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Monday, October 22, 2007

Top 5 Online Gambling Scandals of All Time

Top 5 Online Gambling Scandals of All Time

In the wake of the Absolute Poker "internal cheating scandal" that has the Internet poker community pointing fingers at just about every manager there, we take a look at 4 of online gambling's other biggest scandals and the results that followed.  Absolute Poker, by a long shot, is easily the biggest scandal to ever hit the world of Web gambling.  Even their own management admits as much.

2Hampton Casino withholds $1.3 mil win after accusing player of using an elaborate robot (2003).  This one caused such an uproar that ultimately the Casino Manager, Rich Katz, was forced to resign and Hampton Casino made to pay the $1.3 mil, but not before making headlines in the mainstream media. 

Almost simultaneously, Hampton's software provider, Real Time Gaming's CEO Michael Staw made a public statement in which he said he was pleased that the two warring factions (RTG and The Pirate) had come to a satisfactory agreement stating:
“We’re happy that everything was settled amicably…this is a good example of how the gaming industry can self-regulate and still serve players’ best interests.”
“We did extensive testing of game functionality, and found that the game had not been compromised, and was working properly. It’s pretty simple, really. Hampton had a skilled player who was daring enough to play at high limits, and it paid off.”
The player in question continued to patronize online casinos, winning big but also suffering some significant losses. 

This scandal had been capped off by a series of taped phone conversations.

Hampton Casino is now King Solomon's. 

3. Sports Market/Aces Gold Shuts Down Stiffing Players Millions (2002)- If only those affected by the Absolute Poker fiasco were around back in 2002 when Sports Market/Aces Gold owner Charlie Therwhanger closed shop the week after the Super Bowl after reportedly losing an estimated $13.5 mil in customer funds offering an outrageous line for the wrong side of that game and getting pounded by the likes of wise guys and the owners of Pinnacle Sports (a competing betting shop that found Charlie's line too juicy to pass up for themselves). 

Therwhanger simply packed up one night and closed shop, leaving Curacao where he ran off to St. Kitts and siphoned a few million from bank accounts there before returning back to Lubbock, Texas.

Affected customers immediately began studying up on Therwhanger, tracking him down to his Lubbock home address and learning that he owned million dollar race horses.  They even learned his wife owned a grocery store chain.

Upon arriving back in Lubbock, Texas, Therwhanger hired two huge body guards to protect him.  

Despite the enormous theft involved and the fury felt by gamblers, industry leaders for the most part refrained from posting Therwhanger's home address and the address of his college age daughter understanding the consequences should harm have been brought upon these family members.  To this extent, there is much concern by some over Absolute Poker principals family members names and locations being freely disseminated on posting forums. 

Therwhanger was never brought to justice and customers never saw a single cent of what was owed out to them. 

4. BetonSports Owner Refuses to Pay "Mystery Player" Nearly a Half Million Dollars (2000)

The world's most well known betting syndicate leader, Billy Walters, never admitted to placing that nearly half million dollar bet and BetonSports owner Gary Kaplan refused to pay the unidentified man who supposedly placed the bet on behalf of Walters.  Kaplan cited his betting firm's rule on not allowing known syndicates to bet with BetonSports (then called NASA Sports International).  But the argument soon became "You booked the bet, you pay the bet". 

Until the very end, when the US government forced BetonSports to shut down last year, the company was always stigmatized within the professional sports betting community. 

Kaplan had always contended in private that he once worked for Walters and considered this whole matter a "business dispute" that had nothing to do with "real customer concerns".

This issue was never settled and had little impact on BetonSports explosive growth over the following years. 

5. Neteller Withholds Millions in Customer Funds (2007)

The lucky few who got wind of news that two co-founders in third party payment firm, Neteller, immediately after broke the story, didn't have to wait long to get paid.  Nearly everyone else ended up waiting more than 6 months and there was lingering doubt as to whether they would ever see their funds again.

The problem wasn't so much the rationale being offered about the US government freezing funds, it was more related to Neteller's overall arrogance and inability to communicate with affected players while seemingly focusing more on its shareholders.

The Neteller debacle ended happily however with all customers receiving payments six months after the initial freeze.  Neteller's new CEO would later offer an apology on YouTube.

This served as an example of a company that righted a wrong and was essentially given a second chance.  The online gambling community throughout the last decade has shown a remarkable tolerance and willingness to forgive despite the headaches this caused.


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