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Online Casino Project >>> eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance - eCOGRA

eCOGRA is the non-profit eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance standard for the online gambling industry, whose primary objective is to foster player protection. eCOGRA is, without question, the most respected and longstanding, independent purveyor of online gaming fairness and international protection standards currently in operation. Organized in April of 2003 by pioneering leaders of the online casino industry, including Microgaming Software, eCOGRA invites all online casino operators to apply for their "Play it Safe Seal", which entails that operators be in compliance on several fronts, including fair games, fair treatment, timely payouts, and overall responsible behavior. Continual compliance by approved sites is insured by using the latest in technological applications (explained in detail under the "Fairness Verification" section of this review).

Read our eCOGRA updates:
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Considering their Board members' important roles in helping the United Kingdom, Kahnawake Gaming Commission and Antigua establish governmental guidelines for regulating online gambling sites, eCOGRA has a right to claim they are the standard in fair online gaming standards. "Honesty, Integrity, Transparency" is eCOGRA's slogan, which is backed with player mediation services and a Fair Gaming Advocate who will act as a representative voice for individual player's seeking dispute mediation with eCOGRA certified casinos. To get an idea of how effective eCOGRA is, from January through August of 2006, the average number of disputes received by per approved site (112 sites at the time of this review) per month was only .1. Players are advised to look for the eCOGRA "Play it Safe" Seal, which is only awarded to those online casinos who meet eCOGRA's Generally Accepted Practices.

Management

eCOGRA is managed by an elite team of non-executive and independent Directors with extensive experience in the online gambling and brick 'n mortar casino gambling industries, and has been overseen by Chief Executive Office,  Andrew Beveridge, since its inception. Beveridge is a qualified Chartered Accountant in London and Hong Kong, and holds an MBA from Edinburgh University. Beveridge's experience in the online world began when he served in a key position to help start South Africa's leading Internet Service Provider, MWeb. Beveridge then went on to spearhead global business development for International Gaming Networks (IGN) and helped oversee interactive gaming technology for internet and television applications. He later implemented risk management controls for sports betting operations at MultiChoice, which later became the first licensed online gambling organization in South Africa. Before coming to eCOGRA, Beveridge managed the world's first integrated online and telephone sports betting platform, LiveBet Online.

Non-executive Directors at eCOGRA include Anders Lantz, who is the Chief Security Officer at Ongame e-Solutions and a Certified Information Systems Auditor, which has lent Anders tremendous experience in IT security, compliance testing and auditing. Other Non-executive Directors include Chartered Accountant and CEO of Microgaming Software, Roger Raatgever, current CEO of 888.com and former CEO of the Burford Group and Board Director for Ladbrokes (26 years), John Anderson.

Independent Directors, who are solely responsible for determining which software providers and casino operators are awarded the eCOGRA "Play it Safe" Seal, include an impressive lineup of three highly respected and recognizable individuals in the gaming and legal fields. Bill Galston is a retired Chief Inspector of Great Britain's Gaming Board and the former Head of the UK Board Inspectorate for twenty-five years, during which time he oversaw gaming investigations, compliance, and regulation. Galston is a Chairman of the Gaming Compliance Committees in Britain, Vice President of GamCare (a national center devoted to studying the social impact of gambling), past Chairman for the International Association of Gaming Regulators, and was a specialist advisor to the Sport Parliamentary Select Committee and UK Department of Culture. Lastly, Galston is an appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his services and achievements in gaming regulation.

Michael Hirst and Mr. Frank Catania make up the triumvirate of independent directors - both of whom bring several years experience in the gaming field to eCOGRA. Hirst currently provides strategic development for gaming software and companies, and is a former board member of Ladbrokes and CEO of Hilton International. Catania is a consultant and attorney with emphasis in the gaming industry. He is a former Assistant Attorney General, Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, First President of the International Masters of Gaming Law, Chairman of the International Association of Gaming Regulators, and Chairman for the Forum of American Casino Regulators. One of Catania's greatest contributions to online gambling regulation was his instrumental position in drafting gambling regulations for the Antigua government and the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.

