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APCW Audits: Vegas Affiliates

22 Feb 2008

PREFACE:

The Association of Players, Casinos, and Webmasters (APCW.org) has been serving the online gaming community since 2003. One of the many ways we seek to help improve our industry is by conducting audits of casino and affiliate programs over a variety of criteria which measure the player experience and webmaster relationship as they relate to issues of customer service and integrity.


APCW AUDITS - VEGAS AFFILIATES / MINI VEGAS GROUP / VEGAS VIP LOUNGE

The APCW has concluded an audit and investigation of the Vegas Affiliates Casino Properties, which are owned by the Mini Vegas Group. Vegas Affiliates manages the affiliate program for seven of the Mini Vegas properties: Colosseum Casino, Grand Hotel Casino, Vegas Slot Casino, Vegas Country Casino, Royal Plaza Casino, Vegas Joker Casino and Vegas 7 Casino.

It should be understood that the Mini Vegas Group also owns Floridita Club Casino, Grand Casino Venice, and Vegas Poker Casino.

It should also be noted that the Vegas VIP Lounge sends traffic to the Mini Vegas Group, and Vegas VIP Lounge promoted the same seven casino properties as Vegas Affiliates. However, Vegas VIP Lounge does not work with webmasters. That's the purpose of Vegas Affiliates.


INTRODUCTION:

The APCW had received several member and non-member complaints about the Vegas Affiliates group regarding players receiving unwanted pop-ups while on their casino sites, prompting them to worry about covert spyware installation.Webmaster concerns focused on the integrity of the tracking of the traffic send to Vegas Affiliates, and the accuracy of their statistical interface.


AUDITS:

The audit began when the auditor cleaned his machine by running Spyware Doctor, cleaning his cache of all cookies and files, and searching his registry to ensure there were no previous items in place that could affect or override or interfere with the Vegas Affiliates tracking. He then conducted two (2) separate audits of the Vegas Affiliates program:

AUDIT ONE: The first began on Monday, February 18th, 2008 when an Auditor visited the Vegas 7 Casino via the link of a Vegas Affiliates partner webmaster. The Auditor downloaded and installed the software and registered an account. Upon exiting the casino site, our Auditor was met with a pop up from the Slot.tv ad service. This service allows the user viewing the pop to scroll through various properties in a pre-set order. The only way Slots.tv would have served this exit pop was if the code was on the Vegas 7 Casino page, due to the fact that the Auditors machine was free of spyware, and because our investigation of Slot.tv finds that they are not predatory but only work when a user opens an account and enters the code onto their website. Also, we were able to generate this pop up four separate times using the exact same navigation path.
The Auditor then used the Slot.tv generated page to Grand Hotel Casino to download the software, but he did not install. He then exited the site, acquired the affiliated link to the same Grand Hotel Casino, and returned to the site. This time our Auditor downloaded and installed the software, then registered an account. According to Vegas Affiliates, their statistical tracking counts clicks to casinos via affiliate links, completed downloads, and newly registered accounts even if the player does not make a real money deposit.

AUDIT ONE ISSUES: The initial visit to the Vegas 7 Casino and the download of the software did track correctly. However, the newly registered account had not shown in the statistics as of February 22nd, 2008, which was three and a half days later. Vegas Affiliates claims their stats update every 24 hours.

The traffic to the Grand Hotel Casino via the Slot.tv page never showed on the statistics, even though the original traffic was webmaster generated.

The second visit to the Grand Hotel Casino via the affiliated link never showed on the statistics as of February 22nd, 2008. The download and the new player account from that visit also never appeared on the report, which clearly shows that the cookie (or other tracking method) associated with the Slot.tv pop up took precedent over the affiliated links. this is especially disturbing because Vegas Affiliates generated that pop up and the Auditor, just like a real player, would have no choice but to have that cookie forced into their cache.

Additionally, no hits to any of the Slot.tv sites the Auditor scrolled through appeared on the statistical tracking page. And three sites owned by the Mini Vegas Group (Floridita Club Casino, Grand Casino Venice, and Vegas Poker Casino) were also in the Slot.tv rotation. There is no way a webmaster will ever receive credit for a converted player to those sites and, in fact, those sites do not offer an affiliate program at all. Two of those three sites also carry copyright notices dating back to 2002, with no current copyright notice past 2005. A player to these sites should take note that they have not cared enough to update their front pages in almost three (3) years.

AUDIT TWO: The audit began audit two by making certain all software was un-installed, his machine was clean by running Spyware Doctor, clearing his cache of all cookies and files, and searching his registry to ensure there were no previous items in place that could affect or override or interfere with the Vegas Affiliates tracking. He then visited a Vegas Affiliate promoted site, the Royal Plaza Casino, via an affiliated link. While navigating the site he was met with a small pop-up on the banking page which discussed deposit methods for those having difficulty. When that pop-up window was manually closed, another pop-up appeared. This pop-up was a full page on the Vegas VIP Lounge website, with banners and links to all the casinos which both they and Vegas Affiliates promote.

The Auditor elected to click through the Vegas Country Casino on the Vegas VIP Lounge pop-up page. He downloaded and installed the software, then registered an account.

AUDIT TWO ISSUES: The original traffic via the affiliate link to Royal Plaza Casino tracked correctly.

The subsequent traffic, download, and real account to Vegas Country Casino via the Vegas VIP Lounge never showed on the affiliates statistical interface as of February 22nd, 2008, a full three (3) and a half days later.
Also, an examination of the HTML code for the pop up window generated by the Royal Plaza clearly shows that the exit pop-up for Vegas VIP Lounge was deliberate.


CONCLUSION:

It is not at all clear if Vegas Affiliates is responsible for this predation of affiliate traffic, or if the Mini Vegas Group programed these items into the casinos themselves. In either event it is unacceptable from a webmaster / affiliate program working relationship built on trust. We advise all casino affiliates to consider a less predatory group of programs to partner with.

Casino Players visiting these properties should have great concern that the company accepting their gaming deposits takes no issue with the hijacking of income from their "partners". We advise all players to use caution when considering where to give their business.

Auditors also tested their machines for spyware after each casino visit and found none.
 
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