eCOGRA: eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance

eCogra Seal

eCOGRA was founded in March 2003 with the sole purpose of monitoring, auditing and providing assistance to users of the rapidly increasing Online Gaming and eCommerce industry.

eCOGRA[1] is a London based, internationally accredited testing agency and player protection and standards organisation that provides an international framework for best operational practice requirements. It is located in Berkeley Square, London where its professional team of auditors work to ensure that any and all online casinos, sportsbook and poker networks affiliated to it, maintain the high standards set forth by the company. The eCOGRA staff consists of a group of auditors, all of which have Big4 auditing firm experience as well as information systems experts and responsible gambling[2] experts that have the required knowledge to effectively monitor and police all the online operators that have been awarded an eCOGRA Safe and Fair seal.

The Company

eCOGRA first began operating in 2003 when the company entered in to a joint partnership with the Casino Software Company, Microgaming. The partnership between the two was successful due to the auditing abilities of the eCOGRA personnel and the experience of Microgaming employees within the industry. In 2011, eCOGRA made the move to buy out the Microgaming shares in the company to truly affirm its role as an independent online gaming and eCommerce authority.

As an independent authority[3], one that is accredited by a host of gambling jurisdictions, including: Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Isle of Man, Alderney, Gibraltar and the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, eCOGRA has a variety of different roles to play. This includes such things as the auditing of the online operators, the testing of the software, certifying the payout percentages to be fair, test the RNG (Random Number Generator) used by the operator to ensure randomness and to monitor and approve the affiliate marketing programme to ensure ethical behaviour of the operator.

Any company and operator is open to apply for certification from eCOGRA and be awarded the Safe and Fair Seal[4] as long as the online gaming, sportsbook and poker network operators adhere to the eCOGRA guidelines which includes:

  • Sharing the eCOGRA vision towards safe, fair and responsible gaming and prove to have the highest levels of integrity
  • The operator as well as the respective software company will need to , at all times, comply with the *Generally Accepted Practices (eGAP) set by eCOGRA
  • The approval of both the gambling operator and the software company used by eCOGRA’s Seals Compliance Committee

*eGAP

eGAP[5] refers to the eCOGRA Generally Accepted Practices and is the underlying philosophy of the company. It is largely based on the objectives set forth by the company to ensure player protection, fair gambling and responsible operator and service provider conduct. The requirements set forth by eGAP are not meant to restrain the movements of service providers and operators but to monitor them to ensure that the operators and service providers act accordingly. eGAP has been created to ensure the most appropriate policies and procedures are available to protect players and to ensure that the games they are playing are fair, honest and in no way benefit the operator or service provider.

The eGAP provisions also make sure that the deposits of players and payouts effected by the various operators are not in violation of the laws set by the jurisdictions in which the player may reside. These requirements should not be relied upon for any assurances that are related to independent third parties and activities which cannot be covered by the eGAP seal, parties that include the likes of payment processors, online banking companies, web wallet companies and affiliate programmes that do not fall under the eCOGRA Affiliate Trust Seal.

The eGAP requirements are as follows

  1. Responsible Gambling
  2. Player Information and Underage Protection
  3. Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Financing of Terrorism (CFT)
  4. Protection of Player Privacy and Safeguarding of Information
  5. Protection of Player Funds
  6. Rigorous Independent Assessment of Game Fairness
  7. Responsible Advertising and Promotions
  8. Commitment to Player Support
  9. Responsible Conduct in a Secure, Safe and Reliable Environment
  10. Live Dealer Studio Specific Requirements

eCOGRA Seals and Approvals[6]

  • eCOGRA Safe and Fair Seal
    This is awarded to online gaming operators such as online casinos, sportsbooks and poker networks.
  • eCOGRA Certified Software
    This is awarded to Casino Software Companies that create the software used by the online casinos
  • eCOGRA Percentage Payout Report
    This will be used to show players the possible payout percentage for any online casino that has been awarded an eCOGRA Safe and Fair seal.
  • eCOGRA Randomness Reviews
    Should any player be concerned about the effectiveness of online casinos Random Number Generator, they can review the test report conducted by eCOGRA.
  • eCOGRA Affiliate Trust
    The affiliate trust programme can be used by potential marketers to judge the ethics of an affiliate programme. That being said, as much as eCOGRA can do to ensure the affiliate programmes cetified by them act accordingly, it is nearly impossible to police and monitor them effectively. This means that eCOGRA cannot guarantee or assume responsibility for the consequences resulting in using an affiliate programme bearing the eCOGRA Affiliate Trust Seal.
  • eCOGRA Certified Live Dealer
    This is to ensure all Live Dealer Studios certified by eCOGRA operate in a safe and fair manner.

eCOGRA Dispute Mediation

An extremely large part of eCOGRA’s business involves resolving disputes between gamers and operators[7]. This is largely due to the aspect that many online gamers often do not reside in the same country as their preferred online casino. This can lead to the remote operator abusing their standing and delaying payments and voiding winnings on technicalities.

There is a very thorough process that needs to be followed in the event of a dispute and eCOGRA will only step in after the player has exhausted all other avenues and the operator in question has refused all attempts to resolve the situation amicably. eCOGRA will not be able to assist any person that has acted inappropriately and nefariously as it will also be in a direct violation of the trust shown to them by the online gaming operators. That being said, the dispute mediation services offered by eCOGRA are there to give the player a voice as it is very easy for any online casino to ignore the demands of the player. In the event of a dispute, eCOGRA will review all the facts given by both parties and make an unbiased decision based on the information provided.

Press Room

eCOGRA has a dedicated communications staff that will regularly update all parties in the industry, from operators and service providers to the press and any online gamers that require information. The press room[8] will release press releases pertaining to any new certifications awarded and any actions that occur within the industry that they feel will benefit users, gamers, operators and service providers.

eCOGRA – The Industry Authority

eCOGRA certified online casinos are well known to be among the most reputable as players the world over choose to put their faith in the seal of approval. That being said, the approval process is both thorough and, many may feel, completely necessary. This is due to the fact that the internet is nearly impossible to police and therefore there are a lot of unscrupulous operators out there that are only too willing to act unethically. eCOGRA has established itself as the leader in the certification industry as it not only has the most thorough tests and the most stringent safe and fair regulations that must be adhered to, they are also the oldest independent authority with the most experience within the industry.

References:
  1. “Home”. eCOGRA. http://www.ecogra.org/Home.aspx. Accessed 24/07/2013
  2. “Responsible Gaming”. Microgaming http://www.microgaming.co.uk/responsiblegaming.aspx. Accessed 24/07/2103
  3. “Services”. eCOGRA. http://www.ecogra.org/Services/SafeandFairSeal/SafeFairSealCriteria.aspx. Accessed 24/07/2103
  4. “Safe and Fair Seal”. eCOGRA. http://www.ecogra.org/Services/SafeandFairSeal/SafeFairSealCriteria.aspx. Accessed 25/07/2013
  5. eGAP Requirments. eCOGRA. http://www.ecogra.org/Services/SafeandFairSeal/SafeFairSealeGAPRequirements.aspx. Accesses 25/07/2103
  6. “Seals and Approvals”. eCOGRA. http://www.ecogra.org/Home.aspx. Accessed 25/07/2013
  7. “Policies and Procedures”. eCOGRA. http://www.ecogra.org/Disputes/PoliciesandProcedures.aspx. Accessed 25/07/2013
  8. “Press Room”. eCOGRA. http://www.ecogra.org/PressRoom/PressReleases.aspx. Accessed 25/07/2013