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English Harbour Statement
May 5, 2006
To the Internet Gambling Community, from Michael Shackleford (the Wizard of Odds)
As a professional mathematician, one of the services I provide is evaluation of the logs of online casinos to ensure fair play, though I stopped taking new clients for this service a few years ago. One of my existing clients is Odds On, which provides the software for English Harbour casino among others. On April 29, 2006, a player posted at CasinoMeister.com that he lost more frequently than expected on the double-up feature when playing video poker at English Harbour. This was brought to my attention on May 2 by both Bryan Bailey of CasinoMeister and English Harbor Management. As soon as I found out about this I immediately requested detailed logs from English Harbor in order to analyze them. In preparing the log files for me, Odds On themselves discovered anomalies in the double-up records. When I received the logs and analyzed them I was able to confirm that the double-up on video poker did indeed pay out less than it should have between April 13 and May 2. According to English Harbor problem was caused by a buggy software update on April 13, which was automatically corrected by a subsequent update on May 2.
Readers might understandably wonder how English Harbor can claim that I review their logs for fairness if a problem like this can arise without my knowing about it. The answer is that I do the analysis monthly, and though players noticed the problem in April, I would not normally see the April data until mid May. This underscores the important point that my auditing service can not guarantee that players will get a mathematically fair game at every given instant. I can only attest to the fairness and return percentages in the past.
Although both English Harbor and myself believe that April 13 to May 2 was the only period affected we will be scrutinizing earlier logs to make sure, and will be monitoring future play closely.
The following table shows the results of all double or nothing bets in real play mode from April 1 to May 3.
Summary of Double-Up Bets
Win Ratio = ratio of wins to sum of wins and losses.
English Harbor management tells me that they plan to reimburse each and every player who made a double or nothing bet during the period affected with his/her net loss on those bets over affected period. This offer will apply to all casinos using Odds On software. In addition, as a show of their regret for this mistake, they will add 20% to each player's reimbursement.
Michael Shackleford, A.S.A.
The following statement was posted the same day by English Harbour Management.
First and foremost, the English Harbour Group would like to formally apologize for the error in the software release that caused this situation. We hold in high regard all our players and respect for the Internet Gaming industry. We feel it is important for players to understand what happened, what went on during the investigation, how it was resolved and our compensation to affected players.
The issue was caused by a bug in the software staging release on the later part of the day April 13 and went unnoticed. On May 2 we had a maintenance release that during the course of our investigation seemed to have corrected the problem. When we were alerted of the claim, we ran through several trials and also simulations. We checked randomness of the distribution of cards in the doubling game over different time periods and nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. We then did an interim posting on Casinomeister. We continued the investigation and sought the audit services of Michael Shackleford. Michael asked for the log files and we fully complied to his request. As part of the delivery of the log files to Michael, we noticed an issue that seemed to have spanned the later two weeks of April. We mentioned this to Michael as we continued to work with him. Through Michael's investigation, he concurred with our observations and was able help quantify the variance in the odds.
Michael continues to be a key part of our governance and fair game play strategy.
We discussed player compensation with Michael and we will be refunding affected players on the net loss on the doubling game plus an additional 20% of their net loss. Players will be receiving an email as well as a message within the casino itself shortly.
The English Harbour Group would like to thank the Casinomeister forum members for bringing this issue to our attention and their patience while we dealt with this issue.
The English Harbour Group Management Team
The following addendum was made by myself on May 15, 2006.
After I made a statement about the software bug affecting the double-up feature at Odds On (the name of the software used by several casinos, including the English Harbour) casinos, players wanted to know how the bug occurred. This is an addendum to my statement to answer that question.
When players started asking for details about the bug I asked Odds On for a copy of the source code, and they sent it to me immediately. The code is at a higher level than I write myself and Odds On made their programmer available to answer my questions in deciphering it. The problem was that the video poker double up bonus round was calling a second bonus routine that was still under development. This bonus routine is very similar to the bonus games found in their slot machines.
In slot machine bonus rounds the prizes are sometimes drawn from a pool, and the smaller prizes have a greater probability of being chosen than the larger ones. This is achieved by associating each prize with a weighting factor and is standard in bonus game designs. When married to the video poker game, the result was that the player had a greater probability of drawing the smaller cards. As I've mentioned before, this problem was automatically corrected in the software on May 2.
Based on what on Odds On has shared with me, their complete cooperation, and my six-year open and honest relationship with them, it is my firm opinion that indeed the problem was an accidental human error.
I absolutely do not believe that on Odds On would attempt to cheat their players in such a blatant manner, since it would be so quickly and easily discovered — which is exactly what happened in this case. No professional casino willingly goes down that road. Besides the risk to their reputation, there is also the money they're out by paying a consolation prize to affected players on top of reimbursing their losses.
Written by: Michael Shackleford