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How to navigate the dilemma of maximum stake

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Ozric Vondervelden explores the delicate balance that can be struck between operator and player risk.

The lure of large bonuses in the gaming industry is one way to attract players. These bonuses offer powerful affiliate and marketing opportunities but also significant financial risk for operators.

It is difficult to manage these risks, particularly when you have the controversial issue of the maximum stakes. There are potential solutions.

The higher the volatility of a player, the greater the average conversion to cash. This is counterintuitive and complicated. It would take an entire piece to explain it, so I’ll just have you trust me.

Duncan Garvie believes the way the industry is addressing bonus abuse risks is selfish.

Size of the stake a player makes has a significant impact on volatility. It’s common to see terms that limit the size of the bets or spins during the bonus game. This is a way to reduce the overall risk for the casino.

Just one thing is wrong. This term is often enforced retroactively by operators, leading to confiscations of players. Duncan Garvie is the founder of CasinoReviews.com and the head of ADR at thePOGG. He sums up the issue best.

Garvie says: “There is no doubt that bonuses are in high demand by consumers, and that operators face a substantial risk of financial loss when they offer bonuses.” Maximum bet restrictions will help operators meet the demand of players and provide them with the best experience.

He adds that the approach taken by industry to address this issue is fundamentally selfish. As a means of reducing the risks of players who are using bonuses to take advantage of high bets, restrictions are hidden in bonus conditions.

This approach is based on the assumption that players will read and understand all terms and conditions. Many players are not typical. This leads to non-problematic users regularly breaking these rules, which puts them in a losing position.

If they lose, then the operator keeps their deposit. “If they win, they refuse to pay out the winnings because they broke the maximum wager term.”


Hidden and complex terms

Joachim Timmermans shares his personal experience as co-founder and director of Print Studios. This highlights the effect on players.

Timmermans says, “Most people in this industry are looking to provide top-quality services and products.” In this quest, it is important to recognize that we’re not always typical players. This gap is bridged by signing up for various operators regularly and playing new slots. This is usually a great experience, but sometimes it is not.

“When I tried to withdraw my winnings, a casino accused me of breaching the SEK50 (PS3.74/EUR4.39/$4.77) maximum stake limit.”

Joachim Timmermans points out that complex terms can result in the removal of genuine winnings from players

He says it highlights an important issue within the industry. It is the use of obscure, complicated and hidden terms in order to confiscate winnings from real players. Operators are unwilling to rationally discuss issues when challenged.

Timmermans claims that discussions in forums like Casinomeister or CasinoGrounds reveal a tendency for casinos to confiscate winnings of those who unintentionally violate one of many complicated rules.

He continues: “Often the response of the community is dismissive. They say, in essence, that you have broken the rules and it’s your fault. This attitude, I find, is unreasonable.”

I was able to solve the problem, but not before sharing my frustration publicly. It was possible to resolve the issue by leveraging my affiliate and I’m sure that the position in which I held played a part. It is an option that the typical player doesn’t have.”


Bonus abusers benefit, while genuine players lose out

Bonus abusers are more diligent than the average player in studying terms and conditions. Multi-accounting is the most common form of bonus abuse, in which an individual exploits an operator by using multiple identities.

Multi-accounts are often part of larger bonus abuse networks. This creates a counter-industry that is highly connected and where information can be shared quickly. Bonus abusers are aware of the risk and will only violate the maximum stake if they feel confident that the violation won’t be detected. This scenario requires just one test to decide whether or not the collective is going to breach the terms.

Operators are therefore forced to choose between punishing genuine players or allowing large amounts of bonus abuse.

It is clear that penalising real players has a negative effect. The vast number of negative reviews that are posted on sites like TrustPilot is proof. Operators who manually identify these breaches and manage ADR disputes face a high resource cost.

There have been some successes in the UK with operators enforcing maximum stakes at the time of play. It prevents the imposition of harsh penalties, such as confiscations.

Garvie says, “I have noticed a marked drop in complaints in my role as player complaint manager in recent years relating to maximum bet conditions.”

This is due to the fact that our users are historically more inclined to be UK-based players, and the UK regulatory system strongly encourages the industry to enforce the terms of service at the game to solve these issues.


Can Collaboration Break the Cycle?

The issue is still present outside the UK, and often involves the same operators. The UK is a case in point. Those who have the ability to automatically enforce restrictions do so, while players from other countries are not able to use these systems.

There’s no doubt that forcing players to play with a fixed maximum bet is better for them. But I do not believe operators are hesitant to use this system for their own benefit.

The implementation of such a system presents significant challenges. Some game studios and aggregators do not support in-game functionality that blocks bets or alerts players who exceed their maximum stake.

Richard Hayler recommends real-time pop-ups in disputes adjudicated by IBAS

Operators resort to workarounds that go like this: If the player bets more than the maximum, the operator manipulates the wallet balance in order to indicate to the studio the player does not have enough funds. The operator then has to replace the popup with their own, forcing the player to reload the page in order to play.

The user experience is significantly impacted, particularly on mobile apps and browsers.

To find a solution, studios and aggregators must agree to a standardised callback system for managing the issue. Operators will continue to use this workaround, or retroactive actioning without such collaboration.


The Deterrence Theory

It could be very easy to solve. At Greco, we have automated pop-ups in real time that notify players when their stakes exceed the maximum. The players are given the opportunity to change their behavior.

The “Deterrence Theory” is the basis of this approach. This approach is based on “Deterrence Theory”. The strategy reduces the number of violations, resulting in fewer disputes and less time spent trying to resolve them. It also improves brand image, margins, and increases customer satisfaction. The user experience is not compromised.

Our data shows conclusively that timely notification of players at the first indication of risk is a powerful deterrent. It can distinguish between accidents caused by genuine players, and malicious bonus abusers.

The Independent Betting Adjudication Service, IBAS, supports this approach.

Richard Hayler, managing director of IBAS, explains that real-time notifications pop up in the background would be a powerful defense against disputes. To further strengthen this approach, our recommendation is to require players to acknowledge these notifications through interactive clicks.

This will ensure a uniform approach, eliminating any confusion about the pop-up’s origin or the allowance of actions that contravene established terms. It will also ensure that there is no confusion regarding the origin of the pop-up or any actions which are in violation of the terms.

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