Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Terms & Conditions Watch: Fortune Lounge

Fortune Lounge is one of those online casino "groups," and by group I mean that it is a single building somewhere, with a bunch of servers all operating under different brands. They need these different brands because they spend so much time treating their customers poorly and otherwise being disgusting, they need to continually "reinvent" themselves.

Why they don't simply stop being crappy is beyond me. It seems like it would be a much better business model. But these are online casinos, and they are not run by the sharpest knives in the drawer, so this is the situation in which we find ourselves.

Fortune Lounge runs Royal Vegas, 7 Sultans, Platinum Play, Vegas Towers, Vegas Palms, and Desert Dollar. They all essentially have the same terms & conditions, because again, they are all essentially the game casino. Even their home pages are nearly identical.

Their terms & conditions are immense. I can't think of another casino with longer T&C's.
  • If, whilst playing at the Casino, you win a sum of money or any other prize regarded by the Casino as worthy of publicity, you agree to make yourself available for any event of any kind arranged by the Casino in order to publicise your win and any such prize. You hereby give the Casino permission to utilize your name, photograph and the content of any interviews relating to your win and any such prize. Furthermore, you hereby waive all rights in any of these materials and agree that all rights in and to such materials will belong to the Casino. The Casino will do its utmost to protect your privacy at all times.
I've seen this at a few other casinos. Most casinos will include a note about using a customer's user name or some other non-specific moniker like "David R." to advertise a big win. The ones that go so far as to say that the customer must also make themselves available for promotional materials or activities is well beyond reasonable.
  • Although we shall take all reasonable measures to ensure that the Software and files are free from computer viruses we cannot and do not guarantee that the Software and files are free of such problems. It is your responsibility to protect your systems and have in place the ability to reinstall any data or programs lost due to a virus.
Sorry guys. You aren't the only ones trying this. And just like all of the others, you would be screwed in this eventuality. The only protection these casinos actually have is that the person whose computer is wrecked likely lives multiple time zones away from the casino itself, which is based in Malta.If their service actually infected you with a virus, you could sue them out the wazoo.
  • You hereby agree that any legal proceedings to enforce any claim that you may have (if any) against the Casino shall be initiated by you within a period of 6 (six) months of the cause of action arising (the "Prescription Period"); failing which you hereby forever waive and abandon any right that you may have to enforce such claim after the Prescription Period and confirm that on the expiry of the Prescription Period the said claim shall be void, waived and abandoned in law.
Wow. This takes balls. They are actually re-writing limitation laws in their T&C's. Because, ya' know how this would hold up in court and all
  • The Casino reserves the right to withhold any withdrawals and/or confiscate all winnings for irregular play. ‘Irregular play’ includes but is not limited to any one or more of the following types of play:
    • Placing single bets equal to or in excess of 30% or more of the value of the bonus credited to the account prior to the play-through requirement for that bonus having been met;
    • Using the double-up feature to increase bet values;
    • Even money bets on Sic Bo, Craps, Baccarat, Wheel of Riches and Roulette.
Here it is. The real McCoy. Fortune Lounge's terms had hitherto been rather mild in the crazy shit department, but they absolutely fly off the rails with this one. This term quite literally says that playing the games in ways that anyone could is against the rules. This is La-La Land. This is shit. This, right here, is the single biggest reason to never play at any of Fortune Lounge's casinos. It took me one minute to find an example of this being used to screw a player. And here's another.
  1. Rules of Play

    6.1. In addition to these Terms and Conditions certain Rules of Play shall apply to you and be binding upon you in respect of your participation at the Casino.

    6.2. You hereby agree to be bound by the aforementioned Rules of Play as if they were specifically incorporated into these Terms and Conditions.
Where are these rules of play? I don't know. I couldn't find them. I'm assuming that they are simply using this part of the T&C's to justify doing whatever the hell they want.

Fortune lounge has repeatedly screwed players. They will continue to do so in the future. The seeds of this behavior are found in the T&C's and are the only motivation you need to go elsewhere. Do so. Don't give Fortune Lounge a dime.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Avoid Betfred (And Casinomeister) Like The Plague


Betfred's strange Terms & Conditions have translated to a full-on shitstorm over at Casinomeister. The thread, which is ongoing as I write this, has not only revealed the corruption of Betfred, but the degree to which Casinomeister is corrupt.

