Tag Archives: Gambling

Right & wrong, 2 multi-dimensional sides

There was an article at the BBC a few hours ago and I had to sit down and ponder for a moment. I can revisit my view again and again, but the BBC gave a very specific side and it stopped me. As I see it loot boxes are not gambling, but the article ‘Loot boxes linked to problem gambling in new research’ gave an additional side, and it matters.

The article (at https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-56614281) gives a lot of the same, including the view of “About 5% of gamers generate half the entire revenue from the boxes”, which is an optional valid view, my emphasis is on ‘optional’. You see, even as we are given “Loot boxes are a video game feature involving a sealed mystery “box” – sometimes earned through playing the game and sometimes paid for with real money – which can be opened for a random collection of in-game items such as weapons or cosmetic costumes”, I noticed ‘sometimes earned through playing the game’ before, I got most of all gear in NHL19 without ever paying a cent! This is important, and there is a stage where we need to recognise the games that offer loot boxes as a reward from within the game. It is “The upcoming Gambling Act review is set to look at the question, with the UK’s House of Lords already having weighed in to say that loot boxes should be firmly regulated as “games of chance”” that made me pause, loot boxes are not gambling, but when it is stated that they are ‘games of chance’ I do not disagree. We can argue in all manner that EA games took loot boxes in FIFA and went overboard, I will not disagree on that. Consider that FIFA21 “In FUT, there are more than 16,000 Day 1 cards, corresponding to as many players”, as such, if there are 1,000 it would be a low estimate, 2,500 would be more likely, but I have no official numbers. This implies that to have them all you would have to buy a minimum of 2,500 packs, if each pack has only one rare, that is just insane. 

It is not gambling! You see, to have that premise, that needs to be a setting that buying one pack gets you one cards stating ‘Thank You’, that is not the case, you always get a set configuration of common, uncommon and 1 rare card. But the House of Lords goes with ‘games of chance’, which is the seemingly the case and even more, it has an exploitative side, I never denied that, and there is a difference, I opted in the past for an alternative. It is what is called ‘A factory set’ a set with every card, the set is not tradable and has no value as you cannot trade them, but you would have all the cards and to offer that set in the last quarter of the game might be an option. 

My issue with the article was “The link between gaming loot boxes and problem gambling has been “robustly verified”, according to a new report”, I have issues with that straight of the bat and I would want to see that full report and its data before giving it any validity. You see, in the last 6-12 months I have noticed that gambling and in game advertising that is pro gambling has been popping up all over iOS and Android, Google’s own YouTube now has an increasing amount of gambling advertisements, so the setting is as I personally see it rigged.

This included advertisements on how to win at gambling, a stage that in my mind has nowhere to go and shouldn’t be allowed in any advertisement setting of Google. I wonder if that factor was considered in that report, was it even investigated? Let’s take a look!

A stage that is on a sliding slope, as we see more and more pagers on the internet all set to the stage where you can win real money playing games, so the game is already rigged and it has nothing to do (as far as I can see it) with loot boxes. And the report by the GambleAware charity is off to the wrong start with “Loot boxes are purchasable video game content with randomised rewards. Due to structural and psychological similarities with gambling, they have come under increasing media, academic and legal scrutiny. The UK government is currently reviewing evidence on loot boxes, which will be considered in the forthcoming review of the Gambling Act 2005”, you see plenty of games allows you to win these boxes by playing, Mass Effect 3, NHL 19 and several others, some give several packs a day, you only have to enter the game to get them. The report (at https://www.begambleaware.org/sites/default/files/2021-03/Gaming_and_Gambling_Report_Final.pdf) has more. “relationships between loot box engagement and problem gambling have been robustly verified in around a dozen studies”, I have an issue with that statement, but lets continue for now. When we see “Participants also purchased loot boxes because of a ‘fear of missing out’” I wonder how this was proven, you see, when we see on page 6, ‘A game will offer loot boxes for free. Encouraging later real-money purchases’ it is an assumption, a speculation. I never spend money on NHL19 and I have all the jerseys, all the goalie masks and all the arena’s. In addition, Mass Effect never pushed for spending money, you can get it all by merely playing. That is a setting of two games straight of the bat. Yes, it was possible to spend money, but it was never needed. The research then give us Overwatch which is a free to play and loot boxes are their only revenue, but what is there?

