of all complaints: 26%


By far the largest chunk of violations that boot people from a viable PAB are violations of terms and conditions that don't even need to be there. If there was any other industry on Earth where fully 25% of dissatisfaction comes from customer confusion, thus resulting in deprivation of goods to the customer, there would be Senate hearings.

2010: 229/55/24%
2009: 270/49/18%*
2008: 281/32/11%*
2007: NA


* Data classification isn't explicit. I assumed the classification based on later PAB summaries.

We are, in fact, seeing a climb in both the real number and the percentage of claims that are rejected for likely T&C violations. We are left to wonder how many of the complainants who go AWOL do so because they come here, complain, and then read all of the information here illuminating their situation to be hopeless, so they simply abandon.

In these data, we also find the number of cases that resulted in payment to the player.

2011:
Total number of cases: 200
Cases paid: 61
Percentage: 31%


So in this first year, of all processable complaints, 57% were either legitimate or associated with T&C confusion. Those are miserable numbers.

2010: 229/76/33%
2009: 270/98/36%
2008: 281/131/47%


For all years, if you combine the T&C violations with the number of legitimate complaints, it exceeds 50% of all processable PAB's.

This is the mark of an industry that is not consumer-oriented. In fact, it is the mark of an industry oriented against the consumer. If the industry was regulated, every homepage that you visit where they have a massive “100 EURO WELCOME BONUS!” there would be a little star next to that claim referencing some text right underneath which would say “With 30X wager requirement. Deposit locked until completion. Many more limitations apply. Click to read further.” And that would be a link to a full, clear, absolute adumbration of all restrictions.

(As I've said, I am not calling for regulation. It is impossible. But this is how things would work if the industry was regulated.)

For example, anyone who has ever been to the United States knows that it is the only Western nation that allows prescription drugs to be advertised directly to the public on television and in print. The righteousness of that not withstanding, there are severe limitations on this practice.

If television ads on TV mention what the drug does, they then have to list all of the most common side-effects. The drug companies obviously do not want to do this, which is why when new drugs are released, for the first six months, they will not even tell you what the drug does in the ads. They only say “ask your doctor about it!” (I imagine a man walking into a doctor's office and asking about a drug from ovarian cysts.)

That is because companies like to keep their customers confused. It prevents true comparison shopping. It prevents informed decisions. And in the absence of good information, many people are wont to assume that things will work as they expect them to. They expect things to be alright, because most people in the Western world as accustomed to regulations that prevent outright scams. Everything will be fine, they think.

I think that my aforementioned anti-casino “bent” is well called for. Vinyl Weatherman described himself as being of the “innocent until proven guilty” perspective, and I think that is right-on. But unless the “guilty” verdict is not confirmed to be outright fraud, I will not blame the player. I will default to blaming the casino.

I do not want to give the impression that I am grinding an axe. I have never encountered any problems with bonuses or otherwise. I go. I play. It all works as I expect it to. But I credit that to my discovery of Casinomeister so early on in my gaming career. If I hadn't, I might very well be the same boat as many people who accept a bonus, decide they don't want to play anymore, and discover that they are locked. Or they win big, and discover that they have violated some element of the T&C's in their choice of game or size of bet.

Perhaps this is because I am relatively new to online gaming, but I feel very strongly that I could be in the shoes of these people. I would be incensed if I hit it big, only to discover that it violated some terms I never expected.

I don't mean that to imply that people here are unfeeling or unsympathetic. I do not want to make people here feel bad for their frustration. I'm very aware that the people here have been dealing with this nonsense for years and years and years, and while the dancers may change, the music is the same.

What I argue is that the frustration is aimed at the wrong target. Do not target people who are taking “advantage” of bonuses, target the fact that the bonuses exist at all, or at least as they are currently designed. Target the bad business of the casino industry.

What About Fraud?

2011:
Fraud: 12
Warning issued/rogued: 17


Again, here we have the two extremes. We have players who turned out to be scammers and casinos who were so bad as to get warned or rogued. The casino count exceeds the player infraction count. This state of affairs is the same for every year for which data is available save for 2008.

