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BetFred: rigged games for which noone takes responsibility

Saturday, March 26, 2016

BetFred: rigged games for which noone takes responsibility

December 10th, 2013

BetFred, well known UK bookmaker with an online sportsbook and casino arm, has recently been found to have implemented a game which essentially cheats, whereby the natural odds of the cards are not the odds delivered by the game. The matter was originally brought up, and discussed at length, in the BetFred Rigged thread at Casinomeister.

The player in question subjected his results on the games "Reel Deal" and "Hi Lo Gambler", both of which had a theoretical return of fully 100%, to statistical analysis, and the results threw up sufficient concerns as to merit investigation from a qualified expert. Eliot Jacobson, of Jacobson Gaming, who audits casinos and designs and tests games, was engaged for the task.

The player stated that while betting almost exclusively on "red", a total of 9282 reds were recorded, with "black" hitting 10,074 times. My somewhat inexpert analysis of incomplete data gives a negative standard deviation swing of fully 5.7, which is near enough to impossible in practical terms. Eliot Jacobson came up with a probability of one in 1,048,712,149,670,420,000,000,000, or more than one in an octillion, which he equated to the probability of drawing three consecutive royal flushes, on the initial deal of the hands, in draw poker. In other words: the game was not performing in accordance with the natural odds, or it was cheating in any reasonable definition of the word. He had this to say:

I assisted the OP in determining that the games "Hi-Lo Gambler" and "Reel Deal" made by Realistic Games (based out of the U.K.) are gaffed. These programs were available at Betfred, Nordicbet, Stanjames, Betpack, Sportingbet, and Bet365. Betfred admitted that the game Reel Deal was gaffed and blamed the problem on a faulty help file.


The games in question were originally developed by one Realistic Games, a UK based company. However, they were licensed out to Betfred by another UK firm, Finsoft, or Spielo G2. Spielo G2 is a subsidary of Lottomatica, formely known as the well-known online casino brand, Boss Media. and it was this company that apparently changed the game so as to offer both the version whose actual odds reflected the natural odds of the game, and also the version we can reasonably describe as cheating, or rigged. To quote BetFred:

On developing the game, SPEILO G2 developed two version: fixed odds and fixed price. The latter was in operation at Betfred. Fixed price meant that randomness could be introduced via a certified (GLI and TST approved) RNG and an RTP was introduced. In this case, at 96% RTP.

"Fixed price" in this case is the rigged game in question: there being only two betting options, red or black, there has to be a mechanism by which the software detects the player's bet, and delivers an automatic loss, for a portion of the time.

One possible way to do this, to deliver the 96% player return game in question, would be along these lines: an internal reel map contains numbers 1 to 100, where 1 to 48 are mapped to red, 49 to 96 to black, and numbers 97, 98, 99 and 100 are the mystery "X" function, which simply causes the player's bet to lose by way of selecting the colour he didn't bet on, by means of some currently unknown mechanism. This is known as an "adaptive" function, as the software adapts to the player's bet. In the fair version of the game, which BetFred calls "fixed odds", you could simply have numbers 1 and 2 on the reel map, which would deliver an equal amount of both colours and a fair, 100% return.

As a side note: it bears keeping in mind that many games perform in a way akin to this in practice, and there is a certain inconsistency in castigating one game supplier while giving a free pass to large swathes of the industry: all video poker games in arcades and casinos in the UK deliver a player return which is lower than would be the case if the deal was in accordance with the natural odds of the games, as do slot machines online and off, and a handful of non-slot games at other online casinos. It seems to me that if we're to criticise one, we should be calling for all games to function in what amounts to a truly random fashion. However, for the sake of brevity I'll park that particular quibble and proceed on the basis that this game is performing unfairly, notwithstanding this possible double standard.

BetFred's Response, and the plausibility thereof

Betfred had this to say in response to why this game was listed on the site as having a full, natural odds one hundred percent return:

Analysis has revealed that Reel Deal was indeed returning at 96%, despite being advertised at 100%. Finsoft's review revealed that this was the result of an administrative error on the game’s deployment to Betfred, where the wrong help file was attached to the game.

So: the helpfile, or the game instructions and description available to the player on the site, probably located a click away from the game, was incorrect, displaying the return of the "natural" game and not the version that had been changed by Finsoft.

The plausibility of this bears considering. On the face of it, it seems reasonable to accept that BetFred wouldn't put a game up with false information attached; if things had been done correctly, they would have insured that the instructions saying that the player return was 96%, not 100%, were listed, and their not doing so was a mistake.


• A hundred percent return game is big in gambling terms, and any semi-competent casino knows this. If the help file had listed an incorrect but sub-hundred figure (say, 98%), this could easily enough have been glossed over, and claims to that effect would be plausible. But to have a game, which requires no skill, with a help file stating that there is no house commission built in, went entirely undetected by the casino is possibly stretching plausible ignorance to the limits.

• It is remarkable that no audit of this game flagged up the discrepancy. Again, the difference between a standard, low 96% return and a high one of 100% is substantial. Either there was never any auditing, or if there was it was surprisingly sloppy.