The report gives Fortnite a pass on a few settings, yet the Verge gives us ‘Epic Games will settle Fortnite loot box lawsuits in V-Bucks’ with the additional “The class action settlement also provides an additional $26 million in benefits” (at https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/22/22295676/epic-games-fortnite-loot-box-lawsuit-settlement-rocket-league-v-bucks), as such the report already has a few sides I find debatable and optional rejectable. When we are treated to “the game’s cooperative survival mode, “Save the World,” did — at least until 2019 when Epic changed its loot box system to allow players to see the item inside prior to purchase”, so why did that report not contain the part that gives us ‘when Epic changed its loot box system’, and all whilst another source gives us regarding Ubisoft “The Division 2 has both microtransactions and loot boxes and we said that Ubisoft didn’t go overboard with recurring revenue”, this was given to us in 2019, so why is a 2 billion dollar company excluded from this research? Is this EA games bashing?

There is more, and as gambling influences on other fields that the same group finds itself, the setting is as I personally see it rigged.

The report has some conclusions that make sense, they do have some grasp of the issue and as I personally see it, there needs to be a larger stage here, one that is beyond ‘self-regulating’, in this EA Games made several massive blunders on the stage and that Needs to be acknowledged too. I am all for the full disclosure of odds as well as a FULL LIST (including rarity) of all cards that can be obtained. I believe that a factory set, one that cannot be used for trading and optionally not for playing either, it might lower the ‘Pokemon’ impact (gotta catch them all) of those spending cards on it, some do want to have them all, merely for the having. Anyone who ever collected Football, Hockey or Basketball cards will get that part. A stage that will evolve over time and one that could reset the barriers we have now.

So yes, I feel I was right, loot boxes are not gambling, but they are a game of chance, even as every pack has the same dimensions, they tend to have 1 rare card and in case of EA’s FIFA that will not do, not in a game with 16,000 playable characters. There are several solutions, but it is up to EA to steer their ship to one of the solutions that gamers can live with, I for one think that the EA NHL solution is one that should limit damage, yet with 16,000 characters, the packs should be 500% larger, including at least 5 rare cards, but that is merely my initial view.

I have a few issues with the report, but it does give us a view that is not entirely wrong and it also gives us a few sides that matter. As for the BBC article, loot boxes might to some degree correlate to problem gambling, but that stage is a lot bigger than the report gives. And it starts in both the Android and the Apple store with their collection of free games that offer in-app purchases, the fact that these makers set the game up to mandatory show one advertisement EVERY level is a larger stage, and the oversight of that makes it an issue, if gambling is a factor, these influences should be looked at as well, as well as the deceptive conduct that we see in the advertisements with increasing amounts. 

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The additional word Analytica

When we hear ‘Cambridge’, we consider a place of reverence. Cambridge, a place where science is academically pushed to new borders! It has been around for 733 years. In that time we saw Lord Byron working on Satires and poems. In 1812 Charles Babbage started the design of a calculating machine, he never finished it, but his work would later herald the modern computer. In 1903 Bertrand Russell publishes ‘Principles of Mathematics’ and ends up with being part of the ‘Principia Mathematica’ it takes people a decades to comprehend the genius and he ends up with a Nobel price. Other members will get similar laurels for working on the electron, X-ray diffraction, someone proves that vitamins are real and the atom gets split. there was Professor Stephen Hawking, who did have a sense of comedy (according to many sources), not very mobile, yet ends up giving us academic work on Black holes, the big bang theory (not the comedy) and gives us the a founding realisation on the origin of the universe and only recently do they were able to identify gene causing diabetes and high blood pressure. So we should see it as a place of academic goodness. Yet when you take ‘Cambridge’ and you add ‘Analytica’ you get a synonym for ‘Despicable Sewage‘.

So as we are treated just over an hour ago to ‘Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg finally addresses Cambridge Analytica scandal‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/21/mark-zuckerberg-response-facebook-cambridge-analytica) we can clearly see that things are escalating as Mr Zuckerberg himself is taken off the moth balls to remedy the situation. So when I see his response ‘we made mistakes‘, my initial response is ‘You think?

