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Interview with Sue Schneider - global iGaming expert

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Being a former IGC Chairwoman and Former Editor of RGT-Online, Sue Schneider is a global leader in iGaming and a primary interview target, nine times out of ten. Sue has become the main spokesman for online gambling both to members of the trade and those outside the industry. We're thrilled to give you the chance to partake of her views on the IGC, anti-gambling legislation, and her business projects. This is a reprint of an interview with her. Enjoy!

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Can you tell us about your background?

"I've always felt that Internet gambling prohibition is simply a thinly veiled anti-gaming measure." I have a past life in social service administration, running a youth service agency for 12 years and building programs including an emergency shelter, group home and alternative school for teenagers with problems. During that time, I ran a charitable bingo hall for 6 years. The money was great from bingo, but I hated it...the smoke and crabby players. Loved the public policy work in the job though. Then I did freelance writing, editing, and PR work for 10 years. As an outgrowth of that, I edited the previous print version of Rolling Good Times for two years before starting RGT OnLine in '95. In my spare time, I'm a river rat....meaning we've lived on the Mississippi River since '75 and find it a great spot to have watched my two kids grow up. Now, I can do the same with a new grandson who will undoubtedly love the lifestyle as much as the rest of the family.

Why did you leave RGT-Online?

Hmmmm....good question. My true interest has always been in the business-to-business side of publishing as opposed to a consumer-oriented focus. With increased competition on the consumer side and the enormous potential on the industry side, it was a good time to split things up. Throw in the fact that I only owned 20% of RGT OnLine and there you have it.

Can you tell us a little bit about your new project River City Group, LLC?

Sure, this is my company (although I've graciously offered a nominal interest to my husband of 29 years!). Since we've tracked the interactive gaming industry from day one and developed some expertise, it seemed like a good focus for a company. We're offering Interactive Gaming News, which is a subscription industry publication. We're also offering a host of other services such as desktop conferences, the Interactive Gaming Summit and Expo (June in Vancouver), game/site analysis, market research and online focus groups, consulting, and a number of other services (more details available at River City Group ... my apologies for the shameless promotion).

Do you think that online gambling will be prohibited in the US?

"The most common complaint overall is slow payment from the operators." I think that Senator Kyl may again be successful in getting the Senate to pass some prohibition legislation. But, I also think the House of Representatives will be more knowledgeable about and sensitive to general Internet freedom issues and to states' right which are trampled on with a federal prohibition.

If there is a passage of a bill, it will certainly be challenged. If so, when?

Senator Kyl is expected to reintroduce his bill sometime, possibly, in February or March, '99. As of now, we're not sure if and when a companion bill will be introduced in the House. That's the big question. Now that the idea of prohibition is getting some support from the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, it's clear that Internet gambling will be the type of gambling (along with tribal gaming) that will be a good scapegoat. I've always felt that Internet gambling prohibition is simply a thinly veiled anti-gaming measure. But, with other more traditional land-based gaming companies getting into the game, it changes the dynamics a bit.

Will the ban be enforceable?

No, it will not...even by admission of the US Department of Justice in the analysis they did for Senator Leahy in 1998. The only way it will be marginally enforceable is if they get very intrusive into the online lives of the US players. From a privacy standpoint, that's not realistic.

What consequences do you think prohibition will have on the online gambling industry in general?

If there's a prohibition law passed in the US, there may be a chilling effect at first. But, given the mainstream companies getting involved with online gaming globally, it would be a temporary blip on the radar screen in the big scheme of things. Definitely. I like to make the distinction between regulation of the Internet, which by its nature is not feasible, and regulation of the gaming products which can and should be regulated. It's important to develop good standards for such items as solvency or ability to pay the players, game testing for fairness, background checks, controls to address problem gambling, etc. Clearly, if jurisdictions in first world countries like Australia have successfully figured out ways to handle this, it can be done. And, for consumer protections, it should be done...the sooner, the better.

What does the IGC do to protect online players from unscrupulous operators?

In March of 1999, the Interactive Gaming Council is launching its Seal of Compliance with the established Code of Conduct for scrupulous gaming operators. This will give players an opportunity to distinguish among the some 280 sites that currently offer live wagering online. It also offers a dispute resolution process for players who may have problems with a member who displays the Seal. There are currently only 55 members in the IGC.

Does that mean that operators who are not members of the IGC are not as legitimate as the ones who are?

First of all, there are 280 sites online currently but not as many operators since there are a growing number of "gateways,""clones," or "faces"....different front ends leading to the same operator. But, to answer your question, I don't think it means the rest are not legitimate. I think the large majority of the operators out there are scrupulous but either are not yet aware of the IGC or have chosen not to join at this point. I expect that to change once the Seal of Compliance program is operational and there is a clearer advantage gained from membership.

What is the most common complaint the IGC receives from players?

"I would also add a compliment to CasinoWire. You guys are doing a fine job of adding great features for the consumer and the industry alike." I've been fielding complaints for three plus years at RGT OnLine as well as through the Interactive Gaming Council chairmanship. The IGC gets complaints on lots of non-members and a few on members. The most common complaint overall is slow payment from the operators. Nine times out of ten this is easily rectified once it's communicated to the online gaming management. In other cases, it's a function of the players not being familiar with the cashout process. They typically say, "They took my money in 30 seconds...why does it takes weeks to get the money back." The industry could use some better player education on those processes and what the limitations are placed on it by the credit card companies and other outside influences.

Do you have any comments to add?

Well, I guess I'd say that the online casino industry is really moving along more quickly than I might have predicted...even a year ago. With the entry of some of the big guys, I think they'll up the ante for the regulatory mechanisms to be developed more quickly. What that'll mean for the early entrepreneurs is uncertain. It will still take some time, so there's time to build brand and build niche markets for the small guys while the traditional companies, especially in the US, are forced to watch from the sidelines. But, it certainly is an interesting industry....I can say that. And quite an opportunity, from a journalistic standpoint, to be able to document it from the beginning. I would also add a compliment to CasinoWire. You guys are doing a fine job of adding great features for the consumer and the industry alike. When I was at RGT OnLine, I thought you'd give us a run for our money and I was right. You've got a great site there, so keep up the good work. Previous Guests:

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