Same software- different brands?

In the 10 years I’ve been playing in casinos online, I played in virtually every casino software that exists. While there are quite a few, it’s undeniable that Playtech and Microgaming dominate the vast majority of online casino brands today. And with good reasons - They both develop excellent software.

The amount of brands gradually decreased from thousands to hundreds in the last 6 years. Brand integrity is highly sought after. But the software providers have remained more or less the same companies. So if many brands which are operated by the same companies use the same software, what sets them apart from each other?

Let’s compare casino brands to cars. You could drive a Wolkswagen or a Skoda and have a totally different driving experience although both use the same engine. The same goes for online casinos. The engine is the same, but the whole infrastructure is different. Graphics, bonuses, customer support, games etc.

Playtech and Microgaming lead the market, each having their own unique ‘feel’ to the game. In my opinion, Playtech’s graphics is dazzling. It seems to me that Playtech tries to make the playing experience as realistic as possible. The lobby graphics usually incorporate actual photos of people and the game tables look very real.
Microgaming, on the other hand, seems to focus more on slot machines – targeting slots as their primary game, (I read many press releases in which they state that slots occupy 95% of real casinos’ floors) they offer hundreds of slot games and themes. Their graphics many not be as dazzling, but the games run faster and feel more “right” for a computer environment, in my opinion. It’s as if they “know” it’s not a real casino, so they’re not trying to be realistic.

The bottom line is – I prefer Microgaming usually. But really, it’s a matter of personal choice.

The importance of brand awareness of online casino operators

Earlier in the new millennium, just before the “web2″ trend began (years 2001-2003), the gambling industry displayed thousands of brands featuring different websites and slightly different promotions. But the technology behind them remained the same: They were powered by one of the few large software companies. Although brands were abundant, casino software wasn’t. As months and years went by and the online gambling industry matured alongside Internet commerce strategies, companies realized that brand recognition & awareness is the most valuable asset they can produce. Companies who once featured dozens of brands, scaled down to a single or very few brands. Brands like 888, Golden Palace and others were highly promoted in United States and Europe and earned world-wide recognition.
Just a few years ago, companies focused more on exciting new brands which offer unreal sign up bonuses. The feelings of security, credibility and integrity were less associated with any specific brand. This way of thinking resulted in a “brand flood”. It was difficult to differentiate real brands which had unique offers to many me-too copycat brands that were simply a different “skin” manifested in the form of a website design and nothing else. Many companies even offered free skins for Internet marketers as a means of luring them to spend more marketing money.

Today it’s different. The industry is maturing; companies realize that building a brand is a much more profitable marketing strategy than dispersing the marketing “power” over numerous brands. They realized that when people are exposed to the same brand for a certain period of time, they are more likely to remember its name and visit it directly at a later stage, and not necessarily as a result of clicking a banner advertisement.
Fewer brands mean more responsible company policies – better customer support, faster payments and more secure software. Companies who build their brand over the course of several years are less likely to jeopardize its reputation for lacking customer service.

Top 3 Internet companies pay fines for Accepting Gaming advertisements

According to “Associated Press”, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have agreed to pay a total of $31.5 million to U.S authorities to settle a claim that they accepted online ads that promoting gambling in an illegal manner.

When settling the claim, the companies did not make an admission of guilt that they illegally accepted payments from online gaming firms between 1997 and 2007.

Yahoo will pay $3 million and fund an educational advertising campaign at a cost of $4.5 million. Google will pay authorities $3 million. Microsoft will pay a total $21 million, 33% going to to a charity fund for exploited children. It will also find a $9 million, 3 year advertising campaign against illegal gambling among young people.

All 3 companies claim that they stopped accepting gambling related ads more than 3 years ago.

Editor’s note: This argument has strong evidence among thousands of online gambling promoting businesses such as casino operators and affiliates (website owners) who have been trying unsuccessfully to place such ads on one of the 3 major search engines (Microsoft’s MSN, Google and Yahoo). The ads were immediately rejected for violating the Terms & Conditions agreement, hence strengthening the companies’ claims of refusing to accept the gambling bids.

Experiment on Dutch TV program shows poker as a skill game

Early this January in the Netherlands a TV broadcast made an interesting experiment that proved, once and for all, that poker is truly a skill game, and not a game of chance that the Dutch government had mistaken it for.

The TV show, “Nieuwslicht”, which covers popular science issues mostly, had organized a large-scale poker tournament for novice players. Also, a highly experienced yet anonymous poker player was added to the tournament and another player who was informed of all players’ cards.

