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Casino gaming and game fairness
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by: Mr. John Cargnello. Slots, Online casino gambling articles.
The need for independent testing and certification in an interactive gaming environment is becoming universally accepted. Demonstrated integrity through adequate independent testing goes to the heart of what constitutes credibility in an this self-regulated market.

However, while everyone can agree on the need, there is wide variation in the nature and extent of testing that is actually performed. While some sites, such as those in highly regulated jurisdictions such as Alderney, the Isle of Man, Australia and Vanuatu necessitate full system testing, many sites in other jurisdictions have no such requirements.

Where no mandated requirements exist many Operators rely on much simpler ‘Outcome-Based Testing’ approaches, specifically player return statistics and trend analysis, to demonstrate system integrity. Still others “submit” to supposedly third party verification services that do little more than create a façade of independent testing.

To answer the question “how much testing required?” we need to put ourselves in the Player’s shoes. Understandably, “game fairness” is usually at the top of the list when it comes to vital issues for the Player. How do you test Interactive games to ensure their fairness, and how can you ensure that games remain fair, after the testing is complete?

One of the most fundamental elements of fairness is percentage ‘Return to Player’ (RTP). Almost all well regulated jurisdictions set a minimum RTP for games of chance, usually in excess of 80%. Intuitively, RTP can be determined by simply looking at the number of games played versus winnings paid but the mathematics of RTP is not as simple as it may appear at first glance. This is because each successive game must be independent of the last, and while a particular game may average a specific return; say 80%, over an extended period of time; the return over a shorter time frame may vary significantly. This may, or may not be indicative of a problem.

Even if RTP meets requirements there could be problems that frustrate fairness. For example a Player could be participating in a Keno game returning 80% but has an inherent weakness in the Random Number Generator (RNG) resulting in some numbers never coming up.

Mathematics are at the heart of gaming system fairness and the only way this can be assured is by a thorough review of the RNG responsible for determining game outcomes. Experience has demonstrated that there are many possible avenues where things can go wrong with the RNG. This need not be a problem because the methodologies used to properly evaluate RNGs are not new. They have been used to verify the integrity of games in the terrestrial (land-based) gaming environments for over a decade. If mathematical analysis of the RNG is important in establishing the fairness of terrestrial gaming what should it be any different in interactive gaming?

Of course fairness extends well beyond mathematics. Adequate player protection measures are also vitally important to the player including:

o Artwork and rules - are games and their rules properly and accurately described?

o Functionality of games - do games play correctly?

o Recovery procedures - will a game restart properly if communications are interrupted?

o Accounting - are all deposits, wagers and winnings properly accounted for?

o Dispute resolution - are there adequate procedures and audit logs / records to resolve disputes?

o Privacy – is sensitive information stored in one-way encrypted format?

o Social exclusions – is there adequate protection against under-age and pathological gambling?

o System and environmental protection – is the system protected against hackers and crackers?

 

Proper testing of these critical issues assures that the gaming system is “fair, secure and auditable” but what can you conclude about integrity beyond the point of evaluation and certification? What is there to stop an Operator from either deliberately or accidentally changing software after testing and, in doing so, invalidating the certification?

To ensure continued integrity of the system Testers obtain a software ‘signature’ at the point of initial certification. Changes to the software from that point forward result in an easily detectable change in ‘signature’.

Enlightened, thorough testing, by qualified, independent, externally accredited organisations, is not only necessary to prevent things from going wrong, it can also play an important role if things do go wrong! For example, in lesser regulated jurisdictions there have been allegations made about the integrity of certain products. In some instances there have been calls for retrospective independent testing and third party audits however, by that time it’s too late! Proper testing at inception would ensure that the allegations at the heart of these disputes could be resolved immediately. The fallout from these unresolved allegations has brought to bear, what many might consider irreparable harm to not only the Operator in question, but also to the software Supplier and the gaming jurisdiction. When this happens everybody’s credibility is at stake and that’s not good for any self-regulated industry.

 
By: Mr. John Cargnello

© Copyright 2004 Gambling Online Magazine This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.