In my mind, this thread drives the final nail into the coffin for the once-respectable website. Casinomeister is nothing more than a protection racket--a shill bought and paid for by the casinos from which the website should be protecting consumers.

In the thread, even after numerous people politely and repeatedly stated that issues were never addressed, both Betfred's representative, Casinomeister, and Casinomeister's cronies were rude, condescending, and belligerent. Instead of actually answering the issues, they simply waved their hand and said the issues didn't actually exist.

Of course, the issues did exist. They very much existed, and the problem is that there was no way to answer them. Betfred is corrupt and this revealed them to be. Betfred ordered Casinomeister to shut this down, and since CM appears to be little more than a shill, he did just that.

The abuse of the forum members didn't work, the banning of the original poster didn't work, the repeated statements that this was a case of simple fraud didn't work, so he did what he had to do: he simply locked the thread and stopped the conversation. Casinomeister is scum.

I completely, 100% recommend that you read the entire thread. This is disgusting. And afterward, make sure to read another thread that describes an eerily similar set of circumstances, where after Casinomeister outright called a guy a scummy liar and banned him... just like here... the incessant attention of forum members forced him to recant and un-ban the user. And as with this thread, since it made CM look like the sack of crap that he is, he closed the thread before people were done.

In that thread, Casinomeister's immediate and absolute support of the casino over the player again reveals how corrupt he is. There's a reason why his motto was originally "Player advocate," and now reads "advocate for fair play."

Because he doesn't give a rat's ass about the player, and neither does Betfred.

A Wart's Opinion - Do Online Casino Games Cheat? - Part 1

This is a question which fills thread after thread, and post after post, on various casino discussion forums.  The implication is that it fills the thoughts of many (a majority of?) online Casino Players.

Let's give a whirl at answering this question.

As with all things, properly phrasing the question is as important as properly organizing the answer.  I think, however, that the question stated in the head of this post has been phrased for us.  All that is left to do is to hopefully organize the answer.

In doing this, I'm going to split the discussion into 2 parts.  Part 1 will deal with slot games.  Part 2 will deal with all of the rest.


Onward to Part 1 - Do Online Casino Slot Games Cheat?


First, what does "cheat" mean?  I figure it means that the game does not do what it is supposed to do.  For a Slot game there is usually only one definition of what the game is supposed to do - it is called the Slot's Paytable.

A.  If a particular combination of symbols appears on a payline on which you have placed a wager, then the win amount for that payline should equal what is defined in the paytable.  If the slot does not do this, then it is cheating.

B.  If a particular combination of symbols is defined as a winner on the paytable, then it should be possible for that combination to actually occur during game play.  (In specific, a 5-reel max pay stop should have that stop on all 5 reels.)  If not, the slot is cheating.

Otherwise, what?  Well, that's it - end of story.  A slot cannot cheat in any other way that the player can be aware of.

BUT ... can the slot cheat in ways that the player is not aware of?  Well, I think that's pretty easy to answer - sure it can!

Example #1.  The software code that analyzes the results of the reel stops finds that a high-paying combination has occurred.  The Casino doesn't really want to pay for that combination, at least this week.  So, the code simply re-spins the reels.

Example #2.  A Jackpot is won by a customer, but that customer doesn't really exist.  The Jackpot is reset to its seed value, and the Casino keeps the Jackpot amount.

Example #3.  The software code for the game has as one of its input parameters a "win percent" factor.  The game runs, and let’s say that this "win percent" factor is 90%.  The first thing the game code does is generate a random number.  If that number is less than 90, then the game plays normally.  If the number is greater than 90, then the game runs 10 spins and returns whichever one of those ten spins results in the lowest win amount for the player.


Unfortunately, you don't really know whether a particular slot is cheating or not.  Hmm.  Let me re-phrase that - it is very hard for you as a single player to determine (and much harder to prove) if a particular slot is cheating.  One of the reasons is that you need to have played a very large number of rounds (50,000, 100,000), AND you need to have kept some sort of records of that game play.

