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Bella Vegas / Grand Prive Microgaming online casino group rogued by Casinomeister. The eCOGRA seal will not be revoked.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Bella Vegas / Grand Prive Microgaming online casino group rogued by Casinomeister. The eCOGRA seal will not be revoked.

Bryan Bailey of Casinomeister has added the Grand Prive casino group, and specifically Bella Vegas Casino, to his rogue list:

Casinomeister Grand Prive Rogue List Entry

There has been a major issue brewing since August 2005 involving a under age gambler and Grand Prive casinos. This is a Microgaming group - nine casinos total - and they are eCOGRA certified. Here is the problem in a nutshell:

The player, who resides in Las Vegas, joined each one of these casinos made deposits and occasionally won here and there. She was never asked for her ID, and the fact that she was only 19 was never an issue. But when she made a larger withdrawal, the casino requested her ID. These are required by the agreement that the casino has with eCOGRA. They must ensure that the player is a legitimate person who is lawfully allowed to play. Well, she lives in Nevada, and the gambling age for jurisdiction is 21. So the casino voided her cash-in and returned her deposits. Sounds fair? Well fairness is not the issue here. The issue is a casino's accountability, responsibility, and their relationship with the online casino industry.

The casino failed to do it's due diligence. They have all of the power within their means to prevent under age gambling. They relied solely on their terms and conditions, and in these times when underage gambling is such a hot topic - this is unacceptable. Underage gambling is beyond nickels and dimes, it is a behavior that is prompting the Bible thumpers in the US to hop up on their soapboxes and preach about the evils of online gambling. Reliance on the gambler to police his or her activities is a careless and irresponsible attitude to take. There is no excuse to have let this happen.

The casino considered this case closed last August since they turned this over to eCOGRA which understandably ruled against paying this player. There is absolutely no way eCOGRA or any other entity could consider asking the casino to honor a dime of her winnings.

But to the average Joe player, this casino appeared to be selective in who they were paying. It seemed to them that once the player had a big win, the casino found a loophole and decided not to pay. "She's a teenager - don't pay her" And this is the furor of the public. In the eyes of most players, casinos are crooks - you have to earn the players' trust, and this whole scenario fanned these flames of suspicion.

The casino failed us - those who work in this industry - by not making a bold statement to this episode. I was trying to convince them that the only way to face this would be to take this player's winnings and donate them to either a charity of her choice, or to some other organization - perhaps Gambling Anonymous. This would have nullified the notion that this casino was being selective. It would have cost them 20k (or whatever amount the winnings were). Hopefully it would have made the player feel that her negative experience was transposed into something positive - feeding hungry kids, providing counseling to problem gamblers, giving the homeless a home.

It would have saved a lot of anguish for the casino. And most importantly, it would have demonstrated to everyone that casinos will not profit from catering to under age gamblers. In short, this would have made many positive messages and provided something for the needy.

But in the casino's short-sightedness, they have chosen not to do this.

I've discussed this situation with a number of people, and I am deeply frustrated. I feel that this casino group has let everyone in this industry down by just letting this be and not engaging themselves in this problem. And I question how many more players like this one are out there.

I hope this serves as a wake up call to operators who are not doing their due diligence on protecting their players, their casino, and the online casino industry.

Grand Prive Casino group, welcome to the rogues.

I absolutely support Bryan Bailey's stance.

This was originally commented on in the Casino Profitting From Underage Gambler article at Gamblog, and there was lengthy discussion at the WinnerOnLine forum and, more recently, in the Bella Vegas thread at Casinomeister.

Although the player will never see a cent of her money, she can take some comfort from all of this:

1) She has given Bella Vegas and the Grand Prive group about as much bad publicity for their roguish behaviour as she POSSIBLY could have.

2) She has helped give the online casino gambling industry a heck of a black eye. The industry will not forget this, nor will they forget Grand Prive / Bella Vegas's central role in it.

These are politically sensitive times for online gambling, with factions of the United States administration striving to have it illegalised with renewed determination, and online casinos need this kind of publicity right now as much as they need pick axes in their collective heads.

The fact that this player was effectively invited and encouraged to gamble underage at Bella Vegas, and that her underage status was subsequently used by the casino, by design or accident, to realise a profit to the tune of approximately $20,000 USD, is just the sort of damning evidence which could result in the US Congress making up their minds and finally outlawing online gambling. Their evidence to date has all been somewhat vague and error-ridden; now, the good senators have direct, damning evidence in support of their cause, because now it is apparent that online casinos are directly profitting from underage gamblers.

If the online gambling industry does now suffer the blow of seeing their US market dry up, Grand Prive / Bella Vegas can pat themselves on the back for the central role they played.

Well done, boys. Enjoy the $20,000 - it might end up the most expensive $20,000 you ever made.

Following the rogueing by Bryan Bailey, I contacted Andrew Beveridge, CEO of eCOGRA:

In the light of recent events, do you have any thoughts about revoking the eCOGRA seal on Grand Privè / Bella Vegas?

One should note that nothing has actually changed in a material sense from the beginning, and certainly not since our discussion, but Bryan Bailey's final conclusions and the rogueing of Privè do put the matter somewhat in the spotlight.

Specifically: the "about us" page states "...and that the operators will behave responsibly. Players will be assured of this when they transact with online gaming sites displaying the eCOGRA Seal of Approval."

In accepting seventeen deposits and paying three winnings without picking up on the underage problem (or ignoring it, however we choose to judge the matter), Bella Vegas has behaved with gross irresponsibility. I do not believe that Privè's maintenance of the eCOGRA seal is in the slightest way advantageous to eCOGRA, the industry or anyone involved in it - including me, LOL - in the circumstances.

I'd be interested to know your opinions on the matter.

Andrew's response:

Our position on the matter hasn't changed. The auditors recently performed an eGAP inspection on this operator and they confirmed that the responsible gaming requirements have been fully complied with. No further underage players were identified in this process. It would therefore certainly not be appropriate for us now to withdraw a seal based on a single occurrence which happened 9 months ago.

The reality of the situation too is that underage players are going to continue to find their way onto these sites until a foolproof practical system exists to identify them timeously. Roguing a casino every time this happens isn't going to solve the problem.

I disagree strongly with Andrew here. The eCOGRA "about us" page states as follows:

The primary objective of eCOGRA is to provide player protection...and that the operators will behave responsibly. Players will be assured of this when they transact with online gaming sites displaying the eCOGRA Seal of Approval.

While I understand Andrew's position, it cannot be denied that Bella Vegas have behaved with gross irresponsibility in the matter, and for them to be allowed to continue carrying the eCOGRA seal devalues the seal's worth immensely.

5 Previous Comments

I know what Beveridge will say before he says it these days.

The longer eCogra are around waffling and cherrypicking their way through, the funnier the bad joke gets.

Micro will pull the plug on this eCogra nonsense if the staff don't liven up.

You will be blamed 100% gambler. It will be all your fault for not being more objective regarding this objectionable pr stunt.

By Blogger Gamblog UK, at 3:02 am  

Bella Vegas should have offered to give the winnings to a charity of choice-it was stupid not to-and demonstrated GREED--the money was not thiers to keep as far as I am concerned!

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