When we are treated to “The Facebook CEO broke his five-day silence on the scandal that has enveloped his company this week in a Facebook post acknowledging that the policies that allowed the misuse of data were “a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it”” my initial worry is that he does not comprehend the scale of the issue. It is not merely the misuse of data, basically personal data of 50 million people, a lot of data on these people is now out in the open. When you have the data of 14% of your population you have the means to forecast, the options to set the marketing push on a national level. That amount of data would allow places like Walmart to set the need to satisfy 90% of the population need and cut out the loss making products overnight. You see, when you take the concept of a good article, a average article and a bad article, we often get all the good articles and a chunk of average articles. This is the risk the business has, they all have it and we can predict this to some extent. Now we get more data and now with that data we see a group of people that are classified for a certain category as ‘Not caring’, they have no interest at all. Knowing this allows for the setting of a ‘true view’ on the articles so we get a sharper view, we take the population, we take out the non-carers of that product, and suddenly we end up with a list of the products that are all classified as good.

Now how does that work?

You see, sometimes we are driven by internal motives, motives we do not tell Walmart, but we might tell others on social media. Now consider for example that a Catholic will never buy a certain brand. A naturist will never buy certain chemicals and a tech-lover will never buy certain brands. There are dozens of these indicators and Walmart, if they had that data can now see a pattern, even if they only have the 14% view, the pattern once seen can lead to a national view. As a wild example I give you: ‘A Catholic techie will always buy a Manfrotto camera stand‘. So now we have a specific product that would do really well in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. So not only can it decide to dump the inferior camera stands in those places, it could essentially also raise the Manfrotto price by $2, so less overhead and better profits. This is merely an example, but the pattern is clear and as places like Walmart have such data they can now directly target their audience and streamline what they carry per location. So not only do they get a better business setting, by marketing directly to certain groups they get a much better result on the same marketing cost. So their marketing costs remained the same whilst getting up to a speculated 30% of better results.

This is a given setting in analytics (and Market Research). It has existed for decades and Mark Zuckerberg is a clever boy, so he knew this. The setting as shown in the Guardian is debatable at this point. You see, debatable because Mark Zuckerberg knows the value of data, there is no way that he does not know that. So the last thing he wanted to do was hand out data, lose control of the treasury. He lost control as the data is out there now, and as the source has been shared for what I believe to be at least three times over, that data is now no longer containable. That can now be seen as a direct loss for Facebook.

In equal measure we need to look at “We know that this was a major violation of peoples’ trust, and I deeply regret that we didn’t do enough to deal with it”, a quote that came from Sheryl Sandberg. You see, I think that the matter is more serious and more dangerous. We see that when we realise that ‘we didn’t do enough to deal with it‘, there is a data quality loss, a data containment loss and a lack of technological oversight. This is not a new given and even as Cambridge Analytica took it to a much larger setting, they were not alone. I myself almost tried a game once, yet when I saw it wanted my ‘religious preference‘ I decided to have an issue with a game firm that is concerned with my religion. I don’t have any, but that had absolutely no bearing on the game. That made me suspicious and I decided not to install the game. There has been a flaw for the longest of times. That flaw goes all the way back to Zynga’s Farmville. When they started to demanded ‘gifts from friends‘ to progress to some extent in the game, it was not a novel thing (well it was), it was a marketing setting that either you pay for the next item (with buyable currency), or you get your friends to play the game and give it to you, so we saw groups of people all linking, whilst their only link was the social setting of one game and Zynga ended up with the data (to some extent). That requirement is not what I see as ‘social growth’, it is in its foundation a dangerous place because it allows paedophiles access to younger players, it allows white supremacists to hide in a social flock whilst the others in the flock had no idea that the herd is not just made up from sheep, it also contains wolves and other undesirables. The problem is that as long as nothing happened no-one would care and that has been a dangerous game to play. Facebook loved the concept because it grew communities beyond their wildest dreams, but it also gave us groups where we still needed to be careful what data got out, yet the people at large are not careful with their social data. That has been seen since 2011 as Prostitutes were found by several media publications to use Facebook as a customer recruitment system. Now, I don’t care what these ladies do, yet as we have seen that recruiters and HR are using Facebook more and more to ‘judge’ potential employees (and one should never talk to a ‘lady of the night’ in social circles), we see that Facebook has become a monster of abuse and that monster is valued for data, so as more and more data is added, more and more people end up getting wrongfully tainted in a colour that was never them.

