Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Good, Public Data About The Online Casino Industry

A casino in Barcelona, Spain.
Carlos III University in Madrid has released an extensive work-up on gambling behavior in Spain. This is significant because gambling data anywhere outside of the major gambling meccas like Vegas is locked tight because it's, I dunno', valuable or something. I suspect that it's just because casinos are run by idiots and they feel that they need to have secret knowledge.

The data reveal what many of us pretty much thought long ago: the casino industry has taken a hit compliments of the global downturn. How it's taken that his is very interesting, though. While the number of people gambling and physical casinos has gone up significantly (49.4% to 63.8%), the amounts wagered has dropped significantly. They don't provide data about the actual amounts, but we can assume that the wagered amounts have dropped off in a big way, since the decline both has to cover the 15% increase in gamblers, but also account for a major drop in revenue at public casino companies.

Online casinos saw decreases in both the amounts wagered and the number of gamblers, although the drop in the latter wasn't large. I find this interesting because, regardless of what politicians and casino companies think, online gambling is not a gigantic thing, nor is it a replacement for actual casinos. Indeed, these data seem to indicate that people who may have otherwise gambled online are saving their money for trips to physical casinos. Lady Luck, it appears, is best when met in person.

With the Crisis, less money is wagered but more people play

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tips On Winning At Slots

Slots are a difficult nut to crack. Unless you want nothing more than some mindless entertainment for awhile, they are essentially a money vacuum. You put money in, and less comes out. But as with any casino game, there are ways to maximize your chances of winning.

First, and I know that I stress this, find slots with the highest RTP's. Casino representatives will constatly prattle on about how RTP's don't tell the whole story, and other elements are what make a slot good. This is pile of absolute crap. Whatever variables make a slot good or bad can be designed all the same with or without high RTP's. A good slot is one that is exciting and also has a high RTP. If a slot has an RTP below 95%, ignore it. Never go back. Many of Net Entertainment's slots are above 96%, and Galewind's slots are an industry-leading 97%+ across all of their slots. Do not play other slots. This is why releasing RTP information is so important. As a savvy customer, you need that data to make a decision.

Play for short periods of time. The longer that you play, the greater the chance that you will simply fall into the game's math. Playing for a short time means eating your losses when they happen. This is one of the reasons why so many hard-core gamblers prefer video poker and blackjack. The RTP's on those games are so high that a player can play for hours with relatively little loss. Obviously, over your lifetime of play, you will play enough games to fall into the math, but by avoiding long single stretches of game time, you will at least avoid the math on any given day.

Play with higher bets. Since you're going to be playing for shorter periods, maximize your available money and make bets that are larger than you are accustomed to. Do you usually rock a nickle-per-line? Up it to a quarter. If you're merely interested in entertainment for a time, this is not the right course of action since it shortens the time. But if you have hopes of winning at the end of the day, this is absolutely the best course.

An advantage to this is that by increasing your bet amount, you gain access to the jackpot slots at most casinos. Generally, casinos limit the jackpot slots to a certain minimum bet that is higher than most low-rollers.

Galewind is one of the few (the only?) casinos that has a jackpot per coin in their jackpot slots. This means that even when you bet a nickle, the low-rollers have access to a jackpot that is tied only to that coin and is unaffected by activity with the other coins. Still, opting for the larger coin gives you the chance at the larger jackpot, which does not scale linearly, meaning that the jackpot for the $10 chip is much larger than ten times the $1 chip.

Treat slots like a lottery ticket. You don't just sit there at the grocery store, buying ticket after ticket. You buy one, win or lose, and walk away. That's a great way to look at a slot. You walk in, throw a few spins, and walk out.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Terms & Conditions Watch: Slotocash

Terms & Conditions, sometimes referred to as T&C's or T's & C's, are the bane of any frequent online gambler. They are the get-out-of-jail card that casinos pull, essentially, whenever they please. The primary purpose of T&C's is not to provide some legal foundation on which the casino can operate, since the casino and player are usually separated by thousands of miles. This negates any true legal action on the part of the player.

Instead, in this convoluted arrangement, T&C's provide nothing more than the semblance of pseudo-officiality to the casino's rules. They are not actually binding since there are no laws to bind. With no real laws, players are left to deal with casino problems with private third parties like Casinomeister and Gambling Grumbles. This provides the court of public opinion as the only court from which to seek satisfaction. But since the court of public opinion is so tightly controlled by affiliates, the "crimes" of online casinos frequently remain unknown.

Because so many people seem to think that the T&C's of a casino provide it with some sort of justification for its actions, I will post ridiculous and abusive T&C's as I find them at online casinos. These are not legally binding, and I suspect that if any of these were actually brought before a court and argued with any energy, these "contracts" would fold like the tissue paper on which they were originally drafted.

This selection is taken from the T&C's of Sloto'cash Casino, but does not constitute everything. Sloto'cash is notable as being Casinomeister's #1 casino, further illustrating how little respectability CM has at this point. They also use RTG games, meaning no RTP's. Commentary is in bold.

10. The Company reserves the right to cancel your account for any reason whatsoever at any time without notice to you. Any balance in your account at the time of such cancellation may be credited to you, however, the Company reserves the right, in its unfettered discretion, to void any winnings and confiscate any balance in your Casino account in any circumstances (Wouldn't it be great if banks could do that?) including:
10.1 If there is evidence to suggest that you have more than one active account for the Casino; Because bonuses are an awful business strategy.
10.2 If the name on your Casino account does not match the name on the credit card(s) used to make purchases on your Casino account; Reasonable
10.3 If you participate in a Casino promotion and cash-in before fulfilling the requirements of that particular promotion; What if I do so accidentally?
10.4 If you provide incorrect or misleading registration, account or identification information;
10.5 If you are not of legal age;
10.6 If you reside in a jurisdiction where participation in the Game is prohibited by law; How much you want to bet that these last three terms are never activated if someone is losing?
10.7 If you have allowed or permitted (intentionally or unintentionally) someone else to play on your Casino account; You cannot unintentionally allow or permit.
10.8 If you have not played at the Casino on an individual basis for personal entertainment only (that is, you have played in a professional sense or in concert with other player(s) as part of a club, group, etc.); What do these words even mean?
10.9 If you are found cheating or if it is determined by the Company that you have employed or made use of a system (including machines, computers, software or other automated systems) designed specifically to defeat the Casino; It is impossible to cheat unless you try to hack the games. Robots do not affect game math and cannot be detected. This is a catch-all.
10.10 If you have been designated as a bonus abuser, playing no or low-risk strategies in order to withdraw promotional money; Playing to win is against the rules. This basically says "If you win, we will take your money."
10.11 If the Company should become aware that you have played at any other on-line casino under any of the circumstances set out at 10.1 to 10.10 above; Get accused, falsely or otherwise, ANYWHERE on the planet and be blacklisted. Again, how much you want to bet this is never activated if you lose?

Sloto'cash is making no bones about their terms: they can do anything they damn well please and are bound by nothing. No rules of fair play, no laws, no nothing.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Recent Thread At Casinomeister

Casinomeister, a long time ago, called itself a "player advocate." It has since changed its title to "advocate of fair play." Why did they do that? Because Casinomeister is probably bought. There are tons of things that I could say about CM, and probably will at some point in the future, but for today, I will keep it simple.

In a recent thread, a player came in to complain about a casino having voided winnings and refusing to return their deposit. Anyone familiar with online casinos knows that this is SOP for many of them. Casinomeister's response was classic, as was that of many of those in the CM "community": they rejected the player and said "tough luck."

When the player demanded why the casino wasn't in the "rogue pit," their list of bad casinos, forum members said that just because CM had not heard back from the casino, doesn't mean that any wrong was committed. Let that sink in. Just because the casino refused to respond, they get the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn't it be great if the world worked that way. "Gee Ms. Bank Manager. The guy that you think robbed the bank just won't pick up the phone. I guess we'll have to give him the benefit of the doubt."

CM should default to a declaration of rogue unless protocol is followed by the casino. That is the automatic reponse. THAT is the fear of God of which casinos need to be reminded to ensure they stay on the straight and narrow. Is that"unfair"? You're darn-tootin' it is! Responsibility for good behavior falls onto the casino. It's part of, ya' know, being in business.

But CM no longer does that. That's why CM is no longer a player advocate. Because "fair play" can mean anything.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Introducing The Wart

The blog is relatively new, but we (I) already have a second writer joining. He is actually the friend who introduced me to online gaming and knows just as much, if not much more, than I do about the industry. His views will be highly valuable to anyone interested in the online gaming world. So everyone put your hands together for Lincoln's Wart.

P.S. And just in case you didn't get the reference, Arthur's name in Disney's Sword in the Stone was The Wart. So... there.

Why Aren't Online Casinos Dominating (Part 4)

This is a continuation of an earlier post.

Lack of Quality

In another earlier post, I mentioned how Galewind's blackjack, while not being as visually clean as Net Entertainment, was much better. It flowed. I suspect that the very fine points of game design are the cause: the visual details that operate on the pixel level; the finely-tuned motions and interactions; the carefully chosen locations of buttons and information — these are the details that coalesce into a gestalt that truly excels. Except for Galewind, and I suspect Net Entertainment to a degree, no other company is doing this.

Currently, we have browser-based casinos and download casinos. Download casinos made perfect sense back in the day. Very few people had broadband Internet access and allowing people to either leave a download up all night or order a CD gave casinos the ability to offload only game data onto the pipe. Even crappy dial-up Internet was able to handle strings of numbers.

Today, though, that reason is gone. The prettiest, most graphically intense slots on the market are from Betsoft and Net Entertainment, both of which are browser-based. Granted, I think that both of those companies push it a little too far, with games like Robin Hood sometimes taking multiple minutes to load. But that's beside the point. The point is that download casinos don't make any sense and they make increasingly less sense as time goes on.

To make matters worse, instead of working very hard to make sure that their download products are the pinnacle of software perfection, their products are disasters. Hit up the message boards. Read post after post about how people have to wipe an entire computer and reinstall windows after installing thirteen different examples of Microgaming software from thirteen different casinos. The software actually kills these people's computers!

To make matters doubly worse, the companies that are pushing download products are the top companies in the online industry: Playtech, Microgaming, and RTG. I would imagine that these three companies combined account for 75% of online casinos. I complained that these companies don't understand the context in which they operate. That seems like a small problem when they can't even get their damned products to work correctly.

With this taken into consideration, it is no surprise that no single casino has managed to rise to dominance. The companies upon which casinos themselves rely are terrible. No industry, no matter how big, will ever achieve maturity without quality in it.

That's not to say there is no quality in the industry. There is. As with so many of my complaints, to the point where I sound like a broken record, there is only one company out there that seems to truly rise above: Galewind. Galewind's record of quality and fairness is essentially unparalleled. But an industry is not built upon the strength of a single constituent.

Perhaps some of the other players that seem to be walking the path of quality will eventually reach the Galewind level. I think that Net Entertainment is looking very good, thus explaining my second recommendation. Betsoft is small, but is producing games that, while I don't like the philosophy underlying them, are obviously high-quality. Someone in the company cares. These may be the seeds of a new era in online gaming. One where the big players are no longer Microgaming and Playtech, but instead are Galewind and Net Entertainment.