Golden Cherry Casino Review
Golden Cherry Casino was an online casino which served American gamblers from 2010 until July 2015. It was one of seven Affactive Media Group sites, one of the most notorious groups of rogue casinos on the internet. Readers might remember other Affactive Group sites, such as Winpalace Casino, Casino Titan, Jackpot Grand, Slots of Fortune, Begado Casino, and Slots Jungle.
The Affactive Group, owned by NetAd Management, often used Rival Gaming software and claimed to be licensed in Curacao. These associations gave their sites the appearance of legitimacy. Combined with big bonuses and a slick web design, Golden Cherry Casino and its sister sites lured a lot of U.S. gamblers to sign up. When it came time to withdraw money, arbitrary use of their devious terms and conditions allowed these websites to refuse payment. Other Affactive sites paid customers very slowly, which is why top reviewers like Casino Meister and AskGamblers eventually blacklisted these sites.
Despite the bad publicity, one of the owners of NetAd Management estimated in 2012 and 2013 that their string of websites (along with Revenue Jet websites) were generating $75 million in revenues each month. Golden Cherry and similar sites might have continued indefinitely, but the U.S. Justice Department arrested the site owns and their alleged accomplices in another investigation entirely. Overnight, Golden Cherry Casino disappeared.
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Golden Cherry Casino Timeline
|2010||Golden Cherry Casino debuts online with the tagline “The Net’s Premiere Online Gaming Site”|
|2010||Golden Cherry Casino lures players to its site with its $3000 deposit bonus and its no-deposit bonus codes like BESTCASINO20 and its $20 free play bonus.|
|2010||Affactive Group wins the Meister Award for “Worst Casino Group of 2010.” The site’s terms and conditions are criticized because they allowed Affactive sites to deny payment.|
|2010||Along with the Worst Casino Group award, Casinomeister blacklists all Affactive Group sites.|
|2011||Affactive Group again wins the Meister Award for “Worst Casino Group of 2011.” This time, a public controversy with Rome Casino over an alleged cyber-attack is the reason offered. Affactive representatives and TopGame Technology representatives exchanged insults and insinuations online, which is a first in American online gambling.|
|2012||Golden Cherry Casino is one of 7 NetAd Management sites which go offline for 29 days in November and December 2012. This is the so-called “Blackout.”|
|2013||Affactive Group wins a third Meister Award for “Worst Casino Group of 2011.” This time, slow pay is the main culprit.|
|2013||Golden Cherry Casino announces the $20 instant play bonus is being replaced by the $25 no-deposit bonus.|
|2014||AskGamblers places Golden Cherry and other Affactive Group sites on the “Not Recommended” list. The note says it isn’t blacklisted because charges against the sites had not been 100% proven.|
|2014||Casino Listings blacklists the Affactive Group because Jackpot Grand refused to pay a woman $6000 of winnings, then would not work with Casino Listings to resolve the dispute.|
|2014||Golden Cherry Casino debuts its Wild Weekly Offers, its “give-back” insurance promotion, and its $100 free chip offer.|
|2014||Revenue Jet wins the Meister Award for “Worst Casino Group of 2014” because it lied about it licensing in Curacao. In 2015, it would be proven that Revenue Jet and Affactive Group are owned by the same people.|
|2015||Golden Cherry Casino debuts promotions like the Paparazzi promotion, the Belly Dance promotion, and the “Play All Night” offers.|
|2015||Golden Cherry is considered a “Not Recommended” site on AskGamblers. 21 out of 46 complaints are resolved, with a total of $2,071 per complaint.|
Golden Cherry Launches in 2010
Golden Cherry Casino launches in 2010. The site uses the new Rival Gaming software for support. Rival Gaming uses advanced graphics and lots of bonus features to make up for its lack of progressive jackpots.
As a newer operator, Rival Gaming does not have as many games as its main competitor, RealTime Gaming. The RTG list of video slots is well over 150 at this point, while Rival Gaming has about 50. Rival has 6 blackjack games compared to 10-11 for RTG and 8 video poker games compared to 17 from RTG. The games look good and play well, and are a big improvement over TopGame Technology, which powers some Affactive Group sites.
Affactive Group Complaints
Affactive Group and NetAd Management are given the “Worst Casino Group of 2010” by the respected casino review site, Casinomeister. This begins an unprecedented run for the group, which wins 3 out of 4 Meister Awards for Worst Group. No other group had won two. Each time the complaints were new, so Affactive Group added outrage upon outrage in winning these awards.
The reason for these awards include several of the worst things an online casino can do. First, the terms and conditions (T&C) page contained clauses which allow the operators to deny payment for almost any reason. Second, customers complain that the policies allowed the site to deny any gambler with winnings on the no-deposit bonus, rendering the offer useless.
The third major reason for player frustration is a pattern of slow paying. Rogue online casinos pay slowly, hoping players will change their mind and keep gambling with that money. Even players with discipline are not safe. In some cases, Affactive Group sites deny payment to winners, citing they have waited too long to gamble. 60 or 90 days is seen as abandoning one’s account, meaning players must continue to gamble, while the site refuses to pay quickly.
In other cases, a max withdrawal of $500 a week is imposed. Incredibly, the payment policies apply to progressive jackpot slot machines. One of these sites had a $2.8 million jackpot from a TopGame slot. Players would receive $26,000 in payouts per year, meaning they would have to live 120 years to get their full payout. This is why OUSC does not consider TopGame Technology progressive jackpots (which offer $1 million more than RTG progressives) among its list of biggest US online progressive jackpots. It’s no use winning if you don’t get paid in a timely fashion.
Affactive Group Blackout
In November 2012, Golden Cherry Casino went offline for 29 days. The owners told customers that their sites experienced a glitch during a routine update. No real explanation was given for the “Blackout.” Players were offered a $30 free chip to continue playing on the site.
The Blackout should have been a sign that the Affactive sites all were owned by the same people. All sites went offline at the same time, indicating they were housed on the same servers. At the time, the Blackout was portrayed as affecting “RTG online casinos,” obscuring the fact that these sites were closely connected.
A Pattern of Abuse
Some sites owned by this group operated as legitimate casinos for a time. Even up until 2012, the complaints about some sites in the network were minimal. Beginning in 2013 and 2014, the sites began to receive a lot of complaints. This indicated that the multiple sites were used to target the same players multiple times, as those players didn’t know they were being scammed by the same groups.
The scam worked this way. A player would sign up for an Affactive Group online casino. They soon began to get promotions from other online casinos in the same network. Most players did not know all the sites were owned by the same people, but might have assumed the sites had sold their information to marketers. When they got burned by the first site, they would find another online casino. Since they kept getting emails from these other sites (often with big offers), they might sign with one of these new casinos and start the cycle of scams all over again.
Golden Cherry Casino Closes
This pattern might have continued for some years into the future, but a criminal case in the United States and Israel changed everything. On July 23, 2015, Anthony Murgio was arrested in Florida on charges he was involved in a cyber-attack on J.P. Morgan-Chase the previous summer. An indictment unsealed in New York City called for the arrest of Murgio and his alleged accomplice, Joshua Aaron. Both men are American citizens.
The unsealed indictments called for the arrest of two foreign nationals as well: Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein. Both men are Israeli citizens. The government of Israel coordinated with the United States on the case, arresting Shalon and Orenstein in the upscale Sayvon neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Both men were transferred to a jail in Haifa. The United States asked for their extradition to the USA, to be placed on trial on 30 felony charges apiece.
In his Sayvon neighborhood, Gery Shalon was seen as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv, one of the tech startup capitals of the world. Israel is known as “Startup Nation” because of its many tech-savvy young entrepreneurs who do business across international borders.
In truth, Gery Shalon owned at least 12 different online websites under various company names: Affactive Group, NetAd Management, Milore Limited, and Revenue Jet. He also owned an illegal payment processing service and an unlicensed bitcoin exchange. Shalon also owned web trading platforms.
Altogether, this appears to have generated $75 million a month in revenue. Gery Shalon is thought to have $100 million in at least one Swiss bank account. By any standards, he is massively wealthy.
Ziv Orenstein: Principal Deputy
One of his chief accomplices was Ziv Orenstein, who was described in Preet Bharara’s indictment as “Mr. Shalon’s principal deputy.” Ziv Orenstein set up shell companies and opened bank accounts under assumed names.
Joshua Aaron is thought to have been instrumental in the cyber-attack on JP Morgan. He is thought to have provided credentials to hackers, while also locating companies to target. Anthony Murgio, a friend and fraternity brother of Aaron’s from their time as the University of Florida, also helped with the hack.
The Alleged Criminal Plot
According to US investigators, the plan was stock manipulation. The hackers would get access to the financial records of millions of Americans, then find targets for a pump-and-dump scheme. Essentially, the hackers would buy penny stocks, pump up their value to investors, and then dump them on the market for a huge profit. The hackers wanted at least $100 million in revenues from the scheme.
Emails produced by investigators show men who arrogantly assume the US authorities cannot touch them. At one point, Joshua Aaron says US authorities cannot extradite Israeli citizens, and Gery Shalon agreed. Shalon said they were safe, even if they were found out. That proved to be wrong.
Extradition and Trial
Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein were extradited to the United States in the interim between July and November 2015. On November 9, Shalon, Orenstein, and Murgio appeared in a New York court to face charges. Their trial date was set for 2016. They remain in custody. Joshua Aaron remains on the loose, presumably living in Russia.
Golden Cherry Casino Closed
On July 24, 2015, Affactive Group representatives began contacting affiliates to tell them the business was closing. This is when it became clear that Gery Shalon was the principal owner of the Affactive Group sites, including Golden Cherry Casino.
Today, players can go on the Golden Cherry website. It looks like an active business, but it isn’t. That’s a good thing, because US gamblers have many choices in terms of recommended online casinos.