So when we see “The CEO also pledged to investigate and audit apps that accessed large amounts of data from Facebook users prior to changes in its platform in 2014, and said that it will inform users if their personally identifiable information was misused by app developers“, we need to realise that the foundation of Facebook apps is a much larger problem, it is not merely about the data they can access, it is the issue we see when the app data itself is open to mining. You see it is not merely “Facebook will investigate all apps that have access to large data and ban developers that misuse identifiable information“, how about apps that merely collect a small amount of data. Now consider that they link the use of apps (like for example Farmville, the Pioneer trail and Cafe World). Now let’s be clear, I am not accusing Zynga of doing anything wrong or illegal. But those three apps allow for ‘free’ currency, when you hit a target in the other game, people start to get very motivated to play 3+ games from the same makers, as it allows for that currency that is not usually free. Consider that each app has 5 demographics and perhaps 3-5 additional stats and these three apps all have 3-5 different stats. So as hundreds of thousands are playing all three apps, the developer suddenly ends up with a much larger pool of data than ever before. Now I use Zynga as it also has real-money gambling games. Now consider that they now have more and more markers on people who gamble. It is the wet dream of any Las Vegas entrepreneur to get that much data on their users, a way to classify those who are more likely to spend more on gambling. This was a setting that has been known for a long time and there is no way to tell how far people ended up being pushed into gambling. I have seen and learned that greed is eternal, so in that regard there is all likelihood that Mark Zuckerberg had to be aware to a much larger extent and that the mistakes made were a lot more than ‘excusable’ and it is one that cannot be solved through apologies and better oversight. Because when we cut those developers off from the data, what are the chances that 70% moves elsewhere? Data was the treasure trove and too many have been dipping their toes in the water. The damage is much larger and even as Cambridge Analytica made it visible to the masses, the issue has been there for a lot longer, the question becomes who properly looked at it. Also consider that games like Farmville had well over 60 million users every month, so how much data made it out of Facebook?

I reckon that no one will actually know that part, but the issue is also how this simple given remained off the radar of so many for so long. I wrote about the sharing of data as early 2013, sharing at the same time my thoughts on how all the NSA data issues were merely hypocrite. Well, now that the fence is gone, good luck containing the sheep, because I expect to see a lot more ‘revelations’ over the coming months.

 

 

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Want to bet on that?

The Guardian released a story last night, it released something a lot more important than you and I initially considered. You see, it intersects with articles I wrote in 2014, yet until today, and as we recently saw the issues that the Bank of England reported on, I now see a part I never considered, because, unless you are a banker it would not make sense. I admit that from the mere consumer point of view it seems like dodgy, even counterproductive to good business. So, I did not consider it, I did not inform you and for that I apologise. The writer of this story did not inform you either, but it was not the focus of her story so Mattha needs not apologise at all. Yet what is happening is a lot more important than you and I think and if I grasp back at what I found in 2014, there is every indication that GCHQ is actually aware of the situation, yet they decided to do nothing, endangering the sanity and social security of thousands of Britons, so should they apologise? Should Robert Hannigan, director of GCHQ apologise? I believe so, he should also get grilled in both houses (Lords and Commons), but that is not for me to decide (life would be so much fun if it was).

