Today we discuss the risks of irresponsible gambling and some of the ways iGaming businesses ensure the safety of the entertainment they provide.
Both offline and online casinos are about risk, adrenaline and excitement, but there is a difference between the expected risk and one that is unknown and comes as an unpleasant surprise. And it’s not just about casinos. Sports betting, lotteries, Bingo, raffles and other businesses that could be categorized as gambling (the categorization often depends on the legal regulations in a specific region – see our article on gambling licenses) come with inherent risks that go beyond just winning or losing. In general, iGaming platforms – so online places where any type of money wagering is involved – need more than just software protection to be safe for owners and users alike.
In this article, we will discuss the risks of irresponsible gambling, some of the ways iGaming businesses ensure the safety of the entertainment they provide, and we will briefly describe one example of recently discovered shady practices in one European online casino.
Gambling is fun, but it can be dangerous
First, let’s have a look at the possible causes of developing a gambling problem and its negative effects.
Causes of unhealthy gambling habits
Many people enjoy a bit of risk from time to time, especially when gaining money is involved. There is usually nothing wrong with that. However, gambling addiction is a real issue, and there is no single element that could be pointed to as the main cause in all cases. There are several known factors that can contribute to developing a gambling addiction, these include:
- peer pressure – you might live in an environment where gambling is a common practice and may feel encouraged to gamble. You may feel pressure from your friends or family members, especially parents.
- early starter – if you began gambling at a young age, you may have developed unhealthy habits earlier and be prone to gamble. Perhaps you were introduced to gambling by someone else. Children are particularly susceptible to influence, as they are usually unaware of the consequences of their actions and lack a broader perspective.
- character – some people have character qualities that make them more at risk. These can be a strong competitive drive, restlessness or getting bored easily.
The human factor
We need to mention human nature itself. Like other pleasures in life, gambling can turn into a problem if you use it compulsively or if it gets out of control. You may feel tempted to spend more money on gambling than is reasonable in your financial situation. You may be gambling when you should be doing something else, such as working or spending time with family or friends. After all, with so many iGaming apps easily available, gambling online is always waiting at our fingertips. Engaging in these games can cause anxiety, and some people use gambling as a way of coping with difficult situations or feelings. An addicted gambler may lie to his family and friends about the problem, and in some cases borrow or steal money to fuel the addiction. This often leads to low self-esteem, sometimes even depression. One has to remember that gambling addiction has an impact on the people around us, our relatives, friends and even coworkers.
Safety mechanisms applied in iGaming
Aside from gambling addiction, irresponsibly managed iGaming platforms have other hazards, some of which are true for any websites where money is involved. Cybercrime has become a part of our lives, whether it’s scamming, hacking, phishing, identity theft, malware, etc. Owners of reputable online gambling sites usually apply a combination of many techniques to keep their players and business safe while stimulating growth. We list some of the safety mechanisms below.
iGaming platforms operate on gigabytes of data – data that needs to be properly protected. The safest online gambling sites ensure encryption for their pages and functions, and provide activity monitoring. This is combined with the industry’s standard https protocol, which by now has nearly replaced http, and SSL. Firewalls will help prevent unwanted access and DDoS attacks. Since iGaming involves the transfer of money online, trusted online casino sites will feature known and reliable payment providers. The performance of a platform is also important. Slow websites, suffering from errors and disconnections do not build user trust, especially when there are problems with payment processing. Creating a service that runs well on both desktop and mobile devices is key for the comfort and peace of mind of users. It is also important for the platform’s online visibility since performance it is one of the key factors for Google when determining the position of a site in search engine results pages.
Safety is also related to the games themselves. Most casinos online rely on several different game providers to fill their offer. Popular brands are a good indicator of a platform’s commitment to quality, safety, fairness and reliability. In one of the recent scams that we described at the end of the article, it was probably the game provider that was responsible for illegal tampering with one of the games.
Responsible gambling mechanisms
Caring about the well-being of the player base is a sign of a good entertainment provider. Some iGaming platforms do it by setting betting limits and verifying player age to prevent underage gambling. They may provide timers for players so they can track the time they spend on gambling, and they may even set up pop-up notifications to remind players they need to take a break. Casinos should also have appropriate descriptions notifying users about the dangers of compulsive gambling. Good sites include links or phone numbers where help with a gambling problem can be received, and they remind players that although gambling is fun, you may lose money, or develop an addiction. If you are worried by how a gambling habit affects you or a person dear to you, please visit https://www.begambleaware.org/ where you will find help on how to solve the problem.
The legal side
The rules and scope of possible iGaming operations are determined by the specific gambling license. Never gamble on sites that are not licensed, as the risk of fraud will be high. From the player’s perspective, a gambling license guarantees the platform is part of a bigger network and is most probably subjected to periodic audits and control mechanisms. For more on gambling licenses, refer to our previous article here.
The gambling industry has its own certifications and awards. Reputable online casinos often boast these achievements somewhere on the homepage. They are a good indicator that a platform cares about its reputation and high-quality safe entertainment. Some organizations that are responsible for certifying iGaming content include BMM Testlabs, GLI, iTechLabs, TriSigma and QUINEL.
The Return To Player percentage is one of the most important factors an online casino goer should pay attention to. It is the average amount of money that a casino game is to pay back to the player over a period of time. The higher the RTP, the better the odds for the player. The minimum RTP can be imposed by the relevant gambling commissions, or other authorities. Where to check RTP? For example, for online slots, refer to the help section of the specific game.
In shady casinos that operate under the radar without a license, RTP may be manipulated by the platform’s owners to the players’ disadvantage.
Online gambling in Poland
According to Polish law, the organization of gambling cylinder games, card games (e.g., black jack, poker, baccarat), dice games and slots is “monopolized by the state government”. For their offline counterparts, the law is more lenient – it is possible to set up a business for these games after acquiring a concession for a casino. Only the government can organize games using machines (such as slots) outside a casino.
Since the offline aspect of gambling is not the focus of this article, we will not elaborate on it any further.
A recent casino fraud
In a recent case for one of the biggest online casinos in Europe, it was observed that the platform tampered with the RTP system for one of its games. It is estimated that the entire illegal procedure might have lasted as long as two years, and at this point, it’s worth noting that the casino operates on billions of EUR. The game provider adjusted the RTP system of the demo version of one of its highly advertised games in a way that allowed users to quickly earn a fortune in virtual currency. However, when the players decided to play the full version of the game, for real money, the “honeymoon” was over and their luck ran out. Users of the platform were first to report the issue, mostly through social media, and the more inquisitive ones explored some of the other games and noticed that for one more title, the situation was similar. After the scam was exposed and news spread online, the casino first went to huge lengths to cover the illegal activity by contacting YouTube to ban the videos and flagging threads on several forums, and then tampered with RTP again to “miraculously” restore the fair values. Nothing was announced though, no one acknowledged any illegal activity, and there were no consequences (as far as we know).
iGaming is an inherently risky industry. After all, it is risk that stimulates the excitement and elation sought through gambling. It is important not to diminish our chances of winning by participating in games provided by shady gambling platforms. It is the owner’s responsibility to create a safe and fair environment for everyone to enjoy, but it is the player’s job to stay vigilant and investigate the iGaming platform before putting any real money into a slot machine.