Saturday, December 28, 2013

Son of a!... Nordicbet Pulls Out of Nearly Everything

It just gets worse and worse.

Nordicbet, our famous #2 choice for online casino gaming, is pulling out of every market but Scandinavia. This is an epic blow to those who want to play games online. If it had been a standalone event, that would be one thing, but it's not; we have already lost Galewind at Pinnacle and seen it replaced with a crap product. We didn't need the loss of another good casino provider.

I am very close to just saying fuck it and stopping all online play. Honestly, one of the things that stops me is knowing that that is precisely what our governments want us to do. If I believed for one second that they wanted me to stop gambling for my own good, I would have no problems with this. Afterall, they care about me!

But we all know that it has nothing to do with that. My government, your government, anyone's government doesn't give a shit about anybody's well being. Well, ironically, the Scandinavian countries probably care... as does Switzerland... and Canada. Actually, Australia seems to care, too, at least somewhat.

So, I guess, what I'm saying is that the United States and United Kingdom don't care. Unfortunately they are the biggies when it comes to online gaming. And all they care about is that if I gamble, I gamble in the places where they get a piece of the pie. As long as they are getting their cut, they don't care if I gamble myself into oblivion.

That avarice... that greed... that corruption... it drive me into an epic fury. To better visualize this fury, Donald Duck comes close to showing how I act. Fast forward to 1:00.

I've been beating this drum since we created the website. Gambling is a very bad thing in many ways. I'm healthy with my behavior, but many others are not. Gambling is not a simple entertainment like movies, just as alcohol is not a simple commodity like bread. It should be regulated. It should be controlled. It should be taxed. But all of these activities should be done with an eye toward the public good.

Instead, we have governments who use gambling and lotteries as a way to generate revenue without raising taxes. But gambling disproportionately affects the lower socioeconomic classes. There's a joke saying that the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math. That's partially true. It's actually a tax on people who are receptive to the manipulations of gambling marketing: poor people who wish for better days.

So what do our governments do? They attach yet another leach onto this population, sucking away a bit more of the blood they can ill afford to lose.

Tax gambling. By all means, do it. But one-hundred percent — I don't mean most or some or eighty or ninety; I mean one-hundred percent — of all tax revenue generated by gambling should go toward public enrichment. It should go toward the services that lift people out of the lifestyle that makes them receptive to gambling marketing. All of the money should go toward job development, Head Start and other educational initiatives, food banks, neighborhood construction, and adult education.

But no. The money goes into the general fund to fuel corrupt politicians and their cronies for one more fiscal year. It. Is. Disgusting.

It is thus an absurd state of affairs in which I find myself. I want to stop gambling, but the attempts of governments to make me do precisely that are what goad me into continuing my activity! I want to stick it to the proverbial man by not stopping my play. There's a part of me that feels bad because my behavior seems so similar to those who indignantly continue to smoke in spite of increased regulation and taxation. But at least in that regard, the last thing many governments actually want is for people to quit smoking. So one would actually damn the man by quitting.

In my situation, I damn the man by funneling more of their precious money out of the country and into other countries. This is something that major corporations get to do with abandon, but the instant us normal people do it, the hammer comes down!

Well fuck you, governments. I'm going to continue doing precisely what you don't want. I'm going to keep playing. I will find new casinos. I will find new companies. I will follow Galewind, really, wherever they go. You will not stop me. You will never stop me.

That's the wonder of this brave, new, modern age: you have been stripped of some of your power, and I am going to revel in it.

Monday, December 16, 2013

How Online Casinos And Cell Phone Companies Are Similar

I get Google+ messages from readers every now and then asking about bonuses. I'm not surprised. I have been a vocal critic of bonuses yet they are the very foundation of the online casino industry. Most people want to know whether a specific bonus is a good deal. Some people want to know if I have any tips on how to beat bonuses. A few people want to know what the best bonuses are.

Well let me say in no uncertain terms that bonuses are bullshit. Say it with me, bonuses are bullshit!

Now how does this apply to cell phone companies? Because both industries are utterly built upon a trick. For cell phones, it is the $200, or $100, or free phone that you get at the beginning of your contract. The contract is critical but we'll get to that in a moment.

