Assure Fair Gaming Practices
By staff
A new independent organisation, eCOGRA, that will provide online players with high levels of assurance of fair, honest, and responsible gaming was announced today with backing from Microgaming Software Systems Ltd, the largest licensor of Internet casinos, and Virtual Holdings Ltd, owner and operator of Casino-on-Net, one of the largest internet casino companies.

eCOGRA, which stands for e-Commerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance, is a non-profit organisation based in the United Kingdom. eCOGRA has commenced with six directors, including three independent directors who will always have voting control over board decisions, to guarantee eCOGRA’s autonomy from software providers and operators.

Andrew Beveridge, chief executive of eCOGRA, said, “The organisation will provide online gaming software suppliers and their customers with the guidance and tools necessary to adhere to a higher level of integrity and responsibility.” He added, “eCOGRA is a long overdue initiative in an industry that has been trying to build credibility with consumers and regulators. Our mission is to prove that responsible companies are involved in online gaming and to make them readily recognisable to consumers and government officials.”

The initial six directors are the Chief Executive, Andrew Beveridge; three independent directors -- Paul Hainsworth, former Director of Risk Management at PriceWaterhouseCoopers for Europe, Africa and Middle East; Bill Galston OBE, former Chief Inspector of the Gaming Board for Great Britain; and Frank Catania, a former Assistant Attorney General in the State of New Jersey and Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement -- together with a representative from each of the founding members, Microgaming and Virtual Holdings.

“The eCOGRA Seal will become the benchmark gold standard,” Beveridge said, “an instant symbol to the players that they can trust the site to offer fair games and honest, timely payment transactions.”

Gaming sites that apply for the seal must use software supplied by a member of eCOGRA and must comply with the eCOGRA Statements of Generally Accepted Practices, as documented by a review of the site’s procedures by eCOGRA’s Audit Panel. The sites will also be checked for player protection policies, technical capabilities and anti-money laundering measures.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers is a member of the Audit Panel, and other respected accounting firms are expected to be added as members in the near future. It is the intention that the eCOGRA Statements of Generally Accepted Practices will ultimately form the minimum requirements for regulated online gaming.

Internet gambling is big business: Christiansen Capital Advisors estimates that the industry’s worldwide gambling revenue totaled US$4.1 billion in 2002. But this was spread among an estimated 1,800 web sites.

“These sites run the gamut from highly regulated to completely unregulated,” Beveridge said. “With eCOGRA, the software providers are getting involved in the interest of the gambling public. We will certify operators that players can trust.”

“As the online gaming industry matures, there is a need for responsible software suppliers to take the next step toward increased credibility,” Beveridge said. “eCOGRA is this step. Consumers will now have a choice. They can play at casino web sites knowing that their deposits are secure and the casino games are fair. This self-imposed regulation overcomes the difficulties of existing attempts to regulate, which are all based on terrestrial gaming models and do not provide the fundamental advantage of Total Gaming Transaction Review on a continuous basis.”

Initially, eCOGRA will focus on online casino gaming. It will evolve to include other forms of online gaming, such as sports books, poker and bingo.

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