• It unfortunately makes business sense - or rather, dishonest business sense - to advertise a 96% game at 100%, for reasons too obvious to need explaining. It isn't beyond conjecture that whoever is responsible for this within the BetFred company simply saw an opportunity and took it.

It does seem likely that BetFred didn't notice the discrepancy, but there remains substantial doubt nonetheless.

>>UPDATE April 24th 2013:<< It is now no longer reasonable to accept that BetFred were unaware of this issue before this year. I can prove that it was brought to their attention fully four years previously - see my more recent BetFred rigged games article.

The abdication of the Gibraltar and UK regulators

It's worth looking at this point at what BetFred's regulator, the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority, has to say on the matter.

Remote Technical and Operating Standards

7.1 Game fairness

(5) A licence holder should not implement game designs or features that may reasonably be expected to mislead the customer about the likelihood of particular results occurring. This includes, but is not limited to the following:

(a) Where a game simulates a physical device the theoretical probabilities and visual representation of the device should correspond to the features and actions of the physical device (e.g. roulette wheel). 7.3. Compensated or adaptive games

(1) Games should not be "adaptive" or "compensated", that is, the probability of any particular outcome occurring should be the same every time the game is played, except as provided for in the (fair) rules of the game.

BetFred was plainly in violation of its licensing regulations on all these counts. The GRA does not, it appears, take any active part in ensuring its licensees' games perform correctly, leaving it to the the licensees themselves to self-regulate in this regard. If they do not so do, nothing will be done as long as the discrepancies are never flagged up.

This covers both BetFred and its regulator, the GRA. There is, however, a third party with ostensible involvement: Finsoft, who delivered the games in question, is regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. The UKGC Codes of practice applicable to software licences is very weak, but FinSoft is still in breach of them:

Display of licensed status

Licensees offering the supply of gaming machines or gambling software on websites must:

a) display the following information on the first page of the website which offers gaming machines or gambling software in reliance on the licence:

(i) a statement that they are licensed and regulated by the Gambling Commission;
(ii) their licence number; and
(iii) a link to the Commission’s website;

b) display at least the information at (i) above on each page of the website which offers gaming machines or gambling software in reliance on the licence.

If you look at FinSoft's games page, everything apart from a statement at the bottom saying "licensed by the UKGC" is missing. So even if the Gambling Commission doesn't require its cients to deliver a certain standard of game, which in itself is quite a breathtaking omission, FinSoft is in contravention of these codes of practice.

When game tester Eliot Jacobson contacted them, they replied thus, in part:

You should bear in mind that it is the license holder that makes a game available for use by putting it on their website that is required to ensure a game is appropriately tested and not the software developer.

Let's examine for a moment the quite extraordinary absurdity of this statement:

It is only the location of the entity delivering the game - the casino, not the software maker - that is responsible for the game's integrity. If a UK software company, carrying a UKGC permit, supplies games to casinos all located outside the UK, the UKGC is not responsible. They would only start to take an interest if a casino delivering the game was located in the UK.

But here's the absurdity: if the casino was located in the UK, then the UKGC would be responsible for all aspects of its functioning anyway, including the integrity of the games, as it would need a UKGC license. As such, the fact that the software company has a "license" from the UKGC is meaningless. It serves no purpose, as until the casino is located in the UK, the Commission takes no interest in the games, and when the casino is in the UK, it requires a license by default.

The software developer "license" is demonstrably nothing more than a rubber stamp, for which the Commission takes a fee from the developer.

In summary

So, where are we at this point, in the overall picture?

A casino delivers a rigged game. This is in contravention of its regulator's code of practice, but the regulator itself, the GRA, does not enforce this code - it requires the casino basically to self-regulate, applying the standard to itself. As long as the game goes undetected, and the casino takes, or states an intention to take, appropriate remedial action when the fix is discovered, casino and regulator are happy. If the rig is never detected, no action is ever taken. The casino blames the game developer for supplying an inaccurate description. This developer is also regulated, carrying a permit from its country's industry overseer, but this body does not actually test the games for which they issue the permit. In fact, nobody tests anything.

So in essence, everyone is regulated, and nobody takes responsibility for anything: casino, casino regulator and games regulator all abdicate responsibility.

Of course, there are the online forums, the "watchdogs" who claim to represent player interests. Bryan Bailey, on whose forum the issue was raised, removed BetFred and the other casinos carrying the games in question from his recommended list on January 7th.

And he put them back seven days later, on the 14th.

BetFred has not, to date, repaid the player his losses on this rigged game.

As I've signed off many an article: welcome to the online gambling industry.

Related articles and pages

Online casinos.com: Online Casino Games Failed To Be Tested

Beating Bonuses: Betfred rigged allegations

GPWA: Cheating at BetFred

Wizard Of Odds: Blacklist

Wizard Of Vegas: Gaffed software at major internet casinos

4 Flush: Company recommended for Nevada online poker license caught rigging casino games

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