Interactive Gaming Council

The Interactive Gaming Council’s Player Protection Initiative: The Seal of Approval

By Rick Smith and Keith Furlong
 

A common question: How big is Internet gambling?

    Since the industry is inadequately regulated in most parts of the world, and 
most company financial reports are not readily available, accurate figures 
are difficult to come by.  It is fair to say, however, that Internet gambling has 
quickly grown from an industry of relative obscurity to an industry estimated to 
be growing at a very high rate, with some reports quoting annual growth of 100%
for the foreseeable future. 

    Growth is a reality.  According to estimates by The River City Group, Inc.,
a Missouri-based firm, there were now now over 1400 gambling sites. 
Christiansen Capital Advisors estimates that Internet gambling expenditures
for the year 2001 will eclipse the $3 billion mark.  The number is expected
to rise to $4.5 billion in 2002 and then $6.3 billion in 2003.  Billions of
dollars are reportedly being bet over the Internet with very little, if any,
oversight or guarantee that the operators of these sites are fair and
honest.
 

What is the Interactive Gaming Council?
    The Interactive Gaming Council (the “IGC”) is an international non-profit
trade association of over 100 companies from around the globe that are
involved with the interactive gaming industry.  The IGC was created in
November 1996 as an affiliate of the Washington DC-based Interactive
Services Association.  It is now headquartered in Vancouver, being
incorporated in Canada in March 2000. 

    Each operating member of the IGC is required to be licensed to lawfully
conduct interactive gaming from the jurisdiction within which it operates,
and, as a member of the IGC, agrees to abide by the IGC’s Code of Conduct, a
copy of which can be found at the IGC web site (www.igcouncil.org).  As with
most industry codes, the IGC’s Code of Conduct is a living document and is
currently being reviewed.

    The IGC’s mission is to: provide a forum to address issues and advance
common interests in the global interactive gaming industry; establish fair
and responsible trade guidelines and practices that enhance consumer
confidence in interactive gaming products and services, and serve as the
industry’s public policy advocate and information clearinghouse.  An
important role of the Interactive Gaming Council is to advocate for the
adoption of strong government regulation of the Internet gaming industry
throughout the World.  To achieve this objective, the Council actively
promotes cooperation within, and between, industry and government.  The IGC
is proactive in its pursuit of this goal.

    One of the main goals of the IGC is to communicate and encourage active
debate among legislative and regulatory bodies about the future of Internet
gambling, and to this end, various representatives of the IGC have spoken at
seminars and conferences, as well as at informal meetings, and submissions
have been forwarded when opportunity presents.

    Within the last year, IGC representatives have testified about the pros and
cons of Internet gaming regulation before at least four important US bodies,
namely the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS), the
National Council of State Legislatures, the Nevada Gaming Control Commission
and the New Jersey General Assembly Commerce, Tourism, Gaming and Military
and Veteran’s Affairs Committee, during full-day hearings in Rhode Island,
Chicago, Las Vegas and Trenton, respectively. 

    The IGC has also been proactive throughout the international Internet
gaming industry, for example, providing written testimony to the Gambling
Review Body in the U.K.  In addition, the IGC has made an important
achievement with the launching of its Seal of Approval program.
 

IGC's Seal of Approval
    As the IGC has evolved, the association has recognized the need to provide
industry members with an accreditation that the public will recognize and
trust.  The Seal of Approval program (the “SOA”) allows operators to display
a seal that indicates to consumers the site’s willingness to adhere to a
new, higher level of compliance as a supplement to existing government
regulatory regimes.

    The Seal is an actual logo that is placed on interactive gambling site to
symbolize a willingness of the operator to adhere to a higher level of
integrity and responsibility.  The Seal of Approval logo is currently served
from a dedicated third party server in order to protect, to the best of our
technical abilities, its authenticity and to allow for instantaneous removal
of the seal should the IGC revoke its approval. 

    While there are no guarantees, the IGC believes that the SOA is an
important step toward increasing the legitimacy of the Internet gaming
industry.  The program allows players to have some reassurance that Internet
gaming sites that display the IGC’s SOA logo have agreed to higher
standards, a strong Code of Conduct, and random monitoring by a third party
industry association.

    The Seal of Approval program also provides an important mechanism for
dissatisfied players in the form of a more “formalized” dispute resolution
procedure.  The SOA establishes a system where a designated Compliance
Officer can intervene and mediate a resolution when there is evidence that
any attempted resolution, between a Seal of Approval member site and the
consumer, has not been effective.

    The SOA is by no means designed to be a replacement for strict government
regulation.  In fact, as previously mentioned, the IGC has been actively
advocating strict licensing and regulation by governments.  It is the IGC’s
contention that effective government regulation is the only way to move the
Internet gaming industry, as a subset of eCommerce in general, to the next
level of legitimacy.

     The first three companies to participate in the program and display the SOA
logo are VIPsports.com, operator of VIPsports.com, VIPsoccer.com, and
VIPcasinos.com, the Sunny Group Casinos (www.sunnycasinos.com), operator of
Casinofortune.com, Mapau.com, and Miamibeachcasino.com, and BetandChat,
operator of betandchat.com and betandchat.org.
 

    The Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) is the leading trade association for
the international interactive gaming industry, with its membership operating
or supplying services to, most of the reputable gaming and wagering sites on
the World Wide Web.  Additional information about the IGC, including
membership details, can be found at the association’s web site,
www.igcouncil.org.

    Rick Smith is the Executive Director of the Interactive Gaming Council.  He
is a former regulator with the Queensland Office of Gaming Regulation in
Australia and a former New Zealand gaming regulator.

    Keith Furlong serves as the Deputy Executive Director of the IGC, and is
the Vice-President of the Catania Consulting Group, Inc., a New Jersey-based
gaming consultancy and lobbying firm.  He is a former Public Information
Officer and Legislative Liaison with the New Jersey Division of Gaming
Enforcement.
 


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