So as we are set in this path, let me explain what happened as per last night. Mattha gave us (at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/aug/31/gambling-industry-third-party-companies-online-casinos) the issue ‘how gambling industry targets poor people and ex-gamblers‘ the start is already an explosion of question by themselves. With: “The gambling industry is using third-party companies to harvest people’s data, helping bookmakers and online casinos target people on low incomes and those who have stopped gambling, the Guardian can reveal” we need to ask questions, but let me continue and give you a few more parts on these goods. the next items are “The revelations will add to calls for tighter regulation of the gambling industry more action to address problem gambling after the news on Thursday that online betting firm 888 had been penalised a record £7.8m because more than 7,000 people who had voluntarily banned themselves from gambling were still able to access their accounts“, as well as “The data is often gathered from raffle sites that offer cash prizes and gifts in weekly giveaways, he said. To apply for the prize draws, users must usually provide their name, date of birth, email and address. He claimed raffle companies would then sell the data, something customers have sometimes unwittingly consented to in lengthy terms and conditions agreements. One such site states: “The following sectors [including gambling] are the industry types you can expect to receive products, information, services or special offers from.”“. With these three quotes we have the first part of the equation filled. The article gives a lot more, but for now, here, that is what we need. So we see that people sign up for things they do not understand (we all do that), and for the most the initial thought was harmless enough. I have signed up for free premiere movie tickets, some of us for fashion items or even something as innocuous as a free bottle of perfume or after shave. It seems so harmless and when it comes to products it usually tends to be. Yet when it comes to free trips to certain destinations, for some of us, red flags go up, but at that point it is usually too late, we have already given out our details.

Now, we go back to January 2014. In my blog ‘Diary for a wimpy President‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2014/01/18/diary-for-a-wimpy-president/) I set the stage that includes GCHQ. The setting was theft of IP on a massive scale, yet it was on equal terms the issue we see more common, the theft of personal data. The questions I posed were:

  • Have you identified your organisation’s key information assets and the impact it would have on your organisation if they were compromised or your online services were disrupted? [Alternative: what data is bankable?]
  • Have you clearly identified the key threats to your organisation’s information assets and set an appetite for the associated risks? [Alternative: what data is accessible?]
  • Are you confident that your organisation’s most important information is being properly managed and is safe from cyber threats? [Alternative: the value management of data you think you own]

it came with the footnote: “The alternative are not just views I opt for, consider that the data collection field goes into open commercial hands as it could be presented by March 31st, what are your options to purchase certain buckets of data?

We are now on par in the two sides, my blog three years ago and the new iteration that the Guardian shows. I admit, the Guardian shows a side I never considered before last night. You see, with the quotes we saw mentioned by me, we need to add the third side to what is not a pyramid, but optionally the specific view on a cube, or even more disturbing a buried dipyramid. Now, we cannot expect people to realise that this is happening, but GCHQ knew, there is no way it did not know, and missing that is a career breaker plain and simple. You see, to give you that part, we need to add the following items. The first was seen on August 21st with ‘UK credit and debit card spending ​growing​ at fastest rate since 2008‘. We need to keep a check on the quote “The number of card transactions increased by 12.3% over the year to the end of June, according to the banking trade body UK Finance, coming amid a boom in consumer debt that has been raising alarm bells at the Bank of England. The pace of growth in card payments was 10.6% in the 12 months to the end of December“, the second quote comes from two days ago in the Guardian. Here in the article ‘Credit card lenders ‘targeting people struggling with debt’‘ we see the two parts “Citizens Advice finds almost one in five people struggling with debts have had their card limit raised without request” as well as “Unsecured lending is returning to levels unseen since the 2008 financial crisis, raising alarm bells at the Bank of England that consumers may struggle to repay loans in another economic downturn, thus putting financial stability at risk“. I believed this to be a bad business practise, yet until last night I did not give it the merit it should have had. You see commercial bankers are for the most without a moral compass at best, what if they are joining hands with gambling places that do not care how they get the money? The banker gets the bonus because business was booming and his (or her) moral compass is limited to the cash leaving the door without the use of criminal activity, beyond that they will not care. Yet with hundreds of thousands getting into this scrap. How many gambled the gained credit? How many pushed a chance for instant wealth into a decade of depression without options? The weird part is that GCHQ had to be aware, they are our (mainly the UK) watchdogs and they let this just go on. The questions I asked three years ago show that GCHQ should have been aware and monitoring. If they did not do that, then we have a case of negligence that surpasses the age of MI5 and the Cambridge 5. the funny part in this is that those 5 “were contemporaries at Cambridge University in the 1930s, and were attracted to communism mainly because of the Wall Street crash” and now we see that the same thing is happening for merely the same bloody reason (but those tend to be on the other side of the exploitative equation nowadays), yet now every gambling capitalist gets to enjoy the fallout, or is that out falling?

