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Online gambling rules, terms and conditions: 32Red shows Fortune Lounge and Spin Palace et al how it should be done

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Online gambling rules, terms and conditions: 32Red shows Fortune Lounge and Spin Palace et al how it should be done

32Red has given the lie to the apparent stance of the online gambling industry that it is largely impossible to write terms and conditions that are not vague, inadequate, waffling and player-unfriendly.

After writing my 32Red article last week, which included copies of the 32Red welcome bonus terms and bonus balance terms, it struck me how clear and concise they were, with no vague language to give the casino room for manouevre when it comes to paying the player, and no stones left unturned.

Most noticeable is section 6:

• In the interests of fair gaming, players may not place individual bets equal to or in excess of 25% or more of the value of the bonus credited to their account until such time as the playthrough requirements for that bonus have been met.

• Any winnings derived from bets placed to the value of 25% or more of the bonus before playthrough requirements for that bonus have been met will initiate a further playthrough requirement of 100 times the amount won.

• For the purposes of this rule, a bet is one roulette spin or one dealer's dealt hand in any table game, or one deal in any Video or Power Poker game (this includes Multi-Hand/Play games).

First, 32Red describes the exact betsize with relation to the bonus - 25% - which must not be exceeded without the risk of sanctions being imposed. This much is not unique, as most Microgaming casinos now carry this rule. However, it doesn't stop there.

Having specified the betsize, the terms then go on to clarify that winnings from bets exceeding this amount will not be confiscated, but will simply be subject to an additional (substantial) wagering requirement.

Having clarified all matters relevant to the basic betsize, the casino clarifies the nature of the composition of the maximum bet as one or more contemporaneous wagers, up to and including the given amount. In other words, assuming a bonus of £100, you cannot circumvent the £25 restriction by placing more than one £25 bet.

Clear as day, with no room for manoeuvre for either player or casino. Exactly as it should be.

So let's move away into murkier territory - or to put it another way, most, if not all, other Microgaming casinos.

Fortune Lounge's Vegas Palms bonus terms, clauses 27 and 33:

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:

1. 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.

2. Using the double-up feature to increase bet values.

3. Even money bets on Sic Bo, Craps, Baccarat and Roulette.

So, here again we have a description of the type of betting that will lead to sanctions. But this description is basically irrelevant, as Fortune Lounge has already stated that sanctions are not limited to the three instances they describe; there are others, which are unspecified.

The casino also tells us that, unlike 32Red, they will not apply an additional wagering tariff to any wins that result from "irregular play", but simply confiscate them - those winnings resulting from wagering that the casino is not able to fully explain. As such, a player has no way of knowing if his wagering will result in a complete confiscation of any cashout amount he is able to achieve.

The Fortune Lounge rules conclude thus:

Any person who in the sole opinion of the Casino deviates from a promotion's rules or from the Casino's General Terms and Conditions may be disqualified without notice and without liability on the part of the Casino.

There is no room for "opinion" in the 32Red rules - they are clear and comprehensive. This is how all rules should. In stating thus, Fortune Lounge is basically acknowledging that its rules are not worth the cyber paper they're printed on.

And I don't think anybody is going to argue with them about that.

Is Fortune Lounge alone in its abusive terms and conditions?

Not really. In fact, they're not even the worst.

Time to take a look at the Spin Palace welcome bonus terms. The point of interest here is the very last clause, right at the bottom of the page. Any particular reason for this clause to be as far as possible from the top of the page?

13. Before any withdrawals are processed, your play will be reviewed for any irregular playing patterns. In the interests of fair gaming, equal, zero or low margin bets or hedge betting, shall all be considered irregular gaming for bonus play-through requirement purposes.

Other examples of irregular game play include but are not limited to, placing single bets equal to or in excess of 30% or more of the value of the bonus credited to their account until such time as the wagering requirements for that bonus have been met.

Should the Casino deem that irregular game play has occurred, the Casino reserves the right to withhold any withdrawals and/or confiscate all winnings.

Again, we have a bet size limitation of 30%, which is all well and good. But again, we have "irregular" play which the casino cannot fully describe, and which may result in confiscation of all funds.

Why can this casino also not define the rules properly?

What is "equal betting"? Does it relate to "hedge betting"? Neither of these are standard casino gambling terms, and therefore they need defining. But they are not defined, it is left to the player to guess.

And what is a "low margin" bet? How low is low? What is a "margin", anyway? Very few gamblers will have heard of this term. Why doesn't the casino define it?

This casino group is well-regarded in the industry. But when you chip away at the surface you find the same vague, undefined, inadequate and player-unfriendly language passed off as "rules" that you will find in the worst casinos on the internet.

I then took a look at the Allslots bonus terms - Allslots is part of the Jackpot Factory group, another well-regarded operation. To my surprise, I couldn't find any vague or unsubstantiatable language that threatened general hell, fire and brimstone, so I looked a bit further down the general terms page.

Sure enough:

10.3 In the event that we believe a user is abusing or attempting to abuse a bonus or other promotion, or is likely to benefit through abuse or lack of good faith from a gaming policy adopted by us, then we may, at our sole discretion, deny, withhold or withdraw from any user any bonus or promotion, or rescind any policy with respect to that user, either temporarily or permanently, or terminate that user's access to the Casino and/or block that user's account.

I can barely be bothered to start taking this one apart. I think they should remove all that and substitute something like "we'll confiscate your money if we don't like you". It would hardly make a difference.

But I do like the reference to the player's potential "lack of good faith". Players gamble in order to win money from the casino in question. What kind of "good faith" is that?

And so on and so on. You can find the same rambling, undefined nonsense on just about any Microgaming site other than 32Red and Ladbrokes. And these operations are all heavily marketed by the affiliate industry: self-professed player "watchdog" Bryan Bailey lists all these casinos, and many more, on his accredited casinos list, replete with accolades of "best casino".

No, Bryan. "Worst casinos". Get it right.

One would hope that as online gambling becomes more mainstream and attracts the big corporations, all such disreputable outfits so beloved of the industry will fall by the wayside or be taken over, to be replaced by operations residing in the kind of reputable jurisdictions which have no option but to enforce only the fair, clear and concise terms that 32Red somehow manages to uniquely achieve.

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