Have you ever looked up the price of your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy on Ebay or some other website that isn't affiliated with a carrier such as Verizon or AT&T? If you have, you'll have noticed that the iPhone that you get for $200 is selling for $700.

Where did that $500 go?

It went into the carrier subsidy. Basically, the carrier sells you the phone for $200. They are losing hundreds of dollars in this act. Their goal is to make their money back and then some over the course of your payments to them. And as you would expect from this arrangement, after the two years are up, they get far more than what they gave you on the phone. They rip you off.

That is why there are contracts. This guarantees the cell phone company your monthly payment for two years. This has become so popular that until T-Mobile began its Uncarrier initiative, you could not start service with AT&T or Verizon without a 2-year contract. They would only offer you their pre-paid phones which are crappy and have inferior plans. The only way to get all of the features of AT&T and Verizon was to sign your life away for two, goddamned years.

And what happens if you try to leave? Why they charge you huge amounts of money, of course! And there's nothing you can do about it because the devil's bargain that people made for cheap phones reduced the markets to only a few major players. They use this monopoly to squeeze profits from people while providing terrible service and customer support.

Online casino bonuses are basically the same thing. Long ago, users made a devil's bargain for bonuses. This handed an immense amount of power over to affiliates and locks users to a specific casino for a period of time and money. The terms are shorter than for your average cell phone contract, but the end result is the same: the casino gets all your munneez.

And just as with a cell phone, the casino is getting far more than they otherwise would. Most bonuses are locked to rollover requirements, meaning that you have to gamble a certain amount before you can take any money out, and these rollover requirements are usually tied to specific games. You usually cannot play blackjack or craps, because the RTP on those is too high.

Oh no. They won't have that! You must only play certain slots, meaning that in the end, the casino actually gets more from you then they otherwise would.

How is that possible, you may ask. Remember, when you spend money, you aren't just spending money, you are spending the opportunity to spend that money on other things. This is called the ooportunity cost in Econ-101 parlance. Basically, if I spend $5 on a move ticket, I also spending the sandwich that I could have bought on that movie ticket.

If you are forced to only play low-RTP slot machines, you are not only spending your money, you are spending the opportunity to play high-RTP games and are thus spending the opportunity to win at those games. The casino gets your money and gets it at a lower risk than they otherwise would if you were able to play high-RTP games. Just as with the cell phone companies, you are getting ripped off.

As I mentioned, the contract is a very important part of this comparison. Go read the legal agreement that you sign when getting your cell phone through AT&T or Verizon. It is a gazillion pages long and loaded with enough legalese to make the Supreme Court shit bricks. These contracts were humorously parodied in the South Park episode, "Human CentiPad."

These contracts are used to screw you like there is no tomorrow. Not only does the cell phone company get may more than they otherwise would in the end, if you step out of line, they are used as a legal cudgel to charge you huge fees.

Every now and then, these fees are comical enough to make news, but as some people have pointed out, with these contracts, the cell phone companies are under no legal obligation to cut the bills. The only thing that forces them to do so is the fact that charging someone $200,000 in cell phone charges would result in enough bad PR to destroy a company.

But for every person who gets charged $50,000, imagine the number who are overcharged by only a few hundred, or maybe a few thousand. The amount of hidden injustice is undoubtedly alarming.

Now, is this sounding familiar at all? Is this sounding a lot like, oh, I dunno'... terms & conditions?

That's because this is precisely like terms & conditions. It is the same, goddamned thing. The only reason why cell phone companies step out of line less often is because they are larger, more visible, and have much more to lose if people turn against their brand.

Online casinos, if their brand gets destroyed, they simply re-brand their casino, send new links out to all of their affiliates, and start anew! This is why the reality of the online casino industry is obscured by the illusion of competition. There is no competition. There are only a few major companies, producing poor products for an undiscerning market.

Also unlike the cell phone companies, online casino companies have the benefit of being seen as somewhat seedy. This means that they can, and always do, rely on the time-tested strategy of smearing their accuser. That is why we have clauses about robots, pattern betting, and cheating in casino T&C's. These are nothing more than tools for a greedy casino to smear their victim.

If cell phone companies could, they would do the same thing. But they can't, so they don't.

