Begado Casino Review
The history of Begado Casino is a cautionary tale for online gamblers. Begado Casino launched in 2012 with highly-touted software, a slick marketing campaign, and impressive bonus offers. Less than 3 years later, the site closed down and its owners were indicted by the US federal government.
Players should have known something was amiss when the site went down for 29 days only a month into operation. Many left, but Begado Casino continued to build a player community over the next two years. In the middle of 2015, a prominent gambling review site blacklisted Begado and 12 other casino sites operated by Begado’s owners, NetAd Management, and Affactive Media. Within a month, those owners were accused of the largest cyber-attack in US history. All 13 casinos were shut down.
Gamblers should take notes about the demise of NetAd and Affactive Media. Sites which offer big bonuses are sometimes scam artists. Researching a casino’s withdrawal policies is more important than its bonuses. Bonus money is worth nothing if the player is never allowed to withdraw their hard-earned cash. It’s far better to go to a trusted site like Slots.LV, which has a solid reputation for fast cashouts and fair policies.
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Timeline of Begado Casino
|2012||Begado Casino launches. Shortly after, a system failure causes Begado and other RTG sites to crash. The blackout would last 29 days.|
|2012||Begado Casino returns. NetAd Management offers a $30 bonus token to customers.|
|2014||A player who wins $6,000 on Grand Macao Casino asks “Casino Listings” to help her get her winnings from the site.|
|2014||Casino Listings blacklists Begado Casino, Grand Macao, and 11 other NetAd Management sites.|
|2015||Casino Listings notes Begado Casino is paying in $500 increments, and has paid $2,000.|
|2015||The U.S. Justice Department unseals an indictment against Gerry Shalon, Ziv Orenstein, Joshua Samuel Aaron, and an unnamed conspirator. Charges include securities fraud, wire fraud, document fraud, and conspiracy to commit securities fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering. Each man faces “30 criminal charges carrying penalties of between five and 20 years each”. Note: Gerry is sometimes spelled “Gery” in documents.|
|2015||Israeli authorities arrest Gerry Shalon and Ziv Orenstein of Bat Hefer, Israel. The men are accused of hacking JP Morgan-Chase database of 76 million customers the previous summer.|
|2015||US authorities arrest their accomplices, Anthony Murgio and Yuri Lebedev, in Florida. News reports indicate the arrests are tied to Gerry Shalon and Ziv Orenstein’s arrests.|
|2015||Affiliates in the NetAd Management’s affiliate program, Affactive Media, are told Begado Casino and 12 other NetAd sites will shut down.|
|2015||US District Attorney Preet Bharara, famous for the Black Friday indictments, announces additional charges against Gery Shalon, Ziv Orenstein, and Joshua Samuel Aaron. The charges are computer hacking, identity theft, and 21 other charges.|
|2015||While announcing the charges, Preet Bharara claimed the JP Morgan hacking case was a record in cyber-attack history. Bharara called their scheme “a Brave New World of hacking for profit”.|
|2015||Joshua Samuel Aaron was reported to still be on the loose. He is described as a US citizen who keeps homes in Tel Aviv and Moscow. He is likely to be in Eastern Europe, and particularly in Moscow.|
|2016||Currently, Shalon and Orenstein await trial.|
How Begado Casino Got Started
Begado Casino launched in October 2012. It used one of the latest software platforms, NuWorks, and received a certain amount of buzz for innovation when it first launched.
The casino was operated by NetAd Management, which has worked on sites like Casino Titan, WinPalace, and Slots Jungle. It was licensed in Curacao, in what was once called the Netherlands Antilles before independence.
NuWorks software was designed by RealTime Gaming, as an extremely light and fast software. NuWorks was supposed to have HD-quality graphics though it only supported Windows PC operating systems.
Limited Games Selection
NuWorks did not have as many slots games as other competitors in the industry, which might have been one of the problems. It’s hard to break into an industry which is already saturated, without a lot of startup capital to quickly close the gap. The casino had between 40 and 50 slots titles, though these had a heavy focus on progressive jackpots.
The casino software had the usual list of table games, including:
- Several versions of Blackjack.
- Let It Ride
- Tri Card Poker.
