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William Hill, Joyland Casino and Playtech founder and convicted fraudster Teddy Sagi: $2,000,000 jackpot winnings confiscated

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

William Hill, Joyland Casino and Playtech founder and convicted fraudster Teddy Sagi: $2,000,000 jackpot winnings confiscated

In August 2008, Joyland Casino announced the winner of a slot jackpot in excess of $4,000,000. The winners page states:

Sylvia P. won $4,188,719.98 playing the Beach Life Jackpot

As I type this, May 12th 2009, I see that the jackpot from eight months ago is still emblazoned on the homepage:

Joyland Jackpot claim

In fact, this is a total misrepresentation of the true situation.

As reported in the "Stipulations on Playtech progressive win" discussion at Casinomeister, Silvia P did indeed win a jackpot of $4,188,719.98. Unfortunately, Joyland Casino had a maximum $9000 per month cashout limit in its terms and conditions at the time of the win.

At this rate of payment, the win would have taken a total of 38 years and two months to be settled in full, with the final payment planned for July 2046.

Joyland refused to waive the cashout limit and settle the full amount immediately, notwithstanding the unique size of the jackpot. Instead, they offered to pay the player an upfront sum of $2,300,000, or just over half the total.

It should be emphasized that this would not be in addition to $9000 per month until the full amount was settled, but a half payment, $1,900,000 less than she the player thought she had won, and no more.

Considering that it would take fully twenty one years to receive even this vastly reduced sum in monthly installments, and that there would be no way of knowing whether or not Joyland Casino would even be around in twenty one years' time (let alone the thirty eight years required for full payment) this seemed the better of two bad options, and the player accepted it.

Once this half payment was made, the player's account was closed.

So, while taking advantage of all the publicity potential of this win, Joyland Casino short-changed the player, confiscated a grand total of one million nine hundred thousand dollars, paid her half the jackpot and left her feeling miserable.

This action has been roundly condemned by anyone and everyone in the online gambling industry who has expressed an opinion, and rightly so.

But: so what? - you might ask. This is hardly noteworthy, aside from the sheer numbers involved. Reprehensible behaviour from the online gambling industry is a common occurance, and Joyland Casino was already a well known rogue casino on the back of the confiscatiion of many thousands of dollars from players a few years ago - see the Joyland comp points fiasco at Casinomeister.

So why raise our eyebrows on the basis of yet another online casino withholding yet more legitimate winnings from yet another player?

Let's look a bit further.

This was a progressive jackpot. Progressive jackpots are played across many different casinos of a given supplier, and when the jackpot is hit the participating casinos all contribute. So, if fifty casinos were running the game in question, each casino would contribute $83,775. Those individual casinos would not be losing out, as they would have a made a lot more than their 80K contribution over the course of the game - only a tiny proportion of each wager funds the progressive, the majority goes to the casino.

The software provider then collects all the contributions, and sends the total amount to the casino at which the jackpot was hit. The casino in question then pays the player.

So in this case, using my figures, each Playtech casino participating in the "Beach Life" progressive slot jackpot would have sent a cheque for $83,775 to Playtech.

Playtech then sent those fifty 80K contributions to the owners / managers of Joyland Casino, totalling $4,188,719.98.

Joyland casino would also have contributed $83,775.

But Joyland didn't send its fellow casinos' contributions to the winning player. They kept back $1,900,000.

Where is this money?

It belongs to the player. However, since the player was forced to relenquish almost half, then it belongs to the casinos who contributed to the jackpot pool. It certainly does NOT belong to the owners of Joyland Casino.

The story gets more interesting at this point.

Just two months after Silvia P's win, UK gambling behemoth William Hill acquired "certain Playtech assets" - see the Playtech transaction announcement at the Will Hill corporate site:

On 20 October 2008 we announced that we are combining William Hill Interactive, our online operations, with certain purchased assets from Playtech Ltd, one of the world's leading software companies.

"Certain assets"?

Which assets?

It was left to the Infopowa online gambling commentary service, run by Bryan "Jetset" Cullingworth, to clarify the matter after contact with William Hill, in the Webroute and Cpays part of Will Hill Playtech deal report:

It has now been revealed that those purchased assets consist principally of Webroute Services and CPays.

Cpays, now under the William Hill banner, has been renamed Affiliates United, whose brand includes Joyland Casino.

So the assets William Hill acquired from Playtech included Joyland Casino.

Playtech's legal custodianship of Joyland, in its turn, appears to have been brief and no more than a legal technicality. According to the Playtech buys assets from major shareholder article at TradingMarkets.com, The previous owner of the "previous assets" in question was one Teddy Sagi:

The interesting point is the identity of the owners of two of the purchased assets. Playtech states that Uniplay International Ltd and Six Digits Trading Ltd are two companies own (sic) by trusts whose sole beneficiary is Sagi, who owns 41.1 percent of Playtech.

Teddy Sagi is in fact the founder of Playtech. His shareholding is substantial, valued currently around 463 million dollars - see the LSE Playtech listing. While he is no longer the owner of Playtech, his 41.1% shareholding gives him substantial influence in the company.

Therefore, when Playtech collected those contributions from the casinos participating in Silvia P's jackpot, they sent them to the companies whose beneficiary was their founder and largest individual shareholder.

I wonder how those other casinos feel about this? Since only half of their payments went to the player, would these casinos now like to be reacquainted with the other half of their money?

Teddy Sagi is in fact a convicted fraudster. According to a Jerusalem Post article...

THE Tel Aviv District Court yesterday sentenced broker Teddy Sagi to nine months in prison imprisonment plus an additional 15 months suspended sentence and a fine of NIS 300,000.

Sagi, whose prison term starts on February 25, admitted to bribery, fraud and stock manipulation.

That's a $70,000 USD fine and nine months in prison for bribery and fraud for Playtech's founder and current main shareholder.

William Hill, the current owners of Joyland, claim to have bought only the company's assets, and are not liable for any previous debts. Although this sounds like a shelving of responsibilities, it's not an unreasonable position for them to take.

Playtech, however, have to date failed to comment.

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