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Jan 19

FinSoft/Spielo G2/Dynamite Ideas – How the Regulators Reacted

Posted by THEPOGG in Blog.

After the recent events that were uncovered at the CasinoMeister forum related to FinSoft/Spielo G2 software offering games that were unquestionably rigged, we felt that it’d be a good idea to have a separate article looking at and discussing the responses of the regulatory bodies involved.

Summery of the issues

FinSoft – one of the arms of Spielo G2 – were caught both weighting a card game so as to return results that would not occur if a real deck of cards were used and altering the free play versions of several of their games to return funds to players at a higher level than their real play equivalents.

This particular software group are widely used be a huge range of casinos and are licensed by the UK’s Gambling Commission (UKGC).

The casino that the issue was first identified at was Betfred. Betfred are regulated by the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority (GRA).

To find out full details of exactly what was wrong with these games and review the responses from the various casinos affected read out FinSoft/Spielo G2/Dynamite Idea Rigged Game report.

United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC)

Early January 2013, Eliot Jacobson – a renowned gambling author and owner of Jacobson Gaming, a company that specialises in conducting independent testing and auditing of online casino properties – became involved and after confirming the issue went on to contact the UKGC. It should be noted at this stage that the initial enquiry was made regarding Realistic Games, the producer of the Hi/Lo games in question and another UKGC licensed company, however as the investigation progress it turned out that Realistic has agreed to provide the games to FinSoft/Spielo G2 and they then changed the way the games operated to produce the unnatural results. FinSoft/Spielo G2 are also licensed by the UKGC.

Below is the response Mr Jacobson and ThePOGG.com received from the UKGC;

Dear Sirs

Thank you for the courtesy of requesting permission to publish the Gambling Commission’s (the Commission) response. The Commission is happy for you to do so. However, I thought it may also be useful to provide further information on the British regulatory system as there appear to be some misunderstandings so I’ll provide a basic overview of the British system which you may or may not already be aware of.

Firstly, and importantly for gambling software technical standards and testing requirements, we should differentiate between those operators that provide facilities for gambling directly to consumers (i.e. operate a website which takes deposits, verifies the age and identity of customers, accepts bets, pays out winnings, handles complaints etc) and those that provide services such as games to these customer facing operators.

Under the Gambling Act 2005 (the Act) online gambling is currently regulated on a point of supply basis. This means that a gambling company only requires an operating licence if they have certain key equipment located in Great Britain (for example the RNG, servers that store gambling transaction records, settle bets). See section 36(4) of the Act and the Commission’s advice note on remote gambling equipment.

In the case of gambling software developers, as stated in our email of 4 January, a licence is required if any of the licensable activities (manufacture, supply, install, adapt) take place in Britain. It would be an offence to carry out any of those activities without a licence. In the first instance a licence is required to be held in order to avoid an offence being committed.

As you may be aware, much of the online gambling by British citizens is carried out with operators licensed overseas. In fact, the Commission estimates that over 80% of British online gambling activity takes place outside Britain and is therefore not subject to the Act or the licence conditions and codes of practice attached to a Commission operating licence. This can result in confusion amongst consumers as websites can be operated in different jurisdictions and be subject to different requirements such as technical standards, complaints procedures and other matters.

On 3 December 2012 the government published draft legislation which is intended to amend the Act. The proposed new law would mean that remote gambling by consumers living in Britain is regulated on a point of consumption basis. Consequently, all operators selling into the British market, whether based here or abroad, would be required to hold a Commission licence to enable them to transact with British consumers and to advertise in Great Britain. Further information is available at http://www.culture.gov.uk/news/media_releases/9559.aspx. One of the effects of the new law would be that because all online casinos transacting with British consumers would require a Commission licence, all games played by British consumers would, for the first time, have to comply with the Commission’s technical standards. As at present testing could be carried out by either the operator contracting with the customer or the gambling software licence holder. However, ultimate responsibility for ensuring a game was satisfactorily tested would still rest with the customer contracting operator i.e. the online casino operator.

