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Best of John Grochowski
Internet Gambling29 April 2003
Internet gambling is not my cup of tea, for many reasons. If I'm going to play, I prefer it to be in a social situation rather than alone on a computer. Too many online casinos are either unregulated or barely regulated, leaving the question of whether the games are random. Internet gaming remains illegal in the United States, and well-regulated jurisdictions such as the Isle of Man exclude U.S. gamblers.
There's also some anxiety over collecting winnings long-distance rather than walking to the cashier's cage. It's that last problem that has become the stickler for David Lyell, a California player who e-mailed me with a problem. He'd been playing at 1casino.1cnp.com and tried to cash out $459. He'd cashed out winnings a couple of times before, but this time it wasn't going to be so easy. When 20 days passed and he had neither a check nor an explanation, he sent me an e-mail describing the situation.
Not that he hadn't tried himself. He'd sent several e-mails to the company, and the only response he'd received was that they hadn't responded because he'd sent too many e-mails.
I don't usually get involved in such disputes. I have neither time nor inclination to do that kind of troubleshooting, and I rarely write about Internet gaming for the same reasons I don't gamble online. But I decided to check out the Web site, and found something that intrigued me. This particular Internet casino, based in Costa Rica, was associated with mycasino-builder.com, a company that promotes "own your own casino" opportunities. The "own your own" deal is one I'd personally avoid, and a week's worth of e-mail exchanges turned out to be even less attractive.
In an e-mail to the casino, I explained Lyell's problem and my interest, and asked the following question:
"Could you explain your policy to me on paying players, and how soon a check can be expected when a player chooses to cash out?"
The response from "David, Support Team" made it clear they weren't interested in answering any questions:
"We manage relations between customer and casino in confidential manner without any third party intervention. In any case you're invited to play at our casinos."
That was an invitation I could do without. I e-mailed again, explaining that I could neither play at nor recommend a site where operators refused to explain policies on paying players. "Jennifer" from the support team replied:
"Usually it takes 5-7 days for U.S. banks and up to 45 days in a Costa Rican bank. It depends on a customer bank, country, etc. Hope that helps."
I responded that the player in question was in the United States, and asked if it was unusual for a U.S. player to wait three weeks for payment. Once again, Jennifer replied:
"I believe we already informed you that any problem which may arise or not we solve between us and a customer."
I forwarded the exchange to Lyell, and it turned out he finally had heard from David Moor, the mycasino-builder CEO, as well as from support-team Jennifer. Somehow, Lyell didn't regard the problem as solved. He was informed that his winnings were being canceled, and that his deposits would be refunded. Not all his deposits, which totaled $450, but only the three deposits made since he last cashed out winnings. He was to receive a total of $150 in deposits. If he wanted all deposits back, he was to return previous winnings.
Lyell's appeals for explanation went for naught. Several lengthy messages were exchanged, but the bottom line was that his winnings would not be paid.
His final e-mail from Jennifer said, "It's our decision to cancel or not your cashout. It was based on your inappropriate behavior. I'll not discuss with you any issues related to your cashout that was canceled and your behavior. You emails will be not answered anymore."
As far as Lyell can tell, the "inappropriate behavior" consisted of having the temerity to send e-mails demanding payment, posting the problem on a Web site and complaining to media outlets.
Not knowing first-hand whether there was any other cause for the casino's behavior, I e-mailed David Moor once more. I wanted to be fair and give him a chance to explain the situation. The crux of the matter, to me, was this question:
"Is it your contention that by e-mailing you in an attempt to collect, by posting on a bulletin board and by e-mailing media outlets, that Mr. Lyell somehow forfeits his winnings? Why? If you think he's a problem customer, I can understand your refusing future business from him, but how can you refuse to pay him money he's already won?"
I'll bet you can guess the reponse.
"Please, don't send me emails any more and feel free to post whatever you wish anywhere you want."
It's very difficult to know just whom you're dealing with on the Internet, where there are hundreds of virtual casinos based in Costa Rica and in the Caribbean. I, for one, would neither want to play nor invest with a company so determined to stonewall a player over $459. But then, I'm wary of most Internet gaming. Be careful out there.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
Best of John Grochowski