- Some affiliates touted the casino as offering Texas Hold’em in the casino, but I imagine that was Casino Hold’em, a table game based on the popular variant of poker.
NuWorks also offered several of the top variants of video poker. Each game supported play for 1, 3, 10, 52 or 100 hands each. I consider the multi-hand versions of such games a bit tricky because it really only exposes a player to the house edge multiple times at once. Still, that’s a player’s choice to play that game, so it’s really their own fault if they choose to do so. Every operator in the industry now offers multi-spin, multi-hand, and multi-roll games.
Bonus Offers and Rewards
Begado Casino offered industry-standard match bonuses, cashback rewards, and free spin bonuses. With the new software program and an aggressive marketing plan, Begado created a lot of talk in the fall of 2012. Almost from the start, the buzz was not all positive.
On November 19, 2012, the casino suddenly went black. Fear spread that Begado was one of those countless rogue off-shore operators which would start a business, build a customer base, and close down overnight. Such rogue online casinos tended to disappear without a trace, taking gamblers’ hard-earned money as it went.
After a rush of panic and many rumors, it was learned that Begado was one of a number of RTG casinos which faced a similar blackout. It was discovered that there was some kind of backend technical issues which caused a number of RTG casinos to go black. As this became known, most gamblers realized their casino’s disappearance probably wasn’t the result of a malicious deception. Still, it was an inauspicious start for a site which had been in operation for only a month.
Return to Normalcy
On December 13, 2012, the lights came on again. The casino’s management returned to the Internet, claiming the blackjack was the result of a technical glitch during a “comprehensive system upgrade”.
The operators said the problem had been fixed and it encouraged gamblers to keep playing. To offer additional encouragement, each player was given a promotion $30 freeplay coupon code.
Begado Loses Customers
For many players, the blackout was too much. Begado lost a lot of customers at the time. While older casinos could weather such troubles without a mass exodus, a brand new casino under such circumstances is likely to suffer irreparable damage to its reputation.
Growing Popularity Despite Problems
Not everyone left. Those who remained said the software worked faster and gameplay was good. Also, withdrawals were processed quickly. Slowly, Begado Casino began to rebuild its customer base. Unfortunately, the casino faced other serious issues.
One of the reasons Begado started to rebuild their customer base was the use of aggressive bonus offers. The $9,999 deposit bonus was attractive to high rollers, who could double-up their casino cash, if they could afford a ten-thousand dollar payment. This was a slots bonus, so blackjack players wouldn’t receive such a nice reward.
Wheel of Bonuses and Other Promotions
Still, the table games bonus was $1,000, a nice incentive for card players. The Weekly Bonus Promotions (Daily “Big 2” bonuses), an After Dark Special, and the innovative Wheel-Of-Bonuses. The Wheel-of-Bonuses activated the Begado Surprise Special of the Day. As readers can see, the casino’s management offered a lot of reasons to sign up.
Other factors convinced players to remain. Begado Casino offered a sleek, well-run live casino. Live dealer table games offered through streaming video was cutting edge in 2012, and NuWorks software handled the presentation nicely. Gamblers had legitimate reasons to play at NetAd Management sites. Despite the appearance of legitimacy, they also had reasons to doubt the operation’s trustworthiness.
Casino Listings Blacklists NetAd Management
The respected player-run online gambling community, Casino Listings, blacklisted the NetAd Management websites on September 9, 2014. That included Begado and 12 other online casinos, including Casino Titan, WinPalace Casino, and Grand Macao Casino. The decision stemmed from an ongoing negotiation with the Grand Macao over a player’s inability to receive their winnings.
In the spring of 2015, a player signed up at Grand Macao Casino and received a $26 bonus. The player fulfilled their wagering requirement to the letter, while simultaneously winning around $6,500. When it came time to withdraw his winnings, the player received the following email from Grand Macao’s management.
Letter from the Grand Macao
The Finance Department for the Grand Macao wrote,
“I would like to inform you that as per our decision as Finance Department your last withdrawal request was denied and the requested funds were reimbursed to your playable balance as we are reviewing your account.” … The letter continued, “This process might take up to 90 business days. As soon as we have any updates regarding your account we will inform you via email. We are sorry for the inconvenience.“
Casino Listings Negotiations
Over a six week period, Casino Listings negotiated with Grand Macao to have the player’s winnings sent to him. It was learned that NetAd Management (owned by Affactive Media) had a history of slow-paying customers. The 90-day wait period was an outrageously long time, but it was not extraordinary in player experiences.
