|Twenty-Three Leading Online Casinos Meet eCOGRA's High Standards, Assuring Their Customers of Important Player Protections |
LONDON - February 18, 2004 - eCOGRA today announced that its first seals for online casino operators have been awarded. eCOGRA seals are intended to provide online players with high levels of assurance of fair, honest, and responsible online gaming.
eCOGRA, which stands for e-Commerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance, is a non-profit organisation based in the United Kingdom. The organization was established early last year with backing from the online gaming industry's leading software suppliers.
Twenty-three sites are in this first group of casinos to be recognized with the eCOGRA seal. Each site is authorized to display the eCOGRA seal on its home page, an emblem that reassures players that they are dealing with a casino operating to reputable standards. A full list of approved casinos can be obtained at www.ecogra.org/casinos.
Several applicant casinos did not fully meet the criteria this time round, and these organizations are now working hard on their processes for re-assessement later in the year, together with a number of other casinos which are currently being assessed for the first time.
Jacques Louw, national lead partner for Global Risk Management Solutions in South Africa, a division of PricewaterhouseCoopers said, 'Obtaining the eCOGRA seal is a major achievement and no short-cuts are available to applicant casinos. You have to meet fully the standards set out in the eGAP procedures adopted by the eCOGRA Board'.
One of the most tangible benefits that online players receive from the eCOGRA program is access to a dedicated dispute resolution service. If a player has a dispute with a casino that displays the eCOGRA seal, the player can easily request eCOGRA's assistance by filling out a short form at www.ecogra.org/disputes. Of course, there is no charge of any sort for the player to use this service.
'eCOGRA will act quickly to resolve any disputes, because the reputations of our organization, its members and the sites that are awarded our seal are very important,' said Andrew Beveridge, chief executive of eCOGRA. 'We have recently hired a full-time person in our London headquarters to serve as Fair Gaming Advocate. She has the authority to investigate allegations of problems, and to seek resolutions that leave all parties satisfied.'
Gaming sites that apply for the seal must comply with the eCOGRA Statements of Generally Accepted Practices (eGAP), as documented by a review of the site's procedures by eCOGRA's Audit Panel comprised of leading international audit firms. eGAP is broken into three key components that provide for a strictly monitored playing environment: Player Protections, Fair Gaming and Responsible Conduct. The sites are also checked for player protection policies, technical capabilities and anti-money laundering measures. eCOGRA believes that eGAP will ultimately form the appropriate requirements for regulated online gaming.
'eCOGRA didn't rush into this,' said Beveridge. 'Our independent directors were determined that we would not award any seals until worthy sites understood and fully complied with our standards. Together with a dedicated team from PricewaterhouseCoopers, eCOGRA took the time necessary to fully check them out.'
'eCOGRA seals are a positive development 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 the responsible companies readily recognisable to consumers and government officials,' said Michael Hirst, eCOGRA's chairman. 'eCOGRA's eGAP requirements are intended to continuously raise the bar for an industry that is increasingly being accepted by policy makers and gaming regulators throughout the world.'
To guarantee eCOGRA's autonomy from software providers and operators, the seals compliance committee is comprised of three independent directors who are not representative of the member software providers or casino operators. These directors are Michael Hirst OBE, former Chairman and CEO of Hilton International; 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 former Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming.
The objective of eCOGRA (e-Commerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance) is to be an independent entity that provides important player protections to consumers, including that operators are honest, games are fair, monetary deposits are safe and winning bets are paid in a timely manner. eCOGRA's founding members, Microgaming Software Systems Ltd. and Virtual Holdings Ltd., account for more than 70% of casino-style gaming on the Internet.
eCOGRA is open for application for membership by online gaming software suppliers who share the vision of fair and responsible online gaming. The eCOGRA Board will limit membership to those suppliers that are accepted by the Board as having the highest level of integrity, are able to comply with eCOGRA's Generally Accepted Practices and whom the Audit Panel approves.
Initially, eCOGRA is focusing on online casino gaming. It will evolve to include other forms of online gaming, such as sports books, poker and bingo. For more information, visit www.ecogra.org.
CEO & Executive Director
Phone: +44 207 887 1480