I make this comparison because cell phone companies are an excellent example of online casino greed and evil writ large. Cell phone companies are horrible creations and regularly make it to the top of Consumerist's Worst Company in America list. But in those companies, which are forced by exposure and legal fights to be somewhat upstanding, we have lessons that we can apply to the online casino industry.

We need to force major casinos into the light. We need governments to finally set aside their greed for taxes and regulate online casinos in the best ways they can. Current casino regulations are nothing more than a money-grab by corrupt politicians who want to avoid raising taxes on their rich buddies. We need to vote with our dollars and stop having twenty accounts and twenty shitty little casinos. We need to focus on those who uphold the highest ideals of good business.

We had one in Galewind, but they're now down. Who knows if or when they will reappear. So we're left with the other ugly children from which to choose. Good god, it's an ugly lot, but some of them stand out a bit, and we need to reward that. It is imperative that we reward that. If we don't, the next Galewind will simply appear then disappear, drowned out by corruption and noise.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

China Bans Bitcoin

As I mentioned in my earlier article, the Internet has changed a large number of things. For the purposes of this discussion, it has changed the nature of borders and the nature of systemic control. To wit, it has weakened them — substantially in many ways Now, let's think about this for a moment; who would be most threatened by a loss of border and systemic control?

Oh right! Governments!

The first volleys in this Quixotic war were thrown by totalitarian governments many years ago after the rise of wireless radio communication. Those same governments then followed that up with things like China's Great Firewall. But for the Western World, the most visible example of this behavior is without doubt the UIGEA. With that, the United States tried to clamp down on the system through which money flowed.

Bitcoin has invalidated that power. When money is an abstract mathematical construct that exists without regards to borders and systems, boom, there goes governmental power. In my earlier article I said,
"Governments will of course fight this development. They will tilt against the windmill until their efforts just disintegrate entirely. They will ignore the writing on the proverbial wall for years, perhaps decades, as they puff up their chests in the face of an enemy that they don't understand. It is contemptible, really."
I like to be correct, but rarely am I correct just a week later.

China has banned Bitcoin.

Oh, they are of course couching this in the excuse of protection and whatnot, which is total horseshit. I'm not even sure why China bothers saying it. Everyone out here knows that it is a lie, and everyone in China knows that it is a lie. So why lie? I dunno'. Perhaps it makes them feel better about it or something.

One statement that Chinese authorities made was of special interest to me.
The notice said that Bitcoin was “not a currency in the real meaning of the word” but was rather a “virtual commodity that does not share the same legal status of a currency. Nor can, or should, it be circulated or used in the marketplace as a currency.”
Not only does this ignore that all major nations rely on what's called Fiat Currency and as such no currency is truly "legitimate" in the sense that it is backed by anything other than a system as equally ephemeral as Bitcoin, it also uses all of those principles that we were previously discussing! They call it a "virtual" commodity, implying that unless money is physically printed, by a government of course, it's not real. They then say that it does not share the same legal status! Laws?! That's the point of all this! To side-step laws!

Laws exist only when borders exist. And as I mentioned, borders are much weaker now than they were.

There are two causes for real concern in all this. First is the possible use of this borderless money in illegal activities. That is indeed a problem. But just as the truth will set you free, the loss of lie can imprison you. Many laws are lies, predicated on dogma, fear, and ignorance. The loss of control forces a government to face its bad laws.

Second is that a financial system that is by its very nature unregulated will be an unstable financial system. That's why every major nation has things like FOREX, commodity, and equity laws. And if Bitcoin becomes widely accepted, a Bitcoin boom and bust could take many countries with it.

But regardless of these concerns, this is the reality. Our society and our legal structures have many things that are wrong with them, and the only reason why we have not been hitherto forced to make changes is because the old systems of control allowed society to stumble along like some drunk.

We are losing control, meaning that society can no longer stumble along. We need to fix our problems, otherwise these unstoppable social and technological changes will cause the destabilization of our entire, God-forsaken edifice. While that sounds exciting, it's certainly something that we do not want.

It is time for our politicians to stop being so goddamned stupid, stand up, educate themselves, understand the way the world is and where it is going, and pass good laws. No longer can they be utterly beholden to special interests and blind, dogmatic beliefs. Every party, every politician, and every nation is guilty of these activities in some way. It is truly bipartisan and global.

The Internet is here. The world is one. Deal with it.