In the scenario that you have raised the Commission has no legal or regulatory powers over the gambling provided from Gibraltar under a Gibraltese licence. If a game, manufactured by a Commission licensee, is made available for gambling on under a Gibraltar licence it must meet the requirements of that Gibraltar licence in terms of game fairness for consumers. Different jurisdictions have different regulatory requirements, and we believe it is unnecessary to require a game to be tested to the Commission’s technical standards if it is only ever offered under a non-Commission licence. Instead, the game should meet the technical standards in the jurisdiction where it is licensed.

To further explain this, one could consider an example of where a software developer based abroad supplied a game to an online casino licensed and regulated by the Commission. In that case, the software developer would require a gambling software licence from the Commission in order to legally supply a game into Britain (even if the development i.e. manufacture of the software took place abroad). That game would need to comply with the Commission’s technical standards in order to be offered to consumers by a Commission licensed online casino. The game may have already been tested for compliance against technical standards of the jurisdiction it was manufactured in but ultimately that is irrelevant – it is the Commission’s technical standards that it must comply with in order for it to be made available by a Commission licence holder. If the game does not meet the Commission’s technical standards, it cannot be offered by a Commission licensed online casino.

In his email, ThePOGG states “If this is the case, to all intents and purposed, for online players a UKGC seal would be of no inherent value what-so-ever as it offers the customer no regulator protection.” This is incorrect. A Gambling Commission licence offers regulatory protection to consumers gambling with Commission licensed operators. British consumers choosing to gamble in other jurisdictions are afforded the regulatory protections of those jurisdictions. The Commission published an information note giving advice for consumers on some of the issues to look out for when gambling online, one of which is identifying the regulator for a website as just because a website is accessed from Britain does not mean it is regulated here.

I hope this clarifies the position and you now understand why the Commission cannot assist further in this matter.

Yours Sincerely

UKGC

After this response ThePOGG.com got back in contact with the UKGC regarding the fact that while FinSoft many not be in violation of the UKGC technical standards, they had violated the UKGC Software Development License by failing to provide adequate details of their licence or detail of which of their products were covered by the UKGC license. Below we’ve included both our email to the UKGC and their response;

Hi UKGC,

It has been brought to my attention that despite UKGC license’s technical standards not being applicable to the FinSoft issue as they are providing their games to non-UK licensed firms, they are in fact in breach of the UKGC Software Development License.

To quote the license found at http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/pdf/Licence%20conditions%20and%20codes%20of%20practice%20-%20remote%20software%20-%20October%202010.pdf;

“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.

c) where they offer on pages of, or by means of a link from, their website, the
supply of gaming machines or gambling software which are not provided in
reliance on their licence, clearly distinguish those products which are regulated by
the Commission from those which are not.”

The FinSoft website can be found at http://www.finsoft.com/solutions/betting_games.htm.

On their website, while they do state that they are licensed and regulated by the UK Gambling Commission, they fail to provide their license number or a link to the Commission website and alongside this where they offer the supply of gambling software on their site they fail to clearly distinguish – or in fact distinguish at all – those products which are regulated by the Commission from those which are not.

As such I encourage the UKGC to now review and consider the response to this breach of license. As the situation currently stands, FinSoft’s failure to comply with the terms of their license has seen the misrepresentation of games that do not meet the Commissions technical standards as regulated by the Commission when they have been selling their products to other companies licensed in other jurisdictions. The fashion in which these products have been sold mislead the buyers regarding the integrity of their products which has now lead many of their customer to be in violation of their own licenses (Gibraltar and Alderney).

I hope you are well and await your response.

ThePOGG

and their response

Dear ThePOGG

Thank you for your email, we very much value the time you have taken to bring this matter to our attention. Apart from informing the process that could lead to formal regulatory action, the information that you have provided can give us extremely useful intelligence to help identify any areas of concern.

As I am sure you will understand it won’t normally be possible to provide you with specific feedback on any action taken. This could for example include advice to an operator on how to conduct their business, informal warnings or formal penalties including, in the most serious cases, fines or loss of licence. Any formal regulatory penalty imposed will be shown on our website.

Yours Sincerely

UKGC

So what protection do the UKGC offer the player?