The cards on all live tables were the same and dealt from a pre-shuffled deck without the players’ knowledge.

The experiment would then prove that poker is a skill game when the pro would make more profit than the average player with the same cards, and the all-knowing player would make the most profit of them all.

The experiment was far from being accurate with a small sample size of only 36 hands and other limitations. However, it still raised a significant amount of attention in the media and hopefully paved the way for larger-scale experiments to be conducted with the purpose of convincing the Dutch government that poker is a skill game.

Acknowledging poker game as a skill game by the Dutch government would have a positive effect, allowing more games and tournaments to be conducted and less confusion when it comes to taxes.

 

Video Poker

The history of poker is a matter of debate, and closely resembles the Persian game of “as nas” and may have been taught to settlers in New Orleans by Persian sailors. The name of the game is thought to have descended from the Irish Poca - Pron. Pokah - Pocket or even the French poque , which in itself descended from the German pochen - to brag as a bluff - to knock. Yet it is not clear whether the origins of poker itself lie with the games bearing those names. It is commonly regarded as sharing ancestry with the Renaissance game of primero and the French brelan. It is quite possible that all of these earlier games influenced the development of poker as it exists today.

With time the full 52-card English deck was used, and the flush was introduced. During the American Civil War, many additions were made, including draw poker, stud poker and the five-card variants, and the straight. Further American developments followed, such as the wild card which was around 1875. The spread of the game to other countries, particularly in Asia, is often attributed to the U.S. military.

The game and jargon of poker have become important parts of American culture and English culture. Such phrases and clichés as ace in the hole, ace up one’s sleeve, beats me, blue chip, call one’s bluff, cash in, high roller, pass the buck, poker face, stack up, up the ante, when the chips are down, wild card, and others are used in everyday conversation, even by those unaware of their origins at the poker table.

Modern tournament play became popular in American casinos after the World Series of Poker began, in 1970. In the 1990s, poker and casino gambling spread across the United States, most notably to Atlantic City and New Jersey.

Poker’s popularity experienced an unprecedented spike at the beginning of the 21st century, largely because of the introduction of online poker and the invention of the hole-card camera, which turned the game into a spectator sport. Viewers could now follow the action and drama of the game, and broadcasts of poker tournaments such as the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour brought in huge audiences for cable and satellite TV distributors. Because of the increasing coverage of poker events, poker pros became more like celebrities, with poker fans all over the world entering into expensive tournaments for the chance to play with them.

Free Online poker today is an extremely popular card game, but not everybody plays for real money. The free games are an excellent way for inexperienced players to get a feel for how the games are played and develop some card sense. It is important, however, to realize that the free games are different than real money games. In order to win in the free games, one must make modifications to the strategy they might use when playing for money.

If you have a great hand, bet it to the max. You want to build the pots as large as you can. If your hand is a little weaker, you should consider just checking your hand and maybe calling the other player if he bets. Deceptive play is a big part of real poker, but in these free games everybody plays so loose that deception rarely accomplishes much.

With so much loose play in free games, you can lose even the best hands to the most miraculous draws. Since you’re not playing with real money it’s easy to keep calling on a hand which you know you’ve lost. If you want to accumulate a lot of points and win, however, you should fold when you are beaten.

The only thing you have to gain in free games is the satisfaction of a high chip count and you can’t achieve that if you keep throwing your chips away on losing bets.

Blackjack background

Blackjack - also known by the names of Twenty-one, Vingt-et-un (French for Twenty-one), or Pontoon) has over the years become one of the most popular casino card games in the world. Blackjack’s popularity has come about due to a variable mix of chance together with elements of skill. The casino version of Blackjack should however not be confused with the British card game Black Jack- a variant of Crazy Eights. Crazy Eights is a game for two or more players, in which the object is to get rid of the cards in your hand onto a discard pile by matching the number or suit of the previous discard.

Blackjack’s is believed to have originated from vingt-et-un (”twenty-one”), which was played in French casinos around 1700. When 21 was first introduced in the United States it was not well patronised, so gambling houses offered various bonus payouts to get the players to the tables. If the player’s hand consisted of the ace of spades and a black Jack (either the Jack of clubs or the Jack of spades) the player was rewarded. This hand was called a “blackjack” and the name stuck to the game even though the bonus payout was soon abolished. As the game is currently played, a “blackjack” may not necessarily contain a jack or any black cards at all.

