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eCOGRA Surveys Online Players

12 September 2006

Internet gambling has grown into a $12 billion a year industry, with half that coming from American players. Though the federal government holds online gambling to be illegal in the United States, that's much too big a beast just to ignore.

While Congress fights over whether to specifically outlaw handling monetary transactions used in online gaming, Americans continue to wager billions of dollars on the Internet, mostly on poker and sports. Naturally enough, all that play is accompanied by issues of player confidence. Are the games honest? Will the player get paid?

When I'm asked about such things, I sidestep the issue, and point out the shaky legal status of online gaming in the U.S.

But issues of game and site integrity are the reason for existence for eCOGRA, which monitors operators and software providers in an effort to provide a fair game to players. Operators that satisfy eCOGRA standards may display the "Play It Safe" seal.

Now eCOGRA is going a step further with a survey of players designed to find out what online players want, and what online casinos can do better. The survey begins Sept. 5, with eCOGRA hoping to survey 20,000 players. Results will be augmented by qualitative focus groups involving more than 200 players in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and Sweden.

"Our goal is 20,000 participants, and we won't stop short," said Andrew Beveridge, the CEO of eCOGRA. "We'll be pursuing a lot of ways to encourage players to participate. There are 23 million registered players on eCOGRA member sites, so there is enormous potential."

Beveridge said the survey will consist of nine sections, starting with basic demographics, along with player behavior, the games they prefer, the kinds of bonuses that attract them. Areas of player concern such as player collusion at online poker sites and where to turn when there's a dispute also will be explored. At the end, there will be an open section for players to add comments and concerns not covered in the survey.

"The big thing for the player is the chance to explain their likes and dislikes, and send a message to the operators about their service," Beveridge said.

Conversely, it's an opportunity for online operators to find how to better serve their players, how to give the people what they want.

What it's not, Beveridge explained, is an attempt to influence the debate over whether online gaming should be illegal. That's not what eCOGRA does.

"We're not really an industry organization," Beveridge said. "We're all about player protection. We're not a lobbying organization, and we're not involved in the discussions in Washington. There are other organizations such as the IGC (Interactive Gaming Council) that do that quite capably. "It's our job to look after players, not go throughout the world enforcing the laws."

For more information on eCOGRA, go to www.ecogra.org.

** ** **

Back in the world of brick and mortar, the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond will be providing a seat in the 2007 World Series of Poker as part of the big fund-raising events for Green Tie Ball XV. The annual ball, with proceeds benefiting Chicago Gateway Green and its efforts to beautify Chicago, will be Sept. 16 at the Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island. Tickets are $135, or $250 for VIP package.

The poker portion actually started earlier, on Sept. 7 at Galleria Marchetti, 825 W. Erie. There's a $250 buy-in, with a maximum of 300 players. The top 10 will advance to the final table at the Green Tie Ball itself, with a top prize of a seat in the World Series of Poker.

For information, got to www.greentieball.org

** ** **

Majestic Star Casino in Gary's Buffington Harbor had a big winner on Aug. 25, when a royal flush at Caribbean Stud Poker brought a player whose name was not released a jackpot of more than $232,000. A big jackpot is also building at Hollywood Casino in Aurora, where the pot climbed past $230,000 in late August.

In Caribbean Stud, a portion of each $1 side bet is added to the jackpot, which grows until someone is dealt a royal flush. Between royals, smaller amounts are paid out for each flush or better. That is subtracted from the overall jackpot --- when a player is paid $50 on a flush, the big jackpot decreases by $50, then starts climbing again.

The odds of hitting a royal are 1 in 649,740. That's the same as on any five-card stud poker game, including Let It Ride. It's also the same as the chances of being dealt a royal flush on your first five cards at video poker. However, video poker is draw poker, not stud, so we'll see a video poker royal about once per 40,000 hands --- still a rare treat, but one we'll see much more often than a royal at Caribbean Stud.

** ** **

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9), streaming at http://1059freefm.com.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski