Top Game Voyager’s Quest

It is summer time and people are traveling away to foreign lands for holidays. There are several online video slot games that are based on the holiday theme. The similarity between these games is such that players often tend to mix them up. But this will not happen with the holiday themed slot game from the leading online casino software provider Top Game. The game is appropriately titled Voyager’s Quest. It does have similarities with other slots of this genre but it is the uniqueness that counts in the end.

There are two types of symbols generally used in holiday themed slot games. One type is popular tourist landmarks and the other is the means of travel used in holidays. Top Game Voyager’s Quest uses both these types of symbols. The higher paying symbols are the tourist landmarks, which are the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben of London and Eiffel Tower of Paris. The lower paying symbols are air balloon, steam engine, ocean liner, stage coach and car, which cover both early and modern means of travel. What makes these symbols unique is the caricatured way they are crafted. This along with the bright colors and lively background music will put the player in the perfect mood for the holiday. And the operating buttons of the Top Game Voyager’s Quest slot game are depicted as items of baggage all packed up and ready to go.

As is the practice with Top Game online video slots there are three special symbols in Voyager’s Quest. The airplane is the wild symbol and it also offers the highest jackpot line payout of 9,000 coins. When it assists in making a winning combination it flies around a globe. The open suitcase filled with gold coins is the scatter symbol. When this symbol appears at the same time on reels 1 and 5 players are awarded five spree spins. The compass is the bonus symbol.

What sets Top Game Voyager’s Quest apart from the other slot games of this genre is the bonus game on the second screen. The bonus game is triggered when the compass symbol appears simultaneously on reels 2, 3 and 4 of an active payline. The objective of the bonus game is to reach the ship by using the car, train, boat and plane on different legs of the journey before it embarks from the port. There is a maximum of 3,600 points up for grabs in this bonus game.

The bonus game is a visual delight. The first leg of the journey shows a number of roads from the home to the station and the player has to choose one. The car moves along the chosen road and as it reaches the station it discloses the credits awarded. The second leg of the journey shows a number of rail tracks from the station to the water ways. Similarly there are a number of water ways and finally a number of flight paths. Each choice sets off the animated journey and awards bonus credits. There are booby traps on the way. If a player chooses a wrong path on any leg he will crash out and miss the ship, but will keep the bonus points accumulated till then.


US Federal Online Gambling in 2011

There has been a lot of action in the field of online gambling legislation and the enforcement thereof in the United States in 2011. The swings in the hopes and expectations have been volatile and the year end is a good time to take stock of things.

The event with the greatest impact was Black Friday. On Friday April 14 the Department of Justice (DoJ) acted against three of the biggest online poker sites in the United States. These were Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker. The bank accounts and American domain names of these poker sites were seized making it impossible for American players to access them. The owners of these sites were charged with financial irregularities, mainly processing funds for online gambling by giving wrong declarations to banks so as to avoid detection under the UIGEA.

It was known since some time in 2010 that the authorities were keeping a tab on these online poker rooms and preparing a dossier on them, but yet the online poker fraternity was caught by surprise when this happened. As is usual in these circumstances, conspiracy theories began to do the rounds. The big land casino operators had begun to realize that they needed to go online in order to survive. However because of the massive brand equity of these three online poker rooms they would not get much of market share in a legalized online poker environment. Also it was claimed that those who were currently operating “illegally”, while the others followed the law and stayed away from online gambling, had no place in a legalized regime. However, this could have been achieved by simply refusing to license existing players and therefore the conspiracy theory did not get much support.

But the fact remains that even after Black Friday the big online and land based gambling operators began to execute strategies that indicated their belief that legalization of online gambling was around the corner. These strategies mainly revolved around acquisitions, mergers and partnerships made to strengthen brand equity and capabilities in a legalized and regulated online gambling regime. Though fresh attempts were made to bring in legislation allowing online gambling, they were not pursued with vigor.

Then another announcement was made by the DoJ, again on a Friday. But this one, issued on December 23, was seen in the nature of a Christmas present. The DoJ reinterpreted the Wire Act as applying only to sports betting and not to other forms of online gambling. Even though the Black Friday cases were not under the Wire Act several earlier high profile prosecutions had been made under the Wire Act. The DoJ also averred that individual states could take a call on the legalization of all forms of online gambling except sports betting. The DoJ statement was silent on the current legality of online gambling at the federal level.

The question is whether this announcement is a first step in the direction of a federal legal structure to regulate online gambling or is it an expression of the intent of the authorities that each state should have its own regulatory mechanism. Given the nature of Internet gambling both operators and players would prefer federal regulation where a player from New Jersey can wager at a site hosted in Nevada. But many states have also made significant progress in passing legislation on intrastate gambling and this statement from the DoJ will definitely give them a boost.

