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GAMBLING FEDERATION: a discussion at the ICE

Sunday, January 29, 2006

GAMBLING FEDERATION: a discussion at the ICE

On day one of the London International Casino Exhibition I stumbled across Gambling Federation, quite by chance as I was wandering around looking at the various stalls.

I spoke briefly to Federico Fogli and G-Fed CEO Flaviano Fogli that day, hoping to get an explanation for their disallowing the $9000 win of a player who did not break any of the stated terms (see the Giant Vegas article). The case was discussed at Casinomeister, and also at the GPWA, where it was principally mediated - a mediation which failed to recover a cent for the player, although he subsequently received back all his deposits after Bryan Bailey got onto them.

I asked Federico what they considered "fraud" ? financial fraud, or more than this?

Yes, more. The Foglis consider both financial fraud and "game fraud"; game fraud being new to me, I asked Federico for clarification. On this matter we got no further than "play patterns", which was consistent with the comments made by all those GPWA members who expressed an opinion.

Beyond this Federico would not go, but suggested I speak to their Director Of Operations, Clovis Cuqui, who could give me more details. We fixed an appointment for the next day.

Flaviano came across just before I left. I recapped a bit of what I'd detailed to Federico, and stressed that the opinion that rules are binding was one shared by most of the online gambling community, including the likes of Bryan Bailey. It was an amusing moment when Flaviano gave a theatrical and dismissive gesture with his hands and with his heavy Italian accent said "Bryan?? He ALWAYS disagree with us!!"

I spoke with Clovis the next day. He's a very pleasant fellow indeed, and he gave me fully 45 minutes of his time, in the process making himself late for his subsequent appointment by 20 minutes.

"Game fraud": what is it, and how can you fairly hold gamblers to something like this which is not detailed in ANY term or ANY condition, anywhere?

Game fraud, for Gambling Federation, is playing in a way designed to optimise the bonus, on the part of a player who clearly has no intention of a lasting relationship with the casino beyond said bonus. That this apparent fraud is not listed is not inconsistent with aspects of financial fraud, every aspect of which ? chargebacks, fake credit cards etc etc ad inf ? is not necessarily detailed. If all aspects of genuine financial fraud are not detailed, why is it inconsistent to not detail aspects of game fraud?

I pointed out that financial fraud, and all aspects thereof, are commonly understood by the gambling public, whether or not all possible aspects are listed. "Game fraud" is not - and that to claim the two are identically understood is pretty rich. In fact, "game fraud" is an online casino invention. I asked Clovis how a player is to KNOW about this, and if any player would ever touch a Gambling Federation casino knowing that they might confiscate winnings on the basis of "game fraud".

Clovis made two points: in the first place, the majority of their player base will never encounter this problem, and barely even understand or sympathise with the issue, because the practice is the realm of only a specific player-type, the advantage player, who is very much in the minority. In the second place, this player, the advantage player, knows exactly what he is doing. He is no injured innocent, and must accept winnings-confiscation as part of the risks of the trade - he is creating the problem for himself by these tactics. Also, the player in question received back all his deposits. I should add that Clovis had a VERY clear understanding of the nature of the player's play: he was not just bitching about paying a big winner.

I tried to generalise the issue with this question:

As a player, if I follow, and infringe none of, the stated rules, is it unreasonable of me to expect to be paid?

Clovis's response was to say that no, it was not an unreasonable expectation on my part. However, he maintained that it was also not unreasonable for Gambling Federation to apply their own rules, stated or otherwise, on a case-by-case basis.

I then asked: if Gambling Federation were operating within a regulated environment, how long would they last? Clearly, the likes of Microgaming and Cryptologic would not have much of a problem. Gambling Federation, applying unstated rules at their discretion, would surely not last a day?

Clovis's answer was that in the event of operating within the jurisdiction of a regulatory body they would apply the rules of said jurisdiction. These would be many and varied, dependent on the body in question. Outside of any such jurisdiction, they apply their rules as they see fit so to do. They cannot apply such rules when such rules don?t exist.

He also threw into the melting pot that no affiliate would be affected by things like this, and that affiliate payments would not change in any way. I'm not sure why I was told this because I didn't initiate the matter, although I did mention Cindy Carley (the GPWA mediator) - for no reason other than hoping to give myself some street-cred as someone who knew what they were talking about. I cannot see how a $9000 payment would not affect the affiliate's commission, however, otherwise the books don't balance.

As I said above, this was an extremely pleasant and likeable fellow, who gave me far more of his time than he should have and I think probably pissed off his boss, Flaviano, for the rest of the day for being so late for his next meeting. In fact, it was I who called an end to our chat ? he gave absolutely no indication of being in any kind of a rush at any point.

However, I disagree with Clovis in several areas.

In the first place, that the player receives back his deposits does NOT level the playing field, because he does NOT receive them back when he LOSES ? this is a crucial difference. If winning results in no more than your deposits back you are at an almighty disadvantage, because at the risk of stating the obvious, gambling is not just about losing or breaking even. Winning comes into the equation.

In the second place, although I understand where they are coming from on the matter of advantage players who know what they?re doing, the "regular" gamblers having no problems etc etc etc, I do not support that undisclosed aspects of "game fraud" is an acceptable way to behave - and neither does the industry at large, let's face it. At the end of the day, I cannot believe that any player, slot junkie or smart, would willingly deposit at any casino that's known to behave in this way.

On the basis of this alone, Gambling Federation can never have my own seal of approval.

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