Dispute Mediation

As mentioned earlier, eCOGRA certified casinos rarely are at the heart of disputes (.1 dispute per certified site per month in 2006). However, when a dispute does arise, eCOGRA is pleased to offer personal mediation services and assistance to players who have already attempted to resolve the dispute themselves. Mediator, Tex Rees, has over fifteen years experience in the gaming industry, handling customer relations and establishing customer care protocols. Prior to working at eCOGRA, Rees was Customer Relations Manager at LiveBet Online and Call Center Staff Manager at SuperBet, where she managed customer dispute resolution. At eCOGRA, Rees personally resolves the majority of disputes within forty-eight hours. Players are advised to read over the measures posted on eCOGRA's website, which they should take before engaging mediation services. If the dispute is not resolved after doing so, then players should contact dispute resolution services at eCOGRA, according to their posted guidelines for doing so.

Generally Accepted Practices

The Generally Accepted Practices at eCOGRA (referred to as eGAP), are binding for all certified online casinos and gaming sites. It is the responsibility of eCOGRA's independent directors and audit panel (which is only comprised of global auditing firms, such as Price Waterhouse Coopers), to insure that operators are continually complying with the eGAP. Binding adherence in the areas of player protection, fair gaming and responsible conduct is mandatory. Player protection protocols include safeguarding player information, account balances, imposing minimum security requirements and information protection, and insuring all financial transactions are securitized and payments are received. Fair gaming protocols include properly maintaining software and server connectivity, submitting to gaming transaction reviews and monthly payout verification, implementing disaster recovery protocols, protecting against platform malfunctions and maintaining minimum casino game standards. Responsible Conduct practices include the prevention of money laundering and imposing of anti-money laundering guidelines, advertising and marketing in a responsible manner, and submission to probity checks.

Fairness Verification

Fairness verification is where the "proof is in the pudding", so to speak. In order to not overwhelm you with a discourse of technical jargon that sounds good and well, but makes absolutely no sense, we shall explain the format of how eCOGRA determines initial and ongoing compliance with their Generally Accepted Practices. Fairness verification is contingent upon the expertise and competence of eCOGRA's audit panel, which is made up of independent financial firms of international repute, such as Price Waterhouse Coopers. The findings of these firms are reported to eCOGRA's Board, who then verify whether the findings are in accordance with the eGAP, and if so, consequently award the "Play it Safe" Seal. One reason for conducting their verification procedure in this manner is that the use of independent auditors insures unbiased results. Furthermore, eCOGRA's Generally Accepted Practices pertain to the software providers themselves, who must also be in compliance with fair gaming protocols. In other words, if the software is not fair to begin with, the online casino will not be a fair place to wager. As such, a large degree of on-site verification is done with the software provider.

The type of testing advocated by eCOGRA is called Total Gaming Transaction Review (TGTR). It is a superior testing system insuring that all security and fairness protocols imbedded in the software itself has been properly running for a reasonable period of time. Instead of testing the source code of the software, which is how land-based gambling machines are tested, TGTR testing takes into consideration the operating system as a whole, and tests each and every transaction made with the gaming server. Source code testing works in the land-based industry, for when a machine's EPROM chip is in place, it cannot be changed. Online gaming servers, however, operate much differently. In addition to housing the Random Number Generator, which insures fair and random gaming results, the server is responsible for routing millions of messages in real time. This alone entails that the software provider have round-the-clock access to its operating system. As such, there would be nothing to prevent the operator from replacing the source code and propagating unfair gaming. TGTR testing, however, allows continual monitoring of both the input and output of the software system. In order to verify payout percentages, all transactions with the server must be properly recorded. TGTR allows for spot testing of transactions in addition to verifying all completed transactions. Combined with data summary analysis and continual, rigorous statistical testing of the software itself, the integrity of the RNG and corresponding payout percentages is confirmed.

Contact

eCOGRA can be contacted through several mediums. Their headquarters and mailing address is located at: eCOGRA Limited, 2nd Floor, Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London, W1J 6BD, United Kingdom. Telephone contact is at: +44 20 7887 1480 (1481 Fax), and all emails should be directed to:  info @ ecogra.org. Dispute resolution forms may be obtained on their website, which should be carefully read over before submitting a claim.

 

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