By the looks of the current UK legislation the UKGC genuinely do not appear to have any legal regulatory authority over games sold to operators licensed outside of the UK. The basics of what the UKGC stated in their response is that while a software development company has to hold a UKGC license to complete any part of the game development process within the UK, if they are only providing the game to casinos licensed outside of the UK the company is not obliged to comply with the technical standards of the UKGC license. They would only have to do that if they were providing a game to a casino (or similar operation) that was licensed in the UK.

The UKGC estimates in their response that “over 80% of British online gambling activity takes place outside Britain”. What “outside Britain” means is with operators that are not regulated and licensed by the UKGC. That figure seems very very conservative. We cannot provide even one example of an online casino that is licensed by the UKGC. This being the case it seems more likely that if you’re gambling with an online casino it’s almost 100% likely that they’re not regulated by the UKGC and even if the software providers that the online casino use display the UKGC seal, it’s highly likely that their games have not had to meet the UKGC technical standards.

This means that to all intents and purposes there is nothing that they UKGC can/will do to help you if you encounter any problems with a casino (which makes sense as the casino won’t hold a UKGC license) or the software providers (which is counter intuitive as it’s quite possible that they will hold a UKGC license).

However, in this case FinSoft have been so lax in adhering to the specifications of even their UKGC Software Development License and as such have mislead other companies into buying software that they likely believed to be licensed by the UKGC and which was in direct violation of their own licenses. This is a very serious infraction and it looks like the UKGC will treat it as such. ThePOGG.com will continue to converse with the UKGC and report back where and when we have further information.

Gibraltar Regulatory Authority (GRA)

The next port of call is to look to the casinos licensing itself. In this specific case, thought they are far from the only vendor affected, Betfred were the ones the spotlight ended on when the music stopped. Betfred are regulated by the GRA so the first step to take was to look at the details of their license.

Regarding the issue with a card game returning results that do not replicate the results that a deck of cards would produce the following sections of the contract seem most relevant;

7.1 Game fairness

(3) Games should be implemented and operate fairly and strictly in accordance with the
published rules and prevailing RTP where applicable.

(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).

(b) Where multiple physical devices are simulated the probabilities of each outcome
should be independent of the other simulated devices (e.g. dice games).

(c) Where the game simulates physical devices that have no memory of previous
events, the behaviour of the simulations should reflect the behaviour of the
physical devices (e.g. roulette wheel, cards, dice games).

and

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.”

Section 7.1.5.a clearly states that if a game a simulates a device that has a real world counterpart than the simulated version would be expected to adhere to the theoretical probabilities that its physical counterpart would create. In this instance, the game used a deck of cards with the four 10 value cards removed, but did not simulate the theoretical probabilities of a similar deck of cards. Clearly these Hi/Lo games breached this rule.

Section 7.3.1 states that “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”, the affected Hi/Lo games however changed the odds of success depending on what the player bet on. So If the player bet on Red, Black would become more likely to come out. If the player bet on Black, Red then became more likely to come out. Once again, clearly the affected games breached this rule.

Regarding the issues with the free play games paying out more than their real play equivalents;

7.2. ‘Play for Free’ Games

(1) Play for free games for no prize are not gambling but should accurately reflect any
„real-money‟ version of the game,

(2) In particular, such games should not be designed to mislead the player about the
chances for success by, for example, using mappings that produce different
outcomes than the cash game. Licence holders should be able to demonstrate this
equivalence to the Gambling Commissioner upon request.

Once again, as these games were manipulated to ensure the player had a higher chance of winning than they would playing for real, the above rules were clearly violated.

Given the above, we decided to contact the GRA directly and wrote the following letter;

Dear Sir/Madame,

I represent ThePOGG.com website, a player focused industry watchdog site and I’m contacting you today regarding an incident at Betfred Casino that has been extensively discussed at the CasinoMeister forum (see http://www.casinomeister.com/forums/casino-complaints-non-bonus-issues/54475-finsoft-spielo-g2-games-rigged-rogue-software.html).

