Every online casino or gambling site tells you that their games are safe, fair, and random. But they don’t ask you to take their word for it: each site you visit always references independent labs or agencies that have tested their games and systems, conducting audits to verify that no shady business is going on behind the scenes.
This independent verification is critical for players to have trust in the sites they play on, mainly when real money is on the line. But how much do you know about these groups that are doing these tests? Many reputable labs are in the testing business, and even if you’ve heard their names, chances are you know little about their work.
UK Test Agencies – Technical Standards and Compliance Testing
By now if you have not mastered the skill of telling a regulated online casino from an unregulated one, which, let me remind you, starts with finding the seal of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) on their site. However, that’s not all you could do to make sure that your time spent gaming is as safe and, thus, as profitable as possible. What we’re referring to is, of course, the topic of accredited test houses. If those don’t ring a bell or if you aren’t sure what we’re talking about, make sure you keep on reading for this vital information might save your life. Well, not to be too dramatic, but it could make or break your player account.
About Test Houses
As we all know, the UKGC is the highest regulating body in gaming in Britain. Though, they do not work alone. Certain testing houses help the Commission make sure that the operators obey to a strict set of rules not only when applying for a license but all through the active license period. Since the Gambling Commission holds transparency, you can easily find out who those houses are by looking at the list of approved agencies on their website. Those select few have gone through detailed testing themselves. We’ll tell you all about the certification process and who those agencies are but first let’s look into what their job is exactly.
What Do They Do?
So, what do these agencies do? Well, their job is simple, yet very significant – they are entrusted with the monitoring and regular testing of any operator in control of an active UKGC license. All those licensees are obliged to undergo frequent tests and submit the respective reports to the Commission. Part of the job is to make sure that the RNG of a casino is fair and random and that live dealer games are legitimate as well. In a way, the testing agencies have a two-phase responsibility to instruct and inform their customer operators and to test and make sure they comply with the UKGC rules and regulations. Naturally, not everyone can do that. The gaming test labs that can do that have been carefully selected and put to the test. Let’s see how that goes.
To become a UKGC-approved test house, one must first have typical values and reliability. Then, they are supposed to be fully aware and competent about the Commission’s regulations. Also, they must be economically independent and thus nip any possibility of getting influenced by big-money companies in the bud. If all those requirements are fulfilled, a prospective lab needs to acquire a license from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). At this point, permission from an equivalent international body that testifies their technical competence would also do. Only then are they ready to submit their application to the UKGC for consideration. Though, applying does not necessarily mean they would be approved.
The main areas covered for Games testing are the following:
- Confirm that cards, reel numbers, dice, balls etc are random and fair (see more details about RNG testing in the page for RNG Testing & Certification)
- Game rules evaluation to verify that game-play corresponds to the rules of the game
- Return to Player (RTP) calculation for each game (applicable for single player games)
- Functional testing of games – includes testing for correct game operation, controlled testing of games, verification of game logs, testing of game interruptions etc.
- Tournaments testing – Single-player and Multiplayer
- Evaluation of collision detection and prevention mechanisms (applicable for multiplayer games such as Multiplayer Poker)
- Verification of system reports – performance reports for games, player reports, payment reports
Gaming Test Labs – Who Are They?
Now that we’ve looked at what test houses do, how they get their accreditation, and what their role in gaming is, you’re probably wondering who those anonymity agencies are. Well, we’re not going to keep you waiting, and we’ll with this present the ones that are relevant to the UK iGaming industry.
Why They Exist?
Online casinos are just a bit different from their brick and mortar counterparts. In a physical casino, it is much harder to get one over on an unsuspecting customer because they can see, touch, and feel everything that is going on. If a ball is spun around the roulette wheel, they can see the exact moment the ball leaves the dealer’s hand to the moment it comes to rest on a single colored, numbered slot. When playing the same game online, a digital ball will appear and will eventually stop somewhere on your screen. Though you see that the wheel is spinning, you know that the game in front of you is not being acted upon by gravity, but by long lines of code written in a specific sequence to show you a spinning roulette wheel.
Agencies that monitor the fairness of games at online casinos exist to help ease the mind of the consumer. Because you can never be sure that the game you are playing is fair, these agencies test after test to ensure that the game is not set up in such a way that the casino wins every time or even a disproportionate amount of times.
