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September 27, 2010
What’s New at CasinoBeacon.co.uk
Update and Blog – Monday, 27 September 2010
Our last update was full of praise for the UK online casino industry and left us all with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Unfortunately, this update reveals the other side of the coin – dodgy-as-hell, spam-loving online casinos and a so-called ‘regulatory body’ that definitely does NOT have players interests at heart. This is going to be painful.
There are many upsides to working in the UK Online Casino industry. It’s exciting, always changing and we are lucky to have a huge number of excellent online casinos to choose from. Casino Beacon is primarily an online casino review website and we’re fiercely proud of the quality and honesty of our reviews. At the time of writing, we have online reviews of 25 casinos in our Online Casino Reviews pages and they are nothing if not 100% honest. Unlike just about every other so-called casino review website out there, we don’t set out to praise every casino we come across with the aim of getting you to play there. We tell you the good, bad and the could-be-better points about every online casino we review.
Like many review guides, we rate the casinos we test with a ‘star rating’ of between one and five stars. Of the 25 casinos currently reviewed at Casino Beacon, only five casinos have scored the maximum five stars. Four stars have been awarded to another 12 online casinos and three stars were handed out to just two casinos.
A quick calculation will show you that only six online casinos have done badly enough to warrant just one or two stars. When you take into account how keen we are to hand out criticism where it’s due, those numbers should give you plenty of encouragement about the general state of the UK online casino scene.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news and we have to bring you crashing back down to earth with a tale of good guys gone bad.
Spin Palace – Fallen Angels
We mentioned earlier that working in the online casino industry can be very enjoyable. It’s a dynamic market and there’s nothing more thrilling than receiving an e-mail from a player, telling us they’ve just won thousands of pounds playing at a casino we’ve recommended at Casino Beacon. Sadly, not all casinos are as trustworthy and some of them make our industry look like dodgy cowboys who shouldn’t be trusted. Welcome to The Palace Group.
We have been inundated with e-mail spam from The Palace Group for a few months now and there’s a fair chance that you’ve been receiving it too. The gaming sites operated by this group are Spin Palace, Ruby Fortune, Cabaret Club, Jackpots in a Flash, Mummy’s Gold, Spin Palace Mobile and Piggs Casino ? and an online poker room – Spin Palace Poker. They also operate bingo sites – Dream Bingo and Bingo on the Box. They are promoted via an affiliate program called WagerShare. The most popular UK online casino in their group is the Spin Palace brand.
Probably the biggest downside to working in the online casino industry is that many people we come across, when we tell them what we do for a living, assume that we’re involved in e-mail spam and some kind of dodgy dealings. Even worse, we can’t really blame them – because some online casinos DO send out shedloads of spam and DO market in very unethical ways.
We have been trying to get the Spin Palace/WagerShare/Palace Group spam stopped ever since it arrived. Initially, we didn’t even assume that it was coming directly from them. We assumed the spam was coming from a rogue affiliate or a media buy gone wrong. If truth be known, we didn’t really want to believe that The Palace Group had crossed to the dark side. We’ve known the team at WagerShare for many years now and have met them on several occasions. We’ve recommended hundreds of players to join them and until very recently, we rated them up there with the very best online casinos in the UK. And then they started to spam the hell out of anyone who has an e-mail address. To say that we’re gutted would be a huge understatement but we’ve had to accept the ugly truth, WagerShare, Spin Palace, The Palace Group – whatever we want to call them – are now a rogue outfit who have decided that sending out bulk, unsolicited e-mail spam is a legitimate way to market their casinos. They are more than aware just how pissed off we are but the spam continues. If it was coming from a rogue affiliate, they would have shut them down. If it was coming from a media buy that went wrong, they’d have stopped the campaign. There’s no way around the truth – either The Palace Group are sending the spam directly themselves or they are paying someone to do it for them. In either case, the spam is authorised. And it gets worse.
Spinning The Truth
Most of us have received e-mail spam from an online casino but it’s not always straightforward to recognise which casino is always being promoted. This is because The Palace Group spam doesn’t usually mention the casino name directly in the e-mail. Take for example the spam we received today – see below.
According to this e-mail, it came from someone called Carran Ayrton. We’ve never heard of him/her and you can bet your last penny that the name is fake. It came from the e-mail address which is also fake. We e-mailed back to that address and as expected, it bounced back because the address doesn’t exist.
Most people will have deleted the spam e-mail at this point and will have had no idea who was actually behind it. However, here at Casino Beacon we have a BIG issue with spam (you probably noticed), especially when it damages the reputation of the industry we are so proud of, so we pressed ahead with our investigation.
Let’s take a look at the link the spam e-mail wants us to click on. It takes us to kristina1843.smtp.ru/amywiki.html but not for long because it instantly redirects us to another domain, casinofeedr.com, that wants us to download something called King Spin.