The main issue in this case relates to the use – by casinos you license – of games provided by the FinSoft (Spielo G2) group. Two major issues have been shown to have occurred;

1) Two separate real play games using cards have been shown to not offer natural odds and in fact the bet you place influences the likely outcome of the round – i.e. if I place a bet on Red, Red is then less likely to come out.

2) Free play games offered by this group have been shown to be returning funds to players at a higher rate than their real play equivalents.

As FinSoft have taken games from other providers and altered them – this has been confirmed by looking at other casinos that provide the same games but do not work through FinSoft – there is no question of these issue being unintentional. The games were specifically altered to create these results.

Having looked at the terms and conditions of your license there are two major issues as I see it;

Firstly in the first issue with the real play games 7.1.5.a

“(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).

In issue 1, the odds of drawing a specific card have been weighted so that the visual representation does not correspond to the features of the physical device.

Second with regard to the free play games returning a higher level of funds to the player than their real play equivalents 7.2.1 and 7.2.2

“7.2. ‘Play for Free’ Games

(1) Play for free games for no prize are not gambling but should accurately reflect any „real-money‟ version of the game, and should not be used to encourage those under 18 to use licensed gambling facilities.

(2) In particular, such games should not be designed to mislead the player about the chances for success by, for example, using mappings that produce different outcomes than the cash game. Licence holders should be able to demonstrate this equivalence to the Gambling Commissioner upon request.

Given these clear violations of your licensing terms, I’d ask firstly for comment from you, to be included in a write up of this issue, and secondly that you remove FinSoft/Spielo G2 from any list of approved providers and insist that your licensees remove any games offered by this company that has already been shown to be offering games that do not fit your licensing requirements.

A quick response would be greatly appreciated with regard to this issue as it has now become a large concern to a large number of customers.

Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

ThePOGG

The response to this communication was;

Dear ThePOGG

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. I can confirm that we have already started making enquiries into this.

Notwithstanding, I should say that we process these types of issues through our Complaint Resolution Procedure, and I advise you refer this matter to us through this medium.

I should clarify that before we can consider any complaint it is necessary for you to read the Gambling Commissioner’s advice to complainants; http://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/remotegambling/2126-the-gambling-commissioners-advice-to-complainants. If having read the advice you are sure:

1. You can show you have grounds to complain (eg. there has been a breach of regulations or terms and conditions);

2. Your complaint concerns gambling undertaken through a Gibraltar remote gambling licence holder;

3. You have used and exhausted the operator’s own complaints procedure;

4. Your complaint is not answered by the Gambling Commissioner’s Advice;

then you should submit your complaint using the Complaint Resolution Request Form (attached) procedure and answering all the questions carefully. We will then consider your complaint and contact you as quickly as possible to advise you of how we propose to deal with your complaint.

I must stress that for the Gambling Commissioner’s involvement in a customer/operator dispute you must have grounds for a dispute and have made reasonable efforts to resolve the dispute with the operator. If a Complaint Resolution Request Form is submitted you must provide copies of all correspondence (eg. emails, screenshots) with the operator evidencing the issue and the efforts made to resolve the matter.

Yours sincerely
GRA

To clarify the issue our response was;

Hi GRA,

I will not be submitting a complaint as i’m not a customer and i haven’t been directly affected by these issues. As i stated in my initial email however, i am the owner of ThePOGG.com – a gambling review website and as such the actions that the GRA choose to take regarding the aforementioned issues will directly affect how they are reflected on ThePOGG.com and influence the positioning of all casinos regulated by the GRA.

Even without any player complaints submitted, the CasinoMeister thread makes it clear that any casino using FinSoft/Spielo G2 as a game provider is potentially in violation of their license with the GRA and that at least one venue – Betfred – certainly is.

Unlike many affiliate sites on the market today, ThePOGG.com is founded on the basic principals of recommending the very best casinos on the market and providing a watchdog service to ensure that the casinos we promote adhere to both their ethical and legal obligations. As such we have an intricate rating system that takes into account many factors including what we perceive to be the strength – or in some instances lack there of – of the licensing body in charge of each venue.

