The illegal, unregulated wagering market has, once again, emerged from the shadows to claim another unwitting victim.
Victor Janicki, a retired attorney from Kelowna, BC, finds himself stuck in a months-long, lopsided battle against BetOnLine.ag. As it stands, Janicki is still waiting to claim the $225,000 jackpot he won on the Antigua-based online wagering platform.
Janicki mistook familiarity for legitimacy
Prior to his big win, the BC native had been playing regularly with BetOnLine.ag for several years.
On the day of the incident, Janicki was betting $40 a hand on the site’s Blackjack Classic Game, which also features a $1-per-hand side bet called 777 Diamond Jackpot. Here, players will trigger a large progressive payout if dealt three sevens of diamonds using a six-deck shoe.
And, that’s exactly what Janicki scored.
“I got dealt two sevens of diamonds, and I asked for a card,” said Janicki in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Then, my screen went black for about 10 seconds, which was the first time that has ever happened to me. But when the screen came back on, two supervisors besides the dealer congratulated me for winning the jackpot. So I had a table chat with them to find out how I was to be paid.”
However, after the initial adrenaline wore off, it didn’t take long for Janicki to realize he wasn’t going to receive that money.
Despite two supervisors congratulating him, Janicki was soon told that there was a mistake, and he didn’t actually win.
Scrambling to prove he was victorious, the former attorney sought a screen recording of the winning moment from BetOnLine.ag. When that didn’t pan out, he tried contacting other sources, including rivals of the Antiguan site, for help.
Unfortunately, his frantic efforts proved futile, and the stalemate between Victor Janicki and BetOnLine.ag remains unresolved.
Stories like Janicki’s are a dime a dozen
According to Casey Clark, senior vice president of the American Gaming Association, he receives similar complaints, on average once every week.
“It’s a massive problem that we’ve made our No. 1 priority, and it’s going to continue that way for a long time.”
The AGA provides resources to help bettors decipher the legitimate sites from the frauds. For example, its website lists the six benefits of regulated gaming sites:
- Responsible gaming initiatives
- Licensing and background investigations
- Consumer protection
- Game testing
- Secure gaming equipment
- Anti-money laundering protocols
Though useful, Clark notes that these recommendations require consumer awareness and discretion in order to properly function.
“I do sympathize that they lost their money, but I don’t know that they should expect to be getting any of that money back, just as there would be no expectation of that if they’re engaging in other illicit operators in any kind of vertical, whether it’s gaming or something else. What’s the recourse if you buy a knock-off iPhone that doesn’t work? Consumers need to be aware and vigilant.”
Misinterpretation of rules and regulations contributes to illegal wagering
For some gamblers, there is no difference in regulation from state-to-state or province-to-province. And, just because these grey-market sites can take bets, does not mean they are safe, let alone legal.
This was Janicki’s fatal flaw. He believed that because he resides in Canada, he could play online wherever he wanted.
Paul Burns, president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, said that Canadian gaming law is relatively vague because some grey-market sites have been allowed to be licensed in Ontario. Even with more than 40 regulated operators to choose from, unregulated sites like BetOnLine continue to lure in and burn Canadian punters.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened and that Canadians have had access to these sites, playing for years without issue, and then these kinds of things happen,” said Burns.
Burns went on to say that because there’s no case law in Canada, it’s difficult to advise players on what to do. That said, it’s best to avoid all operators not regulated in Canada, especially ones in the Caribbean and Latin America, which Burns noticed tends to be more problematic.