In fact, the 90-day period had been used before the stonewall players. That gambler was asked to wait for 90 days to receive a payment. If they did not gamble during that time, the player would be told they were not going to be paid, because their account was considered inactive.
Vanessa the VIP Manager
In the follow-up with the VIP Manager, who identified herself as “Vanessa”, the player learned that the site had detected “strange activity on your account”. The 90 business day waiting period was therefore going to be used to investigate the strange activity and verify the player’s account. A whopping 18 weeks were needed to probe this brand new player’s account.
Subsequently, the VIP manager offered to pay the player $500 if they would end their dispute. Essentially, the gambler was being asked to accept a $500 bribe to end the process and stop claiming they were owed $6,500.
Grand Macao Casino Blacklisted
This caused Casino Listings to blacklist Grand Macao Casino. Since the other sites were managed by the same organization, they also were blacklisted. Casino Listing’s staff member, “CL-ED”, said the company had a history of slow paying, but this particular case was unique. The fact the player won several thousand dollars with mere bonus money was the likely reason for such shenanigans.
The blacklisting might have been a drop in the bucket, had NetAd Management not faced other serious issues. Those issues would make NetAd’s payment policies seem minor in comparison.
How Begado Casino Closed
Only a month after the blacklisting, it was announced that NetAd Management’s owners were facing serious felony charges in the United States. The U.S. Justice Department had unsealed indictments against Gerry Shalon and Ziv Orenstein, who were involved in the largest-ever cyber-attack in US history. The FBI was seeking the arrest of the two men, who were described as the owners of Affactive Media, the parent company of NetAd Management.
The previous summer, JP Morgan-Chase’s database had been hacked. The cyber-attack affected the confidential information of 76 million customers, making it arguably the largest hacking case in the history of hacking.
JP Morgan Cyber-Attack
At the time of the hack, the Washington Post speculated that the Russian government might have been behind the attack. The Post’s reasoning was it was a sophisticated attack on a top-flight American financial institution and the Russian Federation might have been retaliating against the United States for its support of Ukraine.
Instead, it turned out that it was the private action of an international criminal organization. On the day the indictments were unsealed, the FBI arrested Anthony Murgio and Yuri Lebedev in Florida. The US government also formally asked Israel to extradite Gerry Shalon and Ziv Orenstein, as they were seen as the masterminds behind the Chase Morgan cyber-attack.
A “Pump and Dump” Scheme
Former FBI hacking expert Austin Berglas told the Washington Post at the time that the JP Morgan hacking incident was nothing more than an old-fashioned “pump and dump” scheme.
Berglas explained such schemes to the Post: “The theft of tens of millions of e-mails is a perfect vehicle to advertise the penny stocks that you would then dump after getting the initial investment. It’s the traditional pump and dump scheme in the digital world.”
Affactive Media, the owner of Begado Casino, was only a small portion of Shalon and Orenstein’s financial empire. The men had operated online casinos for years, but their criminal enterprises were far more significant. Their case is still pending in the United States.
Affiliate representatives for the Affactive Group and The Revenue Jet Group (Affactive’s affiliate network) began sending emails to webmasters within 24 hours of the arrests of Murgio and Lebedev, saying accounts were being frozen. One affiliate posted an email from a representative, which said, “Operations are closing immediately.”
End of the Begado Casino
Thus, Begado Casino came to an abrupt and inglorious end. Player accounts were frozen, pending a long investigation and prosecution process. Despite innovative software and nice bonus offers, Begado Casino was a disaster for the gamblers who chose to play at the site.
The story of Begado Casino should be a warning to online gamblers learning about the business. It is best to choose legitimate online casinos with a solid reputation and a long history. Sites which offer huge deposit bonuses are not always the best bet. It doesn’t matter of you get a big bonus or have big winnings, if the operator refuses to pay when it’s time to cash out. Slow-paying might not be as bad as a refusal to pay at all, but those two tactics sometimes go hand-in-hand.