Monday, June 24, 2013

On The Degradation of the Industry

Chris Colby, the president of Galewind Software, the company currently providing our #1 recommended casino, recently made a post over at The Wizard of Vegas. It's concerning a long-running disaster involving the government of Gibraltar and its "regulation" of the gambling industry, Betfred, Finsoft, GTech, and Casinomeister. If you don't know what's going on, sit tight. I will have a post on the subject up soon. For now, all you need to know is that what was revealed by this debacle comes very close to confirming the worst fears of the most paranoid people alive. It's honestly that bad.

I'm posting this because, one, I think more people should read it, and two, I hope that the honesty presented and the respect afforded him gives everyone an idea as to why Pinnacle's casino is our #1 pick. In an industry with so few good guys, we as consumers really need to support the good guys. It's the only way we're going to get more good guys.

My Closing Thoughts

As we all know ... For so many years (think back to 2000 and the formation of the Online Players Association) the primary source of "regulation" that has been applied in controlling runaway casinos (and software providers, and affiliates) has been the pressure arising from, and/or applied by, the various casino/affiliate forums - "bad press" appearing in a Google search, the threat of being "blacklisted", a voluntary "behind closed doors" mediation process, and so forth. (BTW - think back to 2002 and the death of the Online Players Association.)

Time after time it became obvious that this whole mechanism was one leaky boat. The "damage value" of being blacklisted was determined by the casinos themselves - if the casinos didn't care, the damage value was zero. The mediation process had to be "behind closed doors" because (apparently) this was the only way that the casinos would cooperate. Most of the time the only data available for these "secret discussions" was the data that the casinos wanted to disclose (or admit to).

Although all of this was happening "behind closed doors", occasionally the data, the discussion, and the criteria became available to the public. This exposure showed that the parties involved in this mediation process all too frequently did not possess the knowledge (technical or otherwise), the experience, the data, or the criteria to make an accurate decision regarding many of the problems with which they dealt. "Robot users", "pattern bettors", "bonus abusers" all became nothing more than dumping grounds for "we don't want to pay". The "mediation services" transformed into marketing tools.

In my opinion, a "case in point" example is the following forum thread. The ONLY thing that saved this particular player's ass (and their many thousands of Euros) was the PUBLIC presentation of the otherwise "secret data" on another forum, and the PUBLIC exposure that the "secret analysis" of this "secret data" was so completely wrong. In my opinion, every leak in the boat was exposed here.

(My reference example occurred several years ago. In the interim there have been many, far too many, other examples.)

"Player Advocacy" (the Wizard and a few others excluded) wound up becoming a network of people (an "old boys' club") who were making "secret decisions", using "secret data", possessing inadequate knowledge, applying ill-defined criteria - all of this affecting tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands? more?) of player's dollars/euros/pounds. In addition, once the decision exited the "closed back room", that was it. There was no appeal process.

So yes, there was pressure on the casinos, but the casinos exercised 90% of the control over the result of any dispute. In general, there never was a lot of real horsepower in that engine.

Over time, one simply became hardened to the reality that the inmates were running the asylum. Acceptance of mediocrity became the norm. Although publicly ridiculed, the "silent membership" of the "tin foil hat club" began to grow.

When this Betfred/Finsoft/GGC issue first presented itself, and the subsequent data (hard data, clean data, reproducible data) began to really pile up, I became excited at the possibility that one of the "major" online regulatory agencies would finally show some teeth. At that time I simply did not see anywhere for the casino(s), the software provider(s) or the regulatory authority to hide.

I became excited at the possibility that not only would we not have a leaky boat anymore, but that the solution was NOT to patch the leaks but to buy a new boat. I became excited at the possibility of some quantitative, positive, and lasting change happening here. I also considered the ripple effect that would arise as other regulatory organizations began to follow the example. The size of the opportunity for positive change here was, in my experience, unique.

And I don't think that I was alone - I think that a lot of people who had been hardened by the industry's history of failure in dealing with these problems also let down their guard a bit and allowed themselves to become hopeful.

And then ... days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. Hope faded. What little hope remained was smashed on the rocks by the recent "so bad they do not even rise to the level of wrong" publications of the GGC.

Fundamental change was pushed off even further into the future. Membership in the "tin foil hat club" continues to grow. The expectations of those hardened members of the online community became, if anything, even more hardened. The magnitude of what the software providers, and the casinos, and the regulatory agencies simply got away with here is really stunning.

That, to me, is probably the worst aspect in all of this - a truly unique opportunity for implementing lasting change in the effective management of the online casino industry, an opportunity that does not come along all that often, was completely wasted.