Hmm. What’s that name of the casino? King Spin? Well, we’ve never heard of that casino and we’ve been in the game for ten years but that’s because this is yet another e-mail promoting Spin Palace but is disguising itself with a fake name. If you do go ahead and click to download the casino software (we wouldn’t recommend it) then you’ll end up installing Spin Palace Casino. You see, The Palace Group are happy to use spam to promote their brands but they’d rather you don’t know about it.
Even worse, there have been occasions where spam promoting one of The Palace Group’s other casinos, Ruby Fortune, has been sent out disguised to make the reader think that it has been sent from a legitimate but similarly named casino, Ruby Royal. You can perhaps start to see just how serious this issue is becoming – players are being spammed from fake e-mail addresses, from fake names, pretending to be promoting a genuine and honest online casino and damaging that casino’s good name and reputation. We know from talking to Ruby Royal that they received numerous complaints about that batch of spam.
eCOGRA – Doing More Harm Than Good
When it comes to regulating the UK online casino industry, there is one main industry organisation that is supposed to keep an eye on the casinos and ensure they’re acting appropriately – they’re called eCOGRA (eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance) and they state that part of their mission is to “protect players by addressing the need for fair gaming and responsible operator conduct”.
We assume sending bulk, unsolicited and disguised e-mail spam would not be considered as “responsible operator conduct” and yet Spin Palace, Ruby Fortune and all of the other Palace Group brands are still proudly displaying eCOGRA’s seal of approval on their websites.
We have reported The Palace Group’s spam to eCOGRA. We have done it several times and initially had hopes that they would do the right thing, step in and remind The Palace Group of their responsibilities towards players. We first reported the issue to eCOGRA back on 27 June 2010 and to be fair to them, they replied a couple of days later asking for more information and evidence. We were only too happy to help with this and reported many more incidents of spam from The Palace Group.
So what happened? Did eCOGRA stop the spam? Did they kick The Palace Group out of their organisation and remove their seals of approval? Not quite. Instead, they simply stopped replying to our e-mails. We have now sent to eCOGRA many of spam e-mails promoting The Palace Group and they have remained silent, happily recommending more players to join up at the spamming casinos.
That, put bluntly, is a disgrace and the team behind eCOGRA should be ashamed of themselves. They have been aware for months that we were not going to let this matter drop and we even gave them notification that we were going to publicise the issue here at Casino Beacon. Here’s an e-mail we sent to eCOGRA on 7 September 2010:
Unfortunately, I have not received a response from you to any of my most recent e-mails to you regarding the WagerShare/Palace Group spam and unethical marketing. Also, they are also still listed as accredited by eCOGRA.
The intention is to remove Casino Beacon’s link-connection with eCOGRA unless urgent action is taken. I shall be informing my visitors of this development and the reasons behind it, including your persistent non-response and inaction.
In the interests of fair reporting, I am giving you an opportunity to reply and/or take action that would update the facts of the case.
Even taking into account their previous inaction and silence, we were surprised when they again failed to respond. Perhaps they thought we were bluffing about going public.
If you’re wondering what we were referring to in our e-mail when we mentioned “Casino Beacon’s link-connection with eCOGRA” then sit tight and we’ll explain. eCOGRA list a number of ‘reputable portals’ on their website and Casino Beacon is one of those approved portals – you can see the ‘certificate’ here (pictured right). We display a button at the bottom of our homepage which links to the certificate. All that said, it’ll be interesting to see how long eCOGRA decide to keep our certificate live once they’ve read what we’ve said about them!
We’ll be removing the button that links to eCOGRA from our homepage in the next few days. Quite frankly, we no longer want anything to do with eCOGRA and we feel quite taken for a ride that we ever believed their good intentions in the first place.
Having an effective industry regulation organisation should have been one of the best things to happen to the UK online casino scene but unfortunately, eCOGRA have been revealed to be nothing of the sort. If they’re merely in operation to pay their own wages and give a PRETENCE of safeguarding online casino players then they are doing far more harm than good. Higher authorities need to be made aware of eCOGRA’s inaction because as things stand, they are being dishonest in claiming that they maintain a suitable level of monitoring of online casinos.
What To Do
Given that The Palace Group don’t show any signs of stopping the unethical marketing and with the toothless eCOGRA happily ignoring spam complaints, it’s difficult to know exactly what to do next. Clearly, eCOGRA are not fit for purpose and our industry will be better off without them. A toothless/fake regulation body is far worse than no regulation at all.
The Palace Group are authorised by the Lotteries and Gaming Authority of Malta so it’s perhaps logical to take the fight in that direction next.
Whatever happens, you can be sure to read it here. As always, eCOGRA and The Palace Group are more than welcome to respond. We know you’re reading this so please get in touch and explain why you’ve permitted spam and why you’ve ignored the issue. We’ll be happy to publish your response.
Casino Beacon is continuously updated throughout the day so do Bookmark Us for an easy return.
All this and more in the full Update/Blog Index
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