WinPalace Casino Review
WinPalace Casino launched in 2009 as part of the NetAd Management group of casinos. Affactive Media was the site’s casino program. Branded to sound a bit like the more famous non-US friendly “Spin Palace” website, WinPalace looked like a solid entry into the American online casino market.
The site used Real Time Gaming software and was licensed by Curacao eGaming. The site had a big signup bonus, supported 5 languages, and allowed payments with MasterCard, Visa, Neteller, ACH, and Skrill. The layout of the site was state-of-the-art for 2009, so WinPalace Casino showed every sign of being a first-rate organization.
Within 5 years, the site would be blacklisted as a rogue casino, along with the rest of the Affactive Media sites. Within 6 years, it would be closed, due to a major international criminal investigation. This is the story of WinPalace Casino.
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WinPalace Casino Timeline
WinPalace Goes Live
WinPalace launches as a US-facing online casino.
RTG Games and Big Bonuses
Players praise the Real Time Gaming software, the selection of games, and the big welcome bonuses offered.
Voted Worst Casino Group
Casinomeister lists Affactive Group as the Worst Casino Group of 2010. The award is given for “predatory terms and conditions” on sites like Slots Jungle, Mayflower Casino, and Casino Titan. WinPalace is not mentioned.
The first of 86 player complaints appears on AskGamblers. The first complainer had it right, saying on December 11, “Avoid at all costs.”
Public Dispute with License Holder
Representatives of Affactive Media and Rome Casino engage in an unseemly dispute on Casinomeister. Rome Casino claims Affactive Media hacked their site. Affactive reps essentially admit to doing so, claiming Rome Casino planned to do the same to them.
Voted Worst Casino Group
Casinomeister lists Affactive Group as the Worst Casino Group of 2011. The public dispute is one reason cited for the award.
Unfair Terms & Conditions
Player complaints focus on a deceptive welcome bonus and dwindling odds of winning. Player winnings are voided if a game not on the welcome bonus preferred list is played.
A player hires a lawyer after losing $5,400 due to arbitrary terms and conditions.
Voted Worst Casino Group
Casinomeister lists Affactive Group as the Worst Casino Group of 2013. The reason given is “slow paying.” Some sites pay as low as $500 a week to big jackpot winners. The sites listed in the group are WinPalace Casino, Casino Titan, Begado Casino, Golden Cherry, Jackpot Grand, Slots Jungle, and Slots of Fortune.
Player Winnings Voided
Specific complaints mount about WinPalace on AskGamblers. Players complain that the no-deposit bonus winners see their accounts voided at little provocation, while payouts are paid slowly.
Players complain that service reps are troublesome. They appear trained to delay and frustrate players, in order to help the slow payment apparatus.
WinPalace and other Affactive Group sites are blacklisted by AskGamblers, after massive numbers of complaints.
WinPalace is closed after its owners, Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein, are arrested in Israel. All Affactive Group and Revenue Jet sites are closed due to the same investigation.
After extradition to the United States, Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein are charged with over 30 felony counts in the United States. Each charge has a mandatory 5 to 20 years in prison.
The Rise and Fall of WinPalace Casino
WinPalace Casino is a cautionary tale to online gamblers. When the site launched in 2009, it clearly had a lot of money behind the operation. It used RealTime Gaming software, which is considered among the best in the post-UIGEA era for American players. The site’s operators had money and business sense; what they lacked was integrity.
That is the upshot players should take from this article. All that glitters is not gold, and online casinos with a good design and better bonuses are not all legitimate. Research a website before putting money into it.
2009 and 2010: The Early Years
Not many references to WinPalace Casino are found on the player forums. It takes a while for a new casino to gain traction — that is, a customer base and resulting word of mouth — so it took a solid 18 months before gamblers were talking about their experiences. When they began to talk, their reviews were not good.
2011: “Avoid at All Costs”
Ask Gamblers had its first complaint about WinPalace in February 2011. The first words posted told players, “Avoid at all costs.” It would be the first of 86 disputes on Ask Gamblers. Only 35 were resolved. Of those which never received satisfaction, they lost an estimated $115,000.
Complaints focused on the standard tactics: big promotional offers, predatory terms and conditions, slow payouts in withdrawal requests, and shoddy customer service to frustrate customers. The plan was to lure people to bet at WinPalace, secure in the knowledge those outrageous bonus offers never would be paid. When gamblers contact the site, have a well-trained staff whose goal is to delay and confuse. Eventually, players will get frustrated and go away.
Back-to-Back Worst Casino Group of the Year
Though WinPalace was flying under the radar, the casino group it belonged to was not. Affactive Group, the affiliate network which owned WinPalace Casino, was gaining a bad reputation. In 2010, CasinoMeister listed Affactive Media as the “Worst Casino Group of 2010,” largely for predatory terms and conditions.
The rules of the game were written in such a way that casino management could void winnings for virtually any infraction. Players lost their winnings if they tried to cash out before their rollover was completed. They lost winnings if they played a game, like blackjack, which wasn’t on the list of approved games. In legitimate casinos, the software won’t let banned games affect the rollover, but it has no other effect on player’s accounts. With Affactive Group, gamblers might win $5,000 only to lose their winnings when it was time to make a withdrawal.
In 2011, Affactive Group won Worst Casino Group again. This was unprecedented, because the site likes to publicize bad casino groups. Affactive’s public controversy with Rome Casino and TopGame Technology forced the hand of the site, because their forums were the site of the public dispute. Eventually, Casinomeister had to shut down the thread to new comments.
WinPalace’s T&C and Customer Service
By the end of 2011, WinPalace review showed it was beginning to gain a bad reputation. The same issues began to crop up, including tricky, and sometimes rude, customer service representatives and awful terms and conditions. By the end of 2011, WinPalace had a dozen or more complaints on major websites. One player lost $5000 on a lark and hired a lawyer.
This continued well into 2012 and 2013. The only time deceptive practices didn’t happen was in late November and early December 2012, when the Affactive Group’s websites crashed. For 29 days, they were unable to conduct business. Many gamblers left the network, assuming this was a shoddy company. When the sites returned, management offered free bonus offers to gamblers who returned, which kept many of the victims committed to WinPalace Casino.
Worst Casino of the Year 2013
WinPalace Casino reviews show that by 2013, the Affactive Group was seen a rogue operