eGAP Game Fairness GuidelinesBy: Joan Peppin, Sunday April 14th 2013
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Players come to online casinos with the implicit trust that the software does not manipulate the games in a way that they are unfair to the players. The online casinos have to demonstrate clearly that they are not violating this trust. The eGAP guidelines from eCOGRA for game fairness spell out what is required from the online casinos in this regard. When they are assessed for the Safe and Fair seal by the eCOGRA auditors they will have come prepared.
The objective for this part of the eGAP guidelines as stated in the document is as follows: “Seal holders are committed to ensuring that gambling products are subjected to continuous and rigorous independent assessment to ensure products continue to operate in a fair manner, and in accordance with published game rules. Three words in this statement are important. “Continuous” implies that the assessment is not a one-time affair but has to be repeated at specified intervals. “Rigorous” implies that the most comprehensive statistical tests available are applied to determine fairness. “Independent” implies that the assessor cannot have any interest or stake in the online casino.
The first aspect of the game fairness guidelines is Total Gaming Transaction Review. Online casino games, with the exception of live dealer games, are based on simulation using a Random Number Generator (RNG). The RNG is the focus of the assessment. The RNG design and implementation shall be evaluated prior to live operation and following any changes to the RNG source code. The evaluation shall include documentation review, source code review, mathematical analysis, RNG range determination, RNG period assessment and other investigations. Payout percentage reviews shall be conducted on a regular basis and the actual return to the player should be matched against the theoretical statistical return percentage. All online casinos allow both free play and real money play. An allegation often voiced is that free play games have greater returns so as to entice players to real money wagering. Actually the games in both versions are supposed to be identical in all respects. Therefore eGAP requires that the statistical return percentage for a particular game in real money mode shall be no less than that of the game in free play mode. There are two tests that need to be explained. One is statistical independence. Using online roulette as an example this means that any spin of the wheel is not dependent on the past outcomes. The second is uniform distribution. For a large number of spins, each number on the wheel should occur equally often.
The second aspect of the eGAP game fairness guidelines pertain to game rules. Two provisions are important here, which are self explanatory. Online casino games shall be operated strictly in accordance with the specified game rules. Game rules, including payout tables, shall be made available to the player at all times and changes to game rules shall be date stamped. The third aspect is unfair influence, which in simpler language means cheating. This pertains more to online poker than online casinos and requires the operator to have controls in place to detect and deal with collusion and the use of bots.
It is important for the players to understand what they should look for with respect to this section of the eGAP guidelines. First they must make sure that an independent agency has tested the software and found it compliant. Online casinos that have met the eGAP requirements would display the assessor’s certificate. They must check for the report on actual payout percentages. And they must not wager on games, unless the complete rules have been provided in an unambiguous manner.
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