Monday, January 17, 2011

eCOGRA's Safe and Fair Seal Requires Exclusion Options

Internet gambling seems to combine two area of human activity that display more than their share of less-than-trustworthy behavior. Someone interested in placing a bet online could be scared off over the uncertainty surrounding the integrity of the transaction offered by an internet betting shop or casino.

The internet gambling industry recognized their credibility problem at an early stage. One response that they adopted is a form of self-regulation. This response involves a sort of Good Housekeeping seal of approval, and one non-profit, independent (of the online betting shops) organization that awards the e-gambling seals is eCOGRA. To qualify for the right to display a "Safe and Fair" seal, internet gambling providers must meet a host of requirements concerning player protection, fair gaming, and responsible conduct. The detailed guidelines can be found here (49-page pdf). More than 100 e-casinos, internet poker rooms, and e-betting shops, including many of the best-known ones, currently are authorized to display the Safe and Fair seal.

Among the requirements for a Safe and Fair seal is the provision and effective communication of self-exclusion measures. A 24-hour cooling-off option must be available to players, and a six-month or longer exclusion also must be on offer. Third parties can request that a gambler be excluded -- as in Singapore's land-based casinos -- but those requests need not be honored. The guidelines also require, if I understand things correctly, that the gambling sites allow players to establish deposit limits, and to decrease those limits. Requests to increase a deposit limit that previously had been decreased cannot be honored for at least 24 hours. So both self-exclusion and self-limiting features are built into Safe and Fair e-gambling sites. Nevertheless, it does not appear to be the case that a single exclusion request will apply to multiple websites. (A system mentioned earlier had the feature of allowing a single exclusion to be implemented at multiple sites.) An e-gambler hoping to cut off access to his or her vice of choice might have a hard time maintaining enough stamina to self-exclude from dozens of e-casinos, of course.

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