As Blackjack is played today, the hand with the highest total wins as long as it doesn’t exceed 21. Cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value, and face cards (jack, queen, king) are also worth 10. An ace’s value can be called as either 11, unless this would cause the player to bust, in which case it is then worth 1. A hand in which an ace’s value is counted as 11 is called a soft hand, because it cannot be busted if the player draws another card.

Each player’s goal is to beat the dealer by having a hand higher than the dealers, but no more than 21. Note that if the player goes bust he loses, irrespective of the dealers hand. If both the player and the dealer have the same point value, it is called a “push”, and neither player nor dealer wins the hand. Each player has an independent game with the dealer, so it is possible for the dealer to lose to some players but still beat the other players in the same round.

In American blackjack, if the dealer’s face-up card is an ace or a ten-value, the dealer checks his hole card to see if he has blackjack. This check occurs before any of the players play, but after they have been offered insurance - if the face-up card is an ace. If the dealer has blackjack, all players lose their initial bets, except players who also have blackjack, which is then a push. In some American casinos, the dealer does not actually check the hole card until after the players have all played. At that time, if the dealer turns out to have blackjack, all players who did not have blackjack lose their bets, and players who increased their bets by doubling or splitting lose only the original bet, and have the additional bets returned to them; thus, the end result is precisely as if the dealer had checked the hole card before playing.

A two-card hand of 21 - an ace plus a ten-value card is called a “blackjack” or a “natural”, and is an automatic winner - unless the dealer has blackjack as well, in which case the hand is a push.

Slot Machines

Slots Machines as we know them today are a descendant of the “Liberty Bell” which was created by Charles Frey in 1899. Charles Frey was a German immigrant who worked as a mechanic in Sam Francisco.

The Liberty Bell operated with three reels (metal hoops), and each of these reels had ten symbols placed on them depicting the suits of playing cards. The Liberty Bell also contained an arm (lever) which was pulled to start the rolling motion – hence the name for One Arm Bandit. These reels would then stop sequentially which then awarded you should three symbols appear on the payline across all three reels.

In 1902 these machines were banned in their birthplace, including California and Nevada. In order to continue with the idea of having slot machine, which was a popular means of drawing customers, the manufacturers changed these machine from a cash spinner to giving rewards of free drinks and then later candy or gum.

Today Slots are certainly the ruling deities within the gambling fraternity. Slot Machines earn up to as much as seventy percent of all gross revenue, and on average take up just as much space at Casinos world wide both online and and based.

Slots Machines of present day generally offer unique bonuses, and in most cases have some awesome animations, sound and graphics which is continually updates by the software providers to these machines.

There are no known slots skills or strategies, but there is smart play. As a Slots player you need to understand that you are playing against a machine that has a built in number generator. Therefore it is imperative that for the man in the street make sure that he has a plan of action regarding his financial status and bankroll.

Mobile Gambling – Our inspiration for mediocrity

What’s the deal with mobile gambling (meaning online casinos on cellular phones)? I mean, do people actually gamble on the train, while walking on the street or when attending important meetings?

I joined the industry on early 2002, as a marketing manager for a small but rapidly growing new online casino reviews company . Back then, everyone kept talking about mobile gambling as if it’s the next big thing. Just a few more months, and the technology should be mature enough to support reasonable quality games, they said. It’s funny because back then, color display phones were still considered rather prestigious. Not to mention “java” support. It took a lot longer than anticipated for the technology to mature and offer reasonable casino games.

But, still, I don’t understand the psyche behind mobile gambling. In our society, where every need must be satisfied NOW and quantity replaces quality, we prefer convenience over quality of service or applications. For example, instead of making mobile phones that last longer, have better reception and produce less radiation, they keep making fancy devices that have a million applications, all of which are mediocre in nature. A match-box sized device holds a “5 mega pixel camera” + “Stereo speakers” + “Internet access” + video playback capabilities + mp3 player. But they forgot to tell us that mega-pixels are the least important factor for a camera. Also, they forgot to tell us that “stereo sound” doesn’t mean anything if both speakers are at the same place. And why, on earth, would anyone want to watch a video on a 1″ sized screen? And who cares about the sound quality of the embedded mp3 player? All the applications are mediocre. But who cares, as long as they are present!

In other words, I just don’t understand why people prefer to gamble via their phones instead of waiting for a decent screen size and load their favorite casino software. It offers so much more!

Latest Germany Ruling

Early in February this year, an announcement was released that Germany is about to outlaw all online gambling activities, making it illegal to gamble and operate a gambling business in German territory. The press release stated clearly that “German authorities are targeting casino operators working from outside Germany and offering gambling service to German citizens”.

