The United Kingdom is without a doubt the best place in the world for online gamblers. Not only is gambling legal and fully regulated by the UK Gambling Commission, players also have hundreds of options on the internet. Gambling fans in other countries aren't as lucky, but it isn't all bad news. Even in places where the legislation isn't quite so clear cut there are independent regulatory bodies such as eCogra, TST, and NMi who work with clients to promote safe and fair gambling standards.
But these measures haven't always been in place. Before all of them, before online casinos were even commonly acknowledged, there was the Casinomeister.
The Casinomeister website is a large casino portal which tells players where the safe places to play are and allows them to voice their thoughts about the casinos. It's run, with help, by the Casinomeister himself Bryan Bailey and has been ever since the 1990s. The site is so established in the industry that software provider Cryptologic even went and made a slot machine based on the man himself. You can find the game available at casinos powered by NYX Gaming.
Having been in the army for eleven years as well as having taught and dreamt of screenwriting, Bailey began to play around with the internet. He recalls: "I was always looking for an idea to make a website, I just loved the web. I think it's really cool how we can speak to people all over the world, now we take it for granted."
Living in Germany, Bailey is able to speak multiple languages – a skill which eventually gave him his first experience of online casinos. Unfortunately for him it wasn't a positive one as he had done some translation for Caribbean-based online casinos that he was never paid for.
This is when he began to question how online casinos that inspired so little trust were able to get away with running a successful business. "I'm looking at them thinking why would you give these guys your credit card number, they're all in the Caribbean and are probably a bunch of crooks," he says.
Months later Bailey came across another online casino operator, this time a land-based casino in San Diego. He said one of the problems that became apparent was that it was tough for these guys to distinguish themselves from those who were effectively crooks. Fortunately, he was able to find a solution. He explains: "I thought that it would be cool to make a website which had a list of casinos like these guys which are good and a list of bad casinos like the guys that didn't pay us. It would be translated in English and German and would have news and I called it Casinomeister."
So the site was born and sure enough traffic started to build. However, one of the main features of the site now – the 'Pitch a Bitch' section – didn't come along until later. Even when it did it was more by the request of site users than any predetermined strategy.
It doesn't matter whether you're selling shoes or gambling, people get really passionate about trust. Without trust you don't have anything really.
The format was, and is, that players who may not be able to get in contact with anyone at an online casino is able to post an issue on the Casinomeister forum boards. Bailey or his colleague Max Drayton will then speak to the casinos on the player's behalf and attempt to resolve any issues. This service soon gained considerable popularity with players desperate to find out where their hard earned cash had gone. The speed at which the online casino industry emerged meant that existing law was unable to cover it and government regulatory systems had not yet come to fruition.
Having leant an ear to so many disgruntled players over the years, it's fair to say Bailey knows a thing or two about where online casinos can go wrong. He explains: "It's a mix of things. Payouts, people not getting paid and bonuses are the main ones.
"We have two types of complaints; we have ones that are private and ones that are submitted in the forum. Most of those are complaints that the software is rigged and stuff that is really just sour grapes.
Then you have the more serious ones where people are waiting to get paid and have been waiting a few weeks. About 70% are bonus complaints as well – we get a lot about poor bonus terms."
One online casino that has certainly never been anywhere near the rogue pit is 32Red Casino. This Gibraltar-based site has won nine consecutive 'Casino of the Year' awards as well as the 'Casino of the Decade' and numerous other awards in the Casinomeister's annual awards. They have almost won everything there is to win from these awards and considering that Casinomeister is very well positioned to speak for players, they must be doing something right.
It would appear that Bailey attributes much of this success simply to good customer service. He is clearly of the opinion that they just get the right people and manage to hold onto them too.
"They treat the customer like a really valued person, they tend to be very fair and they'll just treat the customer well. Players can get really nasty but their staff just seems to say that the issue is unfortunate and convince the player to keep playing."
Although more government regulation has occurred since the site started, Bailey reveals that there are still plenty of, what he describes as, rogue casinos out there. He continues:
It's always fluctuating but there seems to be a hard-core set of bad casinos that just hang in there.
This statement is backed up by the fact that there are many more than 50 online casinos currently in the rogue pit. There are also a further ten who aren't recommended as well as a list of evil casino software providers, fake watchdog sites, and the dungeon of evil which compromises of rogue casinos that are no longer in business.
Being 'rogued' by the Casinomeister is certainly not good for business. The fact that very few casinos on the list are recognisable speaks volumes for the quality of casinos that are on there.
One online casino that you wouldn't expect to be found in the rogue pit which has resided there for some time now is the Betfair Casino. Back in 2010 Betfair Casino ran a promotion which they soon realised was far too generous. It was essentially giving away free money and as soon as the casino wised up, they scrapped it. This was a move that went down very badly with players who soon took to the Casinomeister forum to vent their frustrations.
For a company as large as Betfair to be in the rogue pit appears strange but according to Bailey it's actually in an online casino's interests to stay small. He explains: "When casinos get too big they lose touch with their players. The smaller casinos tend to be more tightly run and they have a really good feel for what's going on in their casino. Casinos need to be able to deal with what's happening straight away."
Speaking specifically about the event which eventually landed Betfair in the rogue pit he says: "Their casino math was off and they screwed up but then they tried to fix it halfway through the promotion which was bad."
While Betfair may eventually climb their way out of the rogue pit (which isn't an easy process) it's likely that many more will stay in there. As long as there are casinos in the rogue pit then there will always be issues with trust.
CasinoOnline.co.uk would like to thank Bryan Bailey for taking part in our interview. You can take advantage of the wealth of gambling resources Bailey offers by visiting http://www.casinomeister.com