Customer Support Comes Under Fire; Is it Deserved?

Written By Steve Ruddock on April 21, 2014
wsop collusion 888 online poker US customer support’s customer support has been anything but supportive according to poker players on the 2+2 poker forum, but are they casting blame at the right people?

At issue is the company’s handling of a collusion complaint, more specifically the follow-up questions regarding the investigation, which has now morphed into a critical analysis of their customer support in general.

Coming under specific fire is the Head of Poker at Bill Rini, who is arguably the highest profile employee, and also the most reachable of higher-ups. Unfortunately, it appears that most people aren’t looking at the situation critically and Bill has become a scapegoat of sorts.

What happened?

First off, let’s not lose sight of the fact that did investigate the situation promptly; caught and punished the colluders; and refunded the affected player*. So a job well done on that front.

*After digging a bit deeper the players in question “seemed” to be colluding and had their accounts shut down. No restitution was made to psasjc. It’s unclear if the alleged colluders had the money from their accounts confiscated.

Where the criticisms began was in the aftermath, when the affected player (psasjc on the 2+2 poker forum) sought clarification on certain aspects of the investigation and felt as though he was being stonewalled and ignored.

His concerns were curtly answered by Bill Rini, who told psasjc this was not something the company would talk about publicly, and their investigative methods and personal information were off limits.

This has always been a major point of contention between online poker rooms and online poker players, as the poker community thinks they are owed certain information, especially after the many scandals in the industries past. But this is simply not the case.

How collusion is dealt with is not something has to relay to the community, it’s something they have to relay to regulators.

The situation received even more attention when it appeared on the forum, with the site’s owner Todd Witteles going so far as to contact Caesars Interactive CEO Mitch Garber, and discussing the matter with another Caesars bigwig Seth Palansky.

Palansky reiterated some of Rini’s comments to the community, stating that the 2+2 forum was not a support forum and they were moving away from discussing any support related questions there. Palansky also expressed support for Bill Rini and the job he has done.

A part of the story most people are overlooking

What wasn’t mentioned during any of the forum outcry, or in the discussion between Witteles and Palansky is something it seems that very few people are aware of: Caesars is not in charge of their customer support department.

* does have some customer support people on staff who act in a managerial capacity.*

Their online gambling partner 888 runs customer support for the site.

So, while Bill and employees can bring these complaints to 888, it is then up to 888 to sort through everything and at that point there is little anyone from can do.

The stones being cast at should probably be redirected at 888, although does bear some responsibility for the overall poor customer support. But Bill Rini really has little to do with any support issues.

What we have is a situation where Bill Rini has been thrust into a position where he is seemingly the face of the site’s customer support, even if that isn’t part of his job description.

This puts him in a very awkward of situation of not being able to answer the questions being posed to him, similar to a manager in name only.

Is it a big deal?

The US online poker industry is currently facing a number of issues they have no control over, from geolocation to payment processing, so you would think the last thing they would want to do is open themselves up to more criticism on issues they can control, like customer service.

For some people that have been jaded by the multitude of online poker scandals over the years this lack of communication is a very big deal, as virtually every online poker scandal perpetrated by a poker room was precipitated by poor customer support and a lack of answers from the site in question.

So the reaction by the community is somewhat understandable.

That being said, we are in a different time and place now, and is a regulated online poker room.

Poor customer support and “no comment” type answers may be frustrating and are certainly not the best business model, but they no longer indicate more nefarious goings on below the surface.

My feeling on this is that the situation is what it is, a poorly run customer service department; something many companies are plagued by — see American Airlines — and not some broader conspiracy or portent of how the business is run as a whole.

The root of the problem

First off, 888’s customer support is far from ideal, in fact, most would call it abysmal thus far. could conceivably create their own customer service department, and hire someone skilled at answering questions on poker forums (arguably the hardest job in the world) but they really shouldn’t have to; this is supposed to be taken care of by 888, and Caesars has their own financial constraints it’s already dealing with.

That being said, (and quite frankly every US online poker room with the possible exception of Ultimate Poker) hasn’t done the best job of communicating with the poker community on a number of levels. It’s somewhat unclear who the go-to guys from the company are, evidenced by Bill Rini having to deal with customer support questions.

Furthermore, seems to want an idealized existence, and poker is far from ideal.

The idea that they can have a dedicated forum on 2+2 and not expect to receive customer support questions is unreasonable. Poker players are accustomed to bringing complaints to light on 2+2 and if you have a dedicated forum you are going to be bombarded by customer support questions whether you want them or not.

* expects to receive general customer service questions in their 2+2 forum, but if a request is specific, or requires account information to be accessed would like those to go through standard CS channels.*

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Steve Ruddock

Steve is a well-recognized voice in the regulated U.S. online gambling industry. He writes for a number of online and print publications including, USA Today, and others, with a focus on the legal market.

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