The running fight between Online Gambling affiliates and the Grand Prive group over alleged non-payment of commissions following the group's affiliate program closure in December 2008 is almost certain to enter a new and more volatile phase following developments this week.
InfoPowa readers will recall that late last (2009) year the independent standards and player protection non-profit eCOGRA became involved in the dispute when it offered to deploy its experienced professional accountants in an impartial investigation into the defunct Grand Prive Affiliate Program as a gratis "service to the industry".
eCOGRA chief executive Andrew Beveridge said at the time that, subject to the full cooperation of Grand Prive management, the objective would be to once and for all carry out a full on-site investigation of the available data in order to arrive at a fair and reasonable resolution of the dispute between GP and its erstwhile affiliates.
Grand Prive management subsequently gave its assurances of full cooperation, the investigation was widely communicated, and some 58 claims were submitted by affiliates.
By early February eCOGRA had made public its report on the issue, detailing its methodology and findings, which included compensatory recommendations for some 26 claimants that included an "average life of player" adjustment.
Almost immediately, Grand Prive began making the recommended payouts, but a growing clamour from affiliates indicated that there was widespread discontent and serious reservations regarding the accuracy of the payments.
Valid questions were raised regarding the information made available to eCOGRA, and after dialogue with affiliates, Beveridge undertook to further investigate with Grand Prive to clarify the situation.
This week, eCOGRA issued a brief statement indicating that its hands were now tied by a puzzling refusal to cooperate further by Grand Prive. The carefully worded eCOGRA statement was as follows:
We have noted your concern raised as to the adequacy of the settlement amount recommended by the eCOGRA investigators.
We would like to emphasise that our mandate from Grand Prive was to review all records provided by the company in respect of the Grand Prive Affiliate Program software and related database. We were not requested to review any other affiliate program system or information, nor were we made aware of any other system or pertinent information.
We are confident that the settlement amounts have been correctly calculated based on our mandate and the affiliate and player data provided to us by Grand Prive at the time of the review. Regrettably we cannot legally perform any further investigation work into this matter unless mandated by Grand Prive management. Such a mandate has not to date been forthcoming.
Whilst the statement is open to speculation, there is a clear implication that eCOGRA is prepared to carry the investigation to a conclusion but has been prevented from doing so by Grand Prive refusing to cooperate further. Why GP would take this ill-advised line is not known.
Grand Prive had not issued any statements on the issue by the time InfoPowa went to press, and it is intriguing to say the least that the much maligned online casino group has put the emergency brakes on at such a late stage of the enquiry, when it appeared that a fair and reasonable resolution was a real possibility.
Speculation has centred on the possibility that either by ommission or commission GP failed to present all relevant data to the eCOGRA investigators, leaving them working unknowingly with incomplete data after an historic change in affiliate programs in previous years...thus generating a skewed result.
If that were engineered knowingly by GP, it would be a cynical and dishonest act of serious proportions that, it could be argued, endangered the professional reputation of eCOGRA, which now has to withdraw with the frustration of an inconclusive investigation.
It appears likely that this latest disappointment will rekindle the furore over the Grand Prive Affiliate Program closure, along with further affiliate black listings and decisions by affiliates to avoid referring players to GP.
How, or even if, this industry scandal can be resolved remains a complex puzzle for now.