What does it all mean about the future of the German market and the future of the industry in general?

This new move by the German government is very reminiscent of the 2006 US legislation against online gambling. While it did send shocking waves all across the industry, the legislation failed to bring it down to its knees. So far, with all the sanctions and restrictions inflicted on online gaming since its early days, it just keeps growing and increase profitability.

So where’s the soft spot?

Enforcing such regulations can be made in several aspects:

  1. Prosecute operators: Legally act against companies who are violating the regulations. While this may be easy to do within Germany, it might prove a lot harder to accomplish worldwide. Germany must act rigorously to produce legal cooperation from other countries which harbor many online gaming operators. These countries include Malta, British Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Belize and others. Prosecuting operators there is an illusive task.
  2. Act against the end-users (players): Pinpointing players who play in online casinos and pressing charges against them is almost impossible. This challenge is as big as prosecuting every person who downloads a commercial song for free in mp3 format. A different route is to simply block users’ access to specific gaming sites. Some countries like China and Italy have adopted this behavior, denying access to specific URLs from their territory. While this definitely makes the operators’ life harder, they still found ways to circumvent that. In Italy, an organization called AAMS is actively blocking new gaming URLs as new ones pop up. However, the operators always stay one step ahead by redirecting traffic from other domains. These actions by AAMS may make it more difficult to market gaming sites in Italy, but it certainly doesn’t stop it.
  3. Block payment processing: Countries which ban online gambling like the US, Italy and now Germany, can approach major payment processing companies and prohibit them from accepting gaming related transactions. Visa, Mastercard, banks and other processing companies are much more likely to oblige to national authorities. This is where regulations have the biggest bite. Dealing with processing issues is the most difficult task for gaming operators. Since the beginning of the millennium, long before the US legislation passed in congress, gambling operators faced difficult payment processing for credit cards in the form of transaction rejection. Every transaction has a specific code attached to it ,which describes the transaction type. Types could be “recreational”, “travel”, “apparel”, “electronics”, “services”, “adult” and of course – “gambling”. When credit card companies tagged a transaction as “gambling”, it was rejected. This means that when players tried to deposit, as much as 60% of the payments were denied. But the gaming industry found various solutions to this problem in the form of eWallets (similar to the world’s most famous eWallet – PayPal). Companies like Neteller, Click2Pay, FireCash and others offered a safe, secure environment for players to deposit funds using their credit cards, but without the infamous “gambling”code. In fact, over the years many payment processing solutions appeared and disappeared like mushrooms after the rain. Some are closed faster than others while some prevail and become industry leaders (e.g. Neteller). But the reality remains: Online gaming will always find a new way to collect (and pay) money to its customers.

Having said all that, what is the real impact of the new German law? It’s difficult to say. While this may be worse for public companies which suffer losses to their stock value, industry professionals are not panicking – They’ve seen these things happen before. The industry is adaptable because it’s profitable; new solutions are always developed to answer ongoing needs. If the Germans are determined to enforce their law and cause the operators to cease their activity, then a lot of pressure will be created to find a legal, practical solution to process payments from German players.

Only time will tell how big an impact the new law will have. Let’s wait and see!

Internet Casino Software – Providers overview

It’s a common economical fact that to save money, companies outsource services to third party specialists. For this reason, there are hundreds of Plasma & LCD screen brands but only a few panel manufacturers. In Internet casinos, there are hundreds of Italian online casino brands, but only a handful of casino software development companies.
Save a few exceptions, when a company decides to launch a new casino brand, it usually doesn’t develop the software. It simply buys a ready-made one. But just like every LCD or Plasma screen looks different on the outside, even though many models share the exact same panel, so does casino software vary from one casino brand to another. In other words, the casino operators customize their purchased software to the specific brand.
Buying casino software allows casino operators to focus on what they’re good at: Operating the casino. From customer support to payment handling, new promotions to marketing.
Casino On Net, The biggest casino in the world is one of the few casinos out there that does it all. Not just operating the casino, but also continuously developing its own software. The advantage? Stay unique among the competition. However, it’s been argued many times before that what made Casino On Net the market leader is not an exceptional software, but exceptional marketing. Nevertheless, they still lead the market.
Except Casino On Net, there are currently 3 major software providers which control over 90% of the market: Microgaming (which accepts USA Players) , PlayTech and Cryptologic (the last two do not accept USA Players). These companies also offer Poker software as well as casino games. Microgaming, the developer of the leading “Prima Poker” network is a formidable rival to PartyPoker’s past hegemony of the online poker industry.

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