2010: 13/33
2009: 31/37
2008: 29/27

Jan 07: 1/7
Feb 07: 2/2
Mar 07: 6/14
Apr 07: 1/5
May 07: 0/4
June 07: 0/1
July 07: 0/0
Aug 07: 1/1
Sept 07: 0/5
Oct 07: 1/0
Nov 07: NA
Dec 07: 0/1
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2007 total: 12/40


Every year, and nearly every month, has the number of rogues be higher than the number of truly fraudulent players. I do not attempt to defend the players, but the casinos are also indefensible. If there was any other industry with this level of corruption, there would be Senate hearings. We can assume that many fraudsters do not come and helpfully report their fraud to CM, but we can likewise assume that many people who are scammed by casinos never come to CM to tell their story.

True fraud on the part of the casino only further cements my belief that the majority of blame lies at the feet of the casinos and the game makers, both for their marketing practices, but also for the industry that they foment and encourage.

An upstanding game maker would not allow this to happen. “Rogue” casinos would not exist. Every client would receive extensive vetting before being allowed to go forward. Rogue casinos would be shut down by the game makers. Instead, we have big boys like RTG and Microgaming almost always claiming the 1-2 spots in the annual list of complaints.

2011: 200 complaints
RTG: 42 complaints/ 21% of total cases
Playtech: 36/18%
Microgaming: 28/14%

2010: 229 complaints
RTG: 54/24%
Microgaming: 35/15%
Rival: 28/12%

2009: 270 complaints
Microgaming: 76/29%
RTG: 37/14%
Proprietary: 19/7%

2008: 281 complaints
Microgaming: 59/21%
RTG: 53/19%
Proprietary: 29/10%


In all cases, the top three account for 50% or more of all complaints. I'm glad to see that they are working hard to keep their brand reputation up.

It could be argued that this would be expected, since Microgaming and RTG are both very large. But NetEnt is very large, as is IGT, and neither of them register very high on this list. And in any other industry, the biggest guys are expected to be the best, not the worst.

Rogues-

2007:
RTG: 16
Microgaming: 5

2008:
RTG: 5
Microgaming: 1

2009:
RTG: 2
Microgaming: 4

2010:
RTG: 5
Microgaming: 0

2011:
RTG: 2
Microgaming: 0


Playtech and the variety of crappy little nobody companies that you expect to fill up a complaint list round out the data. Rival also explodes onto the scene in 2010, but I'm primarily interested in the two big boys.

Their numbers drop off significantly, but that is only new rogues. For many months, a large number of PAB's come in against Microgaming and RTG that were simply against already rogued or NCD casinos. Again, I do not think this has anything to do with their size. For example, NetEnt is very large, but it only has two warnings to its name since the data start.

Demand And Ye Shall Receive

I don't demand more of Casinomeister. It has no official power and is limited in what it can do. And any customers who come with complaints should certainly not expect the world from it. In fact, the job that Casinomeister is doing is nothing short of amazing.

What I do want is the position that I have taken, an anti-casino “bent,” to not be seen as irrational. It's not. I actually think that it is well-supported by the evidence.

I understand that it isn't an intellectually perfect proposition to gauge the quality of an entire industry based on complaints. If we did that, all industries would be unhealthy. But it is statistically sound to gauge the industry based on the makeup of the data, and here, the number of complaints would be halved if T&C's and bonuses were either rejiggered to not be stupid, or simply eliminated, thus allowing casinos to operate as, I dunno', casinos.

Likewise, the number of rogue complaints would be cut significantly if major players like RTG and Microgaming gave a crap about their customers and shut down casinos that didn't abide by rules of good conduct. If they don't demand it, we should.

So, yes. I demand perfection. Casinos that provide will get my money. Casinos that maintain their reputation will receive my kudos and my recommendations. Casinos that do not will receive nothing but scorn and as many bad words as I can conjure.

While I understand that MaxD's ICE report only revealed some casinos to maintain virulently anti-player sentiments, that still means “greater than none.” And as long as that is true, I shall respond in kind.

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