Before fairness agencies came into being, there was a lot of cynicism across the industry. Even though people wanted to trust everything that an online casino was telling them, it became unfeasible to do that mostly because they had no way of knowing whether the game they were playing was fair or not. Nowadays, you will be hard-pressed to find even one US online casino that does not have their games commonly tested for fairness and randomness. While some sites will have their games checked only once a year, the more prominent names in the industry will have their game offering continually monitored to ensure that customers are receiving a top-notch playing experience. When it comes down to it, these companies exist for that reason and that reason only. If players are not enjoying their time at an online casino, the fact of the matter is that they are not likely to return. This is why online casinos do everything in their power to encourage customers and potential customers alike that they are operating within the standards that have been set across not only the online casino industry but the brick and mortar industry as well. Because after all, brick and mortar casinos also have their games regularly tested for fairness as well.
Here’s a look at some of the largest organizations that test and analyze games in the online gambling industry.
Probably the most renowned agency is eCOGRA or, as the full name goes, e-commerce Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance. It is not only globally approved but also includes over a dozen jurisdictions. Established in 2003, eCOGRA is based in the UK. It has been awarded the United Kingdom Accreditation Service’s (UKAS) ISO accreditation ISO/IEC 17025:2005, which allows them to offer their services in the UK and Denmark.
- Gaming Laboratories International
Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) is another very popular testing house, the logo of which UK players can often see on casino websites. It was founded in 1989 in the USA with the aim of testing land-based casinos. Through the years, the company has established many more offices around the world, and, naturally, has got involved in online gambling as well. They were certified by the UKGC in 2008.
- Technical Systems Testing
Technical Systems Testing (TST) has been a GLI company since 2010. Yet, it was founded much earlier – in 1993. It goes without saying that they are one of the most experienced test labs in the world. They make use of their labs distributed around the world to offer timely testing services to both online and offline casinos. They also provide consultations on technical safety and observance for casino operators.
- iTech Labs
iTech Labs is an ISO/IEC 17025 certified testing laboratory, which is based in Australia. Though, their location should not bother you as they are dedicated to online gaming only. They have over 10 years of experience of testing all kinds of casino games and platforms. With their 2014 accreditation from UKGC, they have become the latest test house added to monitor casino sites in the UK.
- Gaming Associates
Since 1990, Gaming Associates (GA) has been offering their help to companies in the betting industry since 1990, and the group says that their consultants were among the early pioneers in the regulation of Internet gambling. GA not only provides testing for randomness and compliance with rules but also looks at player logs for poker sites to help protect users by detecting collusion and ensuring that games are conducted fairly.
SQS (Software Quality Systems) is one of the world’s largest software quality specialists, having been active in the industry for more than 30 years. The group was first formed in Germany back in 1982, but now operates in nations throughout the world, and includes some of the world’s largest brands among its clients – including many major German firms like Volkswagen and Deutsche Post. While their work in gaming is just a small part of their overall business, they have worked with large companies in the Internet gambling world in order to ensure that real money games meet quality, fairness, and regulatory standards.
Look for the Seal of an Approved Testing House
Agencies that test for fairness will be, on occasion, related to the licensing company, and this is not always the case. Whether they are related entities or not, the fairness organization serves one primary purpose to ensure that randomized casino games are, in fact, random and not geared to hand the casino money over and over again merely. Online games like slots, roulette, and craps are just a few of the many games that are regularly tested for fairness and randomness. After all, staring at a spinning roulette wheel on your computer screen is a bit different than watching one spin on the floor of a brick and mortar casino. As such, you want to be sure that the game you are wagering on is fair and offers you a legitimate chance of winning money. Both of the two entities talked about above exist to protect you and your online casino playing experience.
Every player has wondered about the safety of their personal and financial information at a certain point. There are even those who have given up on the idea of playing online. Alarming examples of people not being able to withdraw their winnings and others having their data shared with a third party only make things worse. However, those horror stories could never have taken place at a site that is regulated and 100% legal to play at. Any online casino that fulfills those requirements has undergone thorough initial testing to receive its UKGC license. Besides, as you can see from above, operators are continually monitored and tested, with reports being regularly published. So, as long as your casino site has the seal of a UKGC compliance testing agency, the player interests are taken care of and you can rest assured that operator is fair, safe, and legal.