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Cardspike and Casino Affiliate Programs: player non-payment and ownership allegations which may rock the industry

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cardspike and Casino Affiliate Programs: player non-payment and ownership allegations which may rock the industry

Cardspike Poker, a skin of the Cake Poker network, is the latest in a long line of rogue poker rooms indulging in malpractice of one kind or another. The situation has been neatly summarised in the Poker Affiliate Bible Cardspike Article, which I'll summarise:

Cardspike opened in September 2008; reports from affiliates about payment and player tracking problems quickly arose. Player payment issues followed on, and promises by the affiliate manager were unfulfilled. The player issues were apparently substantially resolved by mid November, but affiliate payment problems continued. There were many subsequent promises, none of which had been honoured by early 2009.

This would not necessarily be especially noteworthy, as matters of corruption in online poker are not new. However, the Cardspike issue is a horse of a different colour: in the CardSpike Poker Affiliates Want Answers From CAP article of January 2009, Gambling911's Christopher Costigan alleged that Cardspike was in fact the property of Casino Affiliate Programs, an influential casino affiliate networking site owned by Lou "The Professor" Fabiano, subject of my player database sale article.

Gambling911's reports are sometimes regarded with scepticism, so this would be less of a compelling revelation if it hadn't been effectively corroborated by Michael Corfman of the Gambling Portal And Webmasters' Association, who also owns Casino City as well as recently acquiring the Association Of Professional Casino Webmasters.

In the Cardspike / CAP / Gambling911 thread on the GPWA forum, Corfman states as follows:

I was actually told many months ago that the principals at CAP were the beneficial owners of Cardspike.

More recently I became aware that Cardspike had such a bad payment record that it should properly be considered a rogue operation.

Still, I kept quiet and did not say anything. Perhaps I should not have stayed quiet, but there are limits on what level of attack is appropriate against a competitor, especially when that competitor is quick to threaten lawsuits...a topic for another day.

But anyway, now that the cat is out of the bag, I can confirm that what I have been told is far worse than anyone might imagine.

My understanding is that principals at CAP, which claims to certify programs and represent affiliates, are running a rogue operation and ripping off affiliates on the side.

On being questioned about the veracity of the claims, Corfman goes on:

The information...is based on information I personally received from a number of distinct sources that I each consider to be highly credible.

I've actually had that information for a very long time, but, as I said, I didn't feel it was appropriate to broadcast that information at a time when I didn't view the operation was also rogue in nature with respect to players and affiliates.

It bears clarifying that the beneficial owner of a company is the person who receives all profits, or "benefits", from the company, as the owner would in the normal course of events, but who gives the ownership over to a trustee who is the "legal" owner, and whose name appears on all the relevant documents. As such, beneficial ownership is a useful tool for, amongst other things, cloaking the real owener's identity.

In the case of Cardspike, the legal owner is one "Domain Holdings Limited", a company registered in Gibraltar. The only meaningful information available on the internet about Domain Holdings is a Casino City listing, which lists all the sites owned by this company, including Cardspike. No other information is available, and the company does not appear to have a web site, nor any contact details beyond the physical address, given as Suite 14, Watergardens, Gibraltar. The name itself, "Domain Holdings", would appear to give a fairly clear indication of the nature of the business - that of holding / maintaining domains for clients. As such, Cardspike clearly has beneficial owners of some kind, whose identity is not made public.

In addition, the Gibraltar company registry is not publically open, requiring a subscription.

As such, Domain Holdings Ltd is highly inaccessible. This may well be to do with the nature of the service they offer, holding companies in trust for individuals who wish to remain anonymous.

The APCW, recent purchase of the GPWA, has been commenting on this matter - see their video reports of January 6th and January 9th.

The above report of January 9th provoked a very curious reaction from Casino Affiliate Programs, the company at the centre of the cloaked ownership allegations. In his Cyber stalking and worse by GPWA and APCW discussion thread, CAP owner Fabiano attacked the GPWA and APCW with some rather absurd hyperbole on the basis of the airing of a publically available web page which lists Fabiano's address, in the Nevada Secretary Of State register - see the Affiliate Media page:

J Toad and Michael Corfman just published my HOME address in their sick attack video. It's now broadcast via Youtube and their sites!!!!!!!

ANY sick bastard with a grudge can now reach out and harm my family. This is the sickest case of cyber stalking I have ever seen in my life!!!!

This is criminal and not civil.

Who appointed these assholes as inquistors and who gave them the right to examine my personal and business life and place my children and family in harms way????