You sit down and play 500, or 5,000, rounds of the slot, and you lose some money (or maybe a lot of money).  Was it just bad luck?  That certainly could be.  Maybe this slot just doesn't have a very high payout?  (A link to a long article describing game payouts, aka Return to Player or RTP.)  Or is the fact that the slot is cheating hidden behind what is called "high variance"?  (A link to a long article describing this subject.)  That's also entirely possible.  Or maybe the slot really is high variance?

The bottom line is - you don't really know, and at this point you can't really know, whether the slot is cheating.  All you do know is that you lost money.


Now, some slot players think that because they lost money in one session, this means that the slot "owes them".  Their next session is sure to be a winner.  (aka, The Gambler's Fallacy,)

So, they'll go in and play the same slot again later, and they'll (probably) lose more money.  They might do this two, three, five, ten, whatever number of times before they finally (hopefully!) just give up and move on to another slot.

So, is the slot cheating?  Or maybe the slot's payout just sucks.  Or maybe it is high variance?

What is a poor slot player to do?


*****  A Something Better Than Nothing Solution  *****

First, look for whether the casino publishes a Random Number Generator (RNG) Certificate.

These are usually found by clicking on a very small graphic at the bottom of some web page, with the graphic displaying the logo for a Certificate company.  TST and iTech Labs are probably the most common online casino RNG Certificate sources, but there are a handful of other quality providers that you might come across.

Here are some links to some example RNG Certificates.

http://www.slotastic.com/pdf/tst.pdf

http://casino2.pinnaclesports.com/casino/help/certified/RNG_certificate_PinnacleSports_031011.pdf

There are (at least) three things to be wary of here.

Thing #1.  They say they have an RNG Certificate, they show the Certificate Company's logo, but if you click on it then nothing happens.

Thing #2.  They have the Certificate Company's logo, or a link somewhere within some document on their site that says they have the RNG Certificate, but when you click on it all you do is go to the Certificate Company's web site.

Thing #3.  They have an RNG Certificate, but their name is no where on the document.  All they have done is linked to someone else's Certificate.


Second, look for whether the casino publishes a Monthly RTP Report.

These can sometimes be found under web pages titled "Fair Play", or "Certified Fair", or like that.  Here are links to some example reports, from three different Certification companies.

http://www.50starscasino.com/tst/payout_certificate.pdf

http://www.ecogra.org/certificates/certificate.aspx?cid=253#1

http://casino2.pinnaclesports.com/casino/help/certified/PinnacleSports_RTP_0612.pdf


Now, there are (at least) four things to be wary of here.

Thing #1.  The Casino doesn't have a report, but tells you (maybe on their home page) that their RTP for pick-a-month was 98.17%.  Why should you believe them?  They might be running games that cheat, but they are going to tell the truth about their RTP?

Thing #2.  Affiliate sites will tell you that the RTP for a particular Casino for pick-a-month was 98.17%.  Affiliates make money by driving you to the casinos that pay THEM the most for your business, NOT the casinos that pay YOU the most for your business.  Something just slightly less than 100% of affiliate sites, super-affiliates like Casinomeister included, will "present innaccurate data" when it comes to reporting a casino's RTP.  (Notice how I avoided the use of the word lie.  Then notice how I cunningly included it anyway.)

Thing #3.  The Casino tells you that they have monthly reports, but you can't find them anywhere.  Liberty Slots is one example of this.  The page http://www.libertyslots.eu/cfg has a link which launches the following PDF - http://www.libertyslots.eu/images/124.pdf.  (Liberty Slots - show me some numbers please.)

Thing #4.  The RTP report comes from some place like "RTP Reports R Us".  In addition to the three companies above (TST, eCOGRA and CFG), I know of two other reliable RTP Certification sources - iTech Labs, and Price-Waterhouse Coopers (At the time I write this, I think PWC still does this).


