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eCOGRA is now independent? So they weren't before, after all?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

eCOGRA is now independent? So they weren't before, after all?

eCOGRA, the online gambling promotional organisation founded by Microgaming and 888.com, is apparently now independent, having been bought out by the management team:

March 28th 2011

The London-based player protection and standards body eCOGRA has undergone a change in ownership following a successful management buy-out (MBO) initiative led by chief executive Andrew Beveridge.

The organisation announced this week that the original Founding Members of eCOGRA, three major and competing online gambling groups, had agreed to the change.

In future the new ownership structure of eCOGRA would not include software or other service providers or operators enabling it to be truly independent in the discharge of its audit, advisory, compliance and seal awarding activities.


I will admit to being a tad confused. Since its inception eCOGRA has always claimed to be "independent", on the basis of being overseen by three gambling industry representatives, Michael Hirst, Bill Galston and Frank Catania, who were not on the company payroll and therefore with no apparent vested interest in seeing bucketloads of whitewash poured over the industry.

Although I would tend to disagree with this contention of implicit impartiality, and have a certain amount of evidence to back up the opinion, it wasn't an entirely irrational claim to make.

Yet now eCOGRA claims to be "truly independent". Therefore, they cannot have been previously, or why say so now? They cannot have it both ways; either they were not independent then but now are, or they were independent before, in which case this press release is a non-event.

You can't be "a bit independent", no more than you can be "a bit perfect". It's all or nothing.

Were the previous claims to independence simple marketing hype?

A comparable degree rancid cynicism runs through the opening section of a recent APCW video, which you can either listen to or read below:

APCW Perspectives Weekly for April 1st, 2011

It's no secret: I am not personally the biggest fan of eCOGRA; but that's OK - truth be known, the folks over there don't like me that much either. And who can blame them really, after all the half-truths and inaccuracies I've reported about them?

Remember when I said that eCOGRA should have stepped up and taken the lead on the Grand Privè investigation? They were angry with me for that one.

Then, when they did finally audit Grand Privè, I had the nerve to come on this programme and question the results of that audit.

On top of that, I had the audacity to question the possible conflicts of interest that could arise when an organisation that's supposed to regulate our industry, like eCOGRA, is founded and funded by the software companies running the casinos.

And who can forget my ridiculous questions about the audits of the assurance company which is owned by the people with the profit interest in the casinos being audited? I was way out of line on that one - it's no wonder they were so pissed off at me.

So imgine my surprise this week when eCOGRA put out a press release about a "change in their ownership"; that the software companies who founded them have agreed with this change, and that by making this change, eCOGRA would now be "truly independent" - their words, not mine.

So, let's review what has led us to this point, and why certain people are still mad at me:

1) In 2008, I said eCOGRA should audit the Grand Privè affiliates...which they eventually got around to in 2010, so I guess I was right about that.

2) When that audit was released, I questioned the results; just a couple of months ago, Grand Privè announced a relaunch of their affiliate programme and said they do, in fact, still owe money to webmasters...so I guess I was right about that.

3) I questioned eCOGRA ownership ties to major software providers, and the possible conflicts of interest, and

4) I said that such a relationship called their "independence" into question, both of which they just admitted to, in their own words, in their own press release this week.

So, if I was right about everything I said, the real question is: what are they so pissed off at me about?

I would also be curious for an answer to that question.

I suggest the following by way of explanation: eCOGRA is sensitive to criticism, aware as they are that the organisation is backed by the online gambling industry and exists for no reason other than the promotion of the same. "Independent" they have never been (it's nice of them to essentially confirm as much in this press release), so it's understandable, if hardly excusable, that they are touchy on the subject of their independence, as well as other matters where their inefficiency can be traced back to their industry ties.

I find these comments bizarre:

The MBO has scored an important coup in bringing eCOGRA's former Independent Directors onto the new Board.

"Our chairman will be Michael Hirst OBE, supported by a directorate that includes Bill Henbrey, Bill Galston OBE, Frank Catania and myself," said Beveridge, adding that biographies were available on the eCOGRA website at www.ecogra.org

"We are very fortunate that these highly experienced and respected figures in the industry will continue to make their considerable knowledge and business expertise available to us," he said.

Why does keeping the exact same people on board represent "an important coup"? It seems to be another non-event - the three individuals are still, presumably, being paid as before, so why would they even consider leaving?

Why is it so remarkable, and why is eCOGRA so overjoyed that Hirst, Catania and Galston are staying on the payroll? This seems ridiculously overblown.

It's like being overjoyed that today is Monday, when yesterday was Sunday.

Of course, this is not "an important coup", and the reason I point it out is simply to highlight, not for the first time, the marketing hype and hyperbole that is the stuff of eCOGRA. And it shouldn't be considered remotely unusual that this is the case - the gambling industry is itself the personification of marketing hype, and eCOGRA and the gambling industry are one. I'm glad that, late in the day, they've acknowledged this, albeit retrospectively.

One lingering question remains: who now pays eCOGRA's salaries, now that they are truly independent and no longer compromised with financial ties to the online gambling industry? Is the change in ownership a largely semantic matter, with the funding still coming from the software providers and no essential difference?

Or will they be securing a grant from the National Lottery?

4 Previous Comments

I absolutely agree with you Buddy.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:04 am  

Random,they say:
How possibly is Random? Swim,playing at the Roulette,covering 30 Numbers,and the Random Number Generator Chooses the Uncovered ones over and over?.
The same for the slots.playing for ages and the FREE Feature playing at Avalon never turn up.More than 500 Spins.Seriously?.
And they have the cheek to say.It is Random.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:18 pm  

All these *******,who are stealing from us Rigging The Online Casino Games,will be behind Bars very soon.
You will see.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:20 pm  

Much as I don't want to discourage any comment on this topic, it makes my life easier if you can keep your posts free of bad language. I just have to remove the posts, then edit and repost them, as I've done above.

By Blogger 100% Gambler, at 1:22 pm  

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