Number Of Decks Strategy

The standard dictum in online blackjack is that fewer decks result in lower house edges and higher average returns to the player. Hence players are encouraged to opt for online blackjack games with fewer decks where the choice is available. But this is true only of the bare blackjack variants with no side bets. Once side bets come into play the strategy could change. How this happens is illustrated using a new blackjack game titled Suit ‘Em Up Blackjack launched at Realtime Gaming online casinos.

A bit about the rules of Suit ‘Em Up Blackjack needs to be said first. The side bet is assessed independent of the main game and it wins if the first two cards dealt to the player are of the same suit. Two aces of the same suit pay 60 to 1. A blackjack with both cards from the same suit pays 10 to 1. Two suited cards of the same rank, other than aces, pay 5 to 1. Two cards from the same suit totalling to 11 pay 3 to 1. Any other two suited cards pay 2 to 1.

Suit ‘Em Up Blackjack gives you a choice from 2, 6 or 8 decks. Suppose that you go by the normal strategy and opt for two decks. This gives you 4 ways to make suited aces, 64 ways for a suited blackjack, 48 ways for a suited pair, 64 ways for a suited 11 and 1120 ways any other suited cards out of a total of 5356 combinations. A simple mathematical calculation gives the house edge as 9.4%. This is suicidal by any standards.

Now let us see what happens if we opt for six decks. This gives you 60 ways to make suited aces, 576 ways for a suited blackjack, 720 ways for a suited pair, 576 ways for a suited 11 and 10080 ways any other suited cards out of a total of 48516 combinations. The probabilities of getting suited aces and suited pairs increase markedly, while the probabilities of other winning combinations remain more or less the same. This brings down the house edge to 3.4%. A similar exercise shows that the house edge with eight decks will fall to 2.7%.

There is a conflict of choice between the main game and the side bet. The house edge for the main game would increase from about 0.18% for two decks to about 0.43% for eight decks. This is minuscule when compared to the gain you get in the side bet. So the choice is clear for Suit ‘Em Up Blackjack.

Microgaming Online Slots Series

One way to increase the brand equity for online slots games is to relate them in some manner to other slots games. Then each reinforces the popularity of the other to mutual benefit. The software provider Microgaming has mastered the art of this concept and over the last few years has been releasing slots games in series.

One of the earliest examples of Microgaming online slots series is the Sneak A Peek set. Two Sneak A peek games were launched in August 2007, the titles being Doctor Doctor and Hunky Heroes. Doctor Doctor featured sexy females from the medical profession whereas Hunky Heroes displayed macho men from various professions. The ribald nature of these games culminated in a bonus game on the second screen. One of the characters figured in this game. Players had to locate matching pieces of apparel worn by the character in order to disrobe him or her. In February 2011 Microgaming released the third slot game of this series titled Planet Exotica. It featured alien strippers in a galactic night club.

Another popular Microgaming online slots series is Retro Reels. The first game in the series titled Retro Reels was released in December 2010. As the name ‘Retro’ suggests the focus was on displaying the classical slots symbols like fruits, sevens and bars in a video slot format. Simultaneously Microgaming introduced an innovative and interactive feature called Respin. After a spin players can re-spin any one reel at the extra cost displayed. The second slot game in the series titled Diamond Glitz was launched in January 2011. The graphics were glitzier and the sevens were replaced by diamonds. The third game titled Extreme Heat went live in March 2011. The symbols were given a red hot flaming background and the reels were aflame when spinning.

An online slots series somewhat similar is Power Spins. The similarity is limited to the use of classic slots symbols. For an extra bet the Power Spins feature offered an additional paying opportunity. In the first Power Spins slot game titled Sonic 7s, which was released in May 2011, each wild symbol doubled the payouts. Atomic 8s was released in February 2012. If the Power Spins feature was activated, symbols on enabled paylines paid left to right as usual but also right to left. In Nuclear 9s, which went live in March 2012, the symbols in winning combinations faded away and were replaced by fresh ones resulting in another chance for receiving payouts.

Online casino wagering is an adult activity but there are slots games based on children’s themes. The Rhyming Reels series of Microgaming slots depicts popular nursery rhymes. The first slot game titled Queen of Hearts was released in February 2011. The symbols include the Queen who made the tarts and the knave who stole them. The Queen does not have the dour look usually found in the nursery rhyme books but appears with plenty of sex appeal. To add to the glamour are a couple of waitresses carrying trays of tarts. Old King Cole went live in March 2012. Like the Queen, the King too has been given a makeover. His pipe has been replaced by a hookah and his three fiddlers by young and groovy female guitarists.

