The OPA is Back
By Earl
Online gamblers are currently signing up bigtime for free membership of the re-formed Online Players' Association where key goals include finding quality, safe and fast paying casinos for members, a free dispute mediation service and an early warning system on 'rip-off' operations.

Spearheaded by CasinoGazette's Mike Craig, intense behind-the-scenes consultations with players and casinos alike have been ongoing since early 2002 as it became clear that the online gambling public do not want to see the Online Players' Association fade away. The voluntary organization became briefly dormant late last year following the resignation of committee members due to overwork and low resources.

'Bryan Bailey from the Casinomeister portal, online gambling consultant Brian Cullingworth and myself were asked by players to kickstart the OPA,' says Craig. 'There is a clear need for an independent oufit that pursues claims for aggrieved members, points them in the right direction for quality, fast-paying online gambling venues and steers them clear of sub-standard fly-by-nights. We've evolved a superior business model and a new structure which is better equipped to serve both player and casino members alike'.

Whilst the OPA website is being revamped, Craig has made his site available and this now carries full information on the 'new' Online Players' Association.

All existing members of the OPA have been contacted for re-registration within a new system which will structure membership into three tiers depending on length of membership in the organisation. A new and more convenient online sign-up system has been introduced and registrations powered easily past the one thousand mark on the first day of operations this week.

Surprisingly, membership is free. The new business model will finance operations through advertising opportunities offered to top quality, reliable and fast-paying casinos, many of whom have indicated a strong interest due to tightening business conditions and a genuine desire to work with the consumer. The same Codes of Ethics and Conduct for both player and casino members will apply in the new OPA.

Stanley Acropolis is the first online casino to join up, and several other major online casino groups are currently going through the approval process and will be announced in the near future.

Among the member benefits are:

* LiveHelp Support center - based in the UK to avoid US legal hassles.

* Full-time, paid Complaints desk.

* Online dispute form for members' convenience.

* Online membership application forms for those who were not previously members.

* NOT RECOMMENDED list of inferior casinos to be avoided.

* APPROVED list of casinos who meet set criteria and have joined the OPA.

* Player's and Casino Managers Advisory Boards.

* Operating committee with strict financial parameters.

* Completely refurbished website (in process).

* Use of the webcast facilities at CasinoGazette by the OPA.

* A regular OPA e-newsletter to communicate with members and alert them to special offers or problems.

The structure of the new OPA will be a small day to day operating committee supported by a full-time paid Complaints system and Player and Casino Manager Advisory Boards. Just over thirty online gamblers serve voluntarily on the Player Advisory Board (PAB) and have been selected for personal control, playing experience and commitment. The PAB has a private forum for discussions away from the operating committee.

The function of the Boards is to oversee the committee and assist it with input by request or otherwise, and valuable exchanges are already flowing smoothly.

This week the Association again started accepting complaints from members, several of which have been resolved, with others under negotiation. The widely referenced 'NOT RECOMMENDED' casino list has been reviewed by the PAB and will shortly be available to members. This list consists of casinos where players have had documented bad experiences and that have been given an opportunity to redress the situation but have declined.

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