I own seven businesses and stock in many companies what right does anyone have to investigate my personal affairs and endanger my family?

For What? What did I do to GPWA or APCW?

Michael and J Todd you are sick evil and wicked bastards. I could post YOUR home addresses too but I would NEVER sink that low. I am shcoked ANY business would operate like this and have the GALL to do this to peoples lives.



Contrary to the claim made in this rather infantile outburst, the airing of publically-available information is not an offence. The reason the details are required by law to be public is that of the public interest, the public's right to know who is behind the companies they deal with. This is how it should be.

Why this childish and vastly inaccurate explosion from Fabiano? Maybe the best line of defence was seen as attack, thereby hopefully putting the other party on the defensive. I can see no other reason. Fabiano knows that his details are available for public consumption.

The address was subsequently removed from the video, with Corfman citing a desire to "take the high road" in the matter - presumably an allusion to the fact that the address in question was Fabiano's home, the public airing of which had caused some distress and presumably accounting in part for Fabiano's extreme overreaction. There were further comments in the APCW Perspectives Friday 01/09/09 discussion, along the same lines.

One of many spinoffs on this matter was a report issued by Brian "Jetset" Cullingworth, for his Infopowa service of casino news and trivia, which was bizarrely given more exposure than seemed warranted by Bryan Bailey of Casinomeister, in his affiliate forum war continues thread. Why Bailey chose to place a news item outside its usual less high-profile position in the news section, and then as a stand alone forum thread when there was already a relevant discussion in full swing in the Cardspike thread, seems odd. Additionally, the piece is an unnecessary trivialisation of a serious matter, beginning with the trite soundbite "time to jaw-jaw not war-war" and going on to present the whole matter as nothing more than forum hyperbole.

So why does it matter, and why does Infopowa miss the point completely?

In the first place, when it first appeared, Cardspike was recommended by, and given its own forum at, the CAP poker sister site Poker Affiliate Programs, under the same ownership team as CAP.

If CAP / PAP owned Cardspike, then they were promoting a room to their affiliates / players in which they had a direct financial stake, which would represent a conflict of interests and an absolute breach of acceptable ethics:

1) Posing as an impartial arbitrator for a company which, in fact, you own, is pure deceipt, the obvious outcome in the event of a dispute being that you will favour your company over the customers upon whose behalf you claim to act.

2) Your community members, the affiliates and a whichever players may read the forums, are the potential recipients of biased information as a result of your non-disclosure of your interest.

3) Your paying affiliate programme members are unwittingly funding their competition, because the funding recipient, CAP, is effectively a competeting affiliate programme.

In this regard, there is some interesting reading in the Poker Prop Cardspike Warning article, where the writer chronicles a series of events - banning of posters and deletion of threads - which is consistent with a substantial bias in favour of Cardspike over the affiliates / customers:

During mid to late November, many PAP members frustrated over unpaid affiliate commission began questioning CardSpike's PAP All-in Program status. Around this time, Warren and Lou (the Professor) became far more active at PAP than they had ever been in the past. In the days leading up to November 26, 2008 a number of CardSpike posts were deleted, and this led to outrage as many forum posters expressed their discontent for the censorship taking place.

November 26 is what many former active members refer to as ban day. On this day, PAP management laid down the law as they banned many of their longest standing members, deleted many references to Cardspike problems and complaints including entire threads, while locking others.

Over the next month posts related to CardSpike were largely ignored...Also during this time no less than 9 threads were deleted that either insinuated CardSpike was a scam, or spoke at all negatively about PAP or CAP.

If the above is a true record of events, it suggests a very clear conflict of interests.

Secondly, and on a more general note: if affiliates and their representatives are going to start owning, running and otherwise having interests in the online gambling operations they promote, then in the first place it's a rather sorry state of affairs, but which in the second place must be subject at the very least to absolute one hundred percent disclosure. If this sorry state of affairs, where the line between the advertiser and the advertised is completely obfuscated, must come about, then the customer has absolute right to know who is who and what interest he / she has in the promoted product.

If, on the other hand, non-disclosure of affiliate-owned and promoted sites becomes the norm, then we will see the scenario I've chronicled above happening over and over and over again, until a point at which the whole industry collapses in chaos.

As such, the ownership of Cardspike Poker must be established. If it is not, then this matter will leave a cloud over the participants. This will do a lot of harm to a lot of people.

2 Previous Comments

Not many commenters here. I think you've said it all.

By Blogger Jon Bloggs, at 11:26 pm  

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