Why have I labeled this solution only "Something Better Than Nothing"?  If you've launched any of the RTP reports linked above, you'll note that all of the slots are lumped into a single number.  Most online Casinos offer 100, or more, slots.  There might be 5, 10, or 15 real stinkers in there (stinker in this case being defined as a slot that has an RTP of 85% or less), but their stench is hidden by the crowd.


*****  A Something Better Than That Solution  *****

Look to see whether the Casino publishes the Theoretical RTP for each slot.

As I write this there are a few companies that do this - Galewind Software, NetEnt, BetSoft.  I believe Rival does, but if they do then they've done a superb job of hiding it.  IGT says they do, but if someone says that they do Thing A and in actual fact does about 20% of Thing A then that would be IGT.  (I also have to say that even though NetEnt and BetSoft do provide these numbers they could not have hidden them better if they tried.)

And then look for all of the "Something Better Than Nothing" stuff.

This will do two things for you.  The first is that it will identify the "stinkers" in the barrel.  The second is that the Certification company will ensure that the Casino did not report a 95% RTP value for a "stinker" 80% RTP slot.  In other words, the Certification company will try to make sure that the Casino isn't just lying.

Now, some might say that an Even Better Than That Solution would be for the Certification company to break down the RTP Report's Slots group into the RTP for each of the slots individually.  But there is a pretty big problem there, and it has nothing to do with telling the truth, lying, the Slot, the Casino, or the Certification company.  It has to do with the sample size.

I can't know for sure, but I suspect that a large number of those 100 or more slots don't see a lot of games played every month.  Statistical analysis of small sample sets usually results in some pretty wild swings.  So, Slot A might report an RTP of 67% for month 1, 93% for month 2, 127% for month 3, and like that.


*****  A Best That I Know Solution  *****

This is from Galewind Software.  I've linked it above, but I'll link it here again.

In addition to providing the Theoretical RTP for each of their slots, they also provide the Standard Deviation, the Variance, Line Pay Hit Frequency, Average Number of Spins Between Bonus Game (or Free Game) Wins, and like that.

At the bottom of the page they also include a lot of very interesting information, again for each slot in the collection.  One of the interesting bits there is the answer to the question:  "If I place a max lines bet, how often can I expect to at least break even on my total bet?"

They also provide their monthly RTP Reports (with dynamic run charts for each report group, which I have to say beats the living hell out of having to load 12 separate freakin' PDF files).

And they make all of this information so easy to find.  Basically, all you need to do is click on the Help button from anywhere in the Casino.  The resulting list in the popup window will always have 2 line items - Game Returns (RTP Percent) and Certified Fair Gambling.  You have to be playing a slot game for the Help list to contain the line item Slot Statistics.


A request of Galewind Software - if you've managed to find this blog, and are reading this, then something that I would like to see on this Slots Statistics page is the percent of total RTP that comes from standard payline wins, the percent from scatter wins (if applicable), the percent from bonus wins (if applicable), the percent from free spin wins (if applicable), and like that.

I saw in a Casinomeister thread that, as I write this, you're working on a new project that will help players understand Standard Deviation and Variance through the use of charts.

I think this would be just great.  I hope this projects is completed, as I would greatly enjoy seeing it.

Other than my suggestion above, I can't imagine it getting any better than this.



*****  Bottom Line  *****

Do Online Casino Slot Games Cheat?  Absolutely.  No doubt about.  100% guaranteed.

Certainly not all Casinos cheat.  But if there are 2,000 online casinos running in the world, I figure it's a safe bet (no pun intended) that at least 20% of them are cheating at slots.

However, if you follow the guidance in the "Something Better Than Nothing Solution" (while paying close attention to all of the things to be wary of), or the guidance in the "Something Better Than That Solution", you're reasonably safe.


SPECIAL NOTE:

As I mentioned above, Affiliates make money by driving you to the casinos that pay THEM the most for your business, NOT the casinos that pay YOU the most for your business.  You can safely ignore any RTP values presented on ANY Affiliate web site.  If you follow a link from an Affiliate to a Casino, once again just follow the guidance in the "Something Better Than Nothing Solution" or the "Something Better Than That Solution" and you're reasonably safe.  Just make sure to ignore pretty much anything said by the Affiliate.