The latest series of Microgaming online slots is Untamed. The slots feature endangered species in their natural habitat. The two slots released so far are Bengal Tiger and Giant Panda. The slot games have an abundance of gaming features as well. The most popular of these is Your Gamble. This gamble game allows players to set their own combination of risk and return.

Blackjack Bankroll Management

The game of blackjack is well-known for attracting a lot of serious players who are looking to minimize the house advantage and maximize their own chances of winning. A good combination of taking advantage of bonuses and of managing your bankroll in a smart way can help you to boost your chances of coming out on top. We’re going to cover these topics here to give you an opportunity to learn some tips that you might not be aware of otherwise. Follow these ideas to get the leg up on the casinos and improve your opportunities to win.

When it comes to bankroll management in blackjack, it really comes down to two things: variance and house advantage. The larger the house advantage, the more bets you need in your bankroll. Most blackjack games have a fairly low variance, so this isn’t really an issue. Along these lines, you’ll want to have a minimum number of bets of at least 300 and as many as 500 when you play. To give you an idea of what this means, divide your bankroll by 300 for an example. This figure you get should always be higher than any bet size that you use in the real money games.

Promotions are a big part of increasing your value at blackjack games, but you have to make sure to pick up the right ones. What you’ll want to do is use a combination of loyalty program points and the best bonuses available to increase your bankroll, but remember that it’s not all about the biggest deal. With blackjack in particular, a high match percentage doesn’t mean much unless you have good terms and conditions to go with it, so look at the wagering requirements and game restrictions before caring about anything else.

Another note on bonuses: You want to stick to cashable bonus offers only for blackjack. In games like slots where you can play for a go big or go home strategy, non-cashable bonuses don’t make much difference. However, non-cashable bonus offers are borderline useless for online blackjack fans. It might take you some time to research and find the best deals at sites with the blackjack styles you want to play, but this is the work that it takes to maximize your chances of being a winning blackjack player in the online casino world.

Anti UIGEA Bill

Last week US representative Barney Frank introduced a bill that seeks to overturn the UIGEA. The UIGEA was introduced by the Bush administration and has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Frank’s Bill, if passed, will rectify the disasters caused by the UIGEA.

One of the aggrieved parties is the European Union. Because of the UIGEA the European online gaming operators have lost out on the American online gaming market. This has put them to tremendous financial loss. The European Commission, which oversees trade policy for the European Union, has opined that the UIGEA violates the commitments made by the United States to the World Trade Organization. The European Commission is sure that if it seeks legal redress under the provisions of the World Trade Organization it will win. However the Commission prefers a negotiated settlement with the United States in this matter. Accordingly it has initiated discussions with the United States, but these discussions were stalled by the Bush administration. This adversely affected ties between the European Union and the United States. If the UIGEA is struck down then American players will be able to access the European online gaming sites and the issue will be resolved. Therefore Frank Barney has said that he is committed to pushing his bill through as quickly as possible.

The UIGEA has prevented American players from accessing online gaming sites by making it illegal for financial services providers to transfer funds to the online gaming sites. Because the provisions of the UIGEA are not clear, financial processing has become very difficult in this regard. Though some financial services providers continue to transfer funds to online gaming sites many have stopped doing so in the United States. Because of this lack of clarity many credit card companies have classified state lotteries as gambling ventures and are rejecting transactions for purchases of lottery tickets. This has affected the revenues of some of the states quite severely. Another advantage of overturning the UIGEA is that the processing of financial transactions with respect to online gambling will become clear and streamlined and players will have no problems in funding their online casino accounts.

The online gaming industry’s three leading software providers have left the United States market. Cryptologic and Playtech left the market in 2006 as soon as the UIGEA was passed. Both these companies took a beating on the stock exchanges because they had lost a major revenue sector. Microgaming left the United States market in December 2008. These three online gaming software providers are losing out because of not being able to service American customers. Likewise American online players are losing out because they are unable to access some of the best online casinos in the industry. Overturning the UIGEA will allow these online gaming service providers to come back to American markets and this will be a win-win situation for both them and the American online players.

Some of the biggest online gaming companies were also forced to leave the United States market in 2006. They too suffered heavy losses on the stock exchanges. Not only that, but these companies are being prosecuted by the Department of Justice for offering online gaming services prior to the enactment of the UIGEA. One of them, PartyGaming has already arrived at a settlement with the Department of Justice. If the UIGEA is repealed then the others will also be able to return to America and will not face prosecution for the earlier periods.

What Frank’s bill proposes is to legalize online gambling and have it regulated by the state. This will enable American players to wager online in a safe and regulated environment that takes care of issues like underage gambling and problem gambling. This will also enable the government to levy taxes on online gambling and generate revenue. However it is not expected that Frank’s bill will be without opposition. There is a strong Republican lobby that is against online gambling and this lobby will make it difficult for Frank to push his bill through.