The evidence?

Yes, some elements will demand the evidence. In my view we merely have to compare the two lists, one showing the unrequested credit rises and the second list are those on the gambling marketing list, with any surpass of 5% being enough to be seen as significant evidence. This now gives two issues, the one is speculative when we go with ‘Is this a shady move for banks to push Brexit out of the way?’ You might think this is conspiracy theory, but is it? How many setbacks can the UK deal with before the banks cry foul and beg for Brexit to be delayed because they are too big to fail? Is it that farfetched? I don’t believe so. The second part is on the location of the location of the gathered online betting location and how these ‘marketing lists‘ all made it out of the UK and in several cases out of the European Union, which now puts the actions (read: non actions) of GCHQ on the firing line of enquiries and inquisitive questions on how they are keeping the people of the UK safe. We might argue (and I would) that people who gamble only have themselves to blame, yet when we see ‘more than 7,000 people who had voluntarily banned themselves from gambling were still able to access their accounts‘, we see that the odds are intentionally stacked against them and I believe that ‘Gambling firm 888 penalised record £7.8m for failing vulnerable customers‘ is a joke, I consider that giving them a £78 million penalty would have been too soft for them, especially as their growth surpassed 63% in 2016. And that is merely ONE gambling holding. The issue is growing at an alarming rate, even as we see how in Australia councils are drawing lines on ‘out of bounds areas‘ whilst with such amazement that the new casino that is currently being built on the order of bad boy jimmy Packard is (with surprising amazement) to be exactly outside certain zoning issues, just like Star Casino, giving him all the freedom he needs and get to play without any level of limitation. Let’s just mark that one up to ‘coincidence‘ shall we?

That example shows a certain complacency between councils and certain playing players and we now see that such levels are apparently happening in the UK for online gambling and we see that there is no way that GCHQ was unaware, we merely need to wonder why there was no political intervention, because that question is becoming more and more important.

Issues, shown from 2014 onwards give rise to non-protectionism of an unacceptable shady character. The act that the Guardian now shows that certain players are given a wide berth of that gives them degrees of freedom that no company in the UK ever gets is also giving questions to the status of banks and lenders and whether we should allow them to operate in the UK. If you wonder about this statement you only have to consider the triggers of bankruptcy, personal insolvency and how it is that these lenders will get paid either way, through either collection or write offs. What happens when they are no longer allowed to write off these bad business actions? What happens when it needs to come from their own ‘profits’ and ‘bonus schemes’? How long until suddenly the online casino’s and lenders walk away and continue that in places where they can exploit all they like?

Can you now see that you are placed in an increasingly difficult place to grow the stability of your family? If not, consider that you might not be the gambler, but you are a member of that bank or lending corporation. If they cannot write off, they will charge you through the services you receive, either through administration fees or interest percentages. You would (and rightly so) complain about these fees, so you want no change, which is what they are banking on and that should not be allowed. The final statement in the article is also important. With “In a longer statement to its investors, the company said it had taken action to fix its self-exclusion systems, which it said arose when customers who self-excluded from some of its brands were able to gamble with others” we are confronted with the question that seeing ‘fix its self-exclusion systems‘. You see, I believe that they never properly worked in the first place; leaving us with the intent that they had too much to lose enforcing ‘self-exclusion‘ which in my book makes them guilty of intentional and reckless corporate negligence.

You see when we consider that courts are less willing to cut off liability due to intent, the scope of Liability in Intentional Torts is now a given. The plaintiff would be entitled to see the entire engineering part of the ‘self-exclusion system’ and with the failing it holds whoever goes after house 888 might have a legal setting to regain all their losses. Yet that is merely one online gambling house. The fact that none of them want to truly cooperate gives rise to the notion that too many players don’t want the broken system to be fixed, not until after they got out of it whatever they could and such a knowledge tends to give consideration that the burden on GCHQ will be higher and needs to be higher. Yet will the burden be unjustly set too high? Because that is the clear direction we seem to be going to and that is equally unjust. In the end it will turn out to be a counterproductive situation.

Are you willing to place a bet on any outcome here?

 

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