As such the resolution of this issue and the actions taken by yourselves will have a substantial impact on our response to this situation and the positioning of every GRA regulated venue on the site.

So far FinSoft/Spielo G2 have been unwilling to discuss this issue with any of the parties involved in investigating it and unless they have some substantial new evidence to submit the strong likelihood is that we will resolve this issue by placing them on our blacklist of rogue operators. FinSoft/Spielo G2 are a big group and this is likely to have far reaching consequences. A regulatory body that shows itself to be actively involved in resolving these issues would obviously be reflected far more positively than a non-responsive body or one who avoids an issue as serious as this. Currently the GRA is one the highest rated regulatory authorities on the site scoring 10/10 and i sincerely hope to keep it that way.

As things currently stand, if you can give me a rough idea of the time frame necessary for you to conclude your investigation i can help manage player expectations and make an informed decision regarding when to publish my own response to this issue. That would be a huge help.

If there’s any other assistance i can offer you, please don’t hesitate to ask

ThePOGG

Finally the latest communication we’ve receive from the GRA;

Dear ThePOGG

We are liaising with the various commercial parties involved and understand they are close to making a statement on the matter. We are looking at the cause and effect of the error(s) and what action we need to take, but this has to be done methodically and would not normally be a matter for publication, but will make a decision on that when more is known.

Yours sincerely

GRA

So what protection do the GRA offer the player?

At this stage it’s difficult to say exactly what the GRA’s reaction to this situation is likely to be. Obviously these are very serious breaches of license that have involved very substantial sums of money over the course of several years. As such it has to be treated accordingly and penalties should be enforced. At this stage I do find it very concerning that the GRA chose to refer to these issues as “errors” – these issues could not have arisen accidentally and can no more be considered “errors” than a competitive sports person choosing to take performance enhancing drug, yes they may feel it was a stupid decision afterwards but they still chose to do it. That said I would stress that you should not prejudge the GRA’s verdict and we will keep you informed of what action they do – or do not – take in the next few weeks.

After a near 5 month wait, the GRA issued a response to this situation which can be found at http://thepogg.com/open-letter-to-the-gra/.

Time Line for important CasinoMeister posts

Update – June 2015

We have recently been challenged by a GTECH associated venue, with a weak understanding of the course of events that lead to our Blacklisting of GTECH, to justify the opinions and evidence that our position was based on. As such I spent some time going through the 2 significant CasinoMeister threads and extracting the important posts. The list of threads below is in rough chronological order and provides notes on the specific information that can be drawn from each post.

It should be noted that there the 2 main threads represent around 90 pages with approximately 1800 posts. There are a massive number of high quality posts and a large number of credible posters making valuable contributions to the discussion. Anyone really looking to challenge the conclusions drawn from this issue should ensure that they are familiar with the entire conversation. While this list focuses on high profile groups/people participating in the conversation, there are a large number of other posters expressing dissatisfaction with the way this issue was managed that are significant in their own right.

Dr Jacobson’s Analysis of the game results

Analysis of Free Play games

Connection to GTECH

Finsoft games shown to be functioning differently

Betfred acknowledge the games did not function correctly and state they’ll repay the player

Betfred state that Finsoft are responsible for the game issues

Attention drawn to cards not functioning as the physical device they represent

CasinoMeister acknowledges games did not function correctly

Free Play games demonstrated not to function in the same parameters as their Real Play equivalents

Player suggest to be engaged in multi-accounting

Player confirmed to be a multi-accounter

Player’s Statement

CasinoMeister acknowledges the players transgressions but emphasizes the importance of the game investigation

GGC acknowledge the games did not function correctly but dismisses issues

Dr Jacobson comments on GGC ignoring cards not behaving as cards

UKGC contrasting perspective on similar issue

GGC’s second statement

Dr Jacobson points out the mathematical issue with the GGC second statement

GGC impartiality called into question by Infopowa writer, thanked by CasinoMeister

GGC rating reduced by CasinoMeister

CasinoMeister comments on the GGC’s second statement

GGC’s final statement attacking CasinoMeister and UKGC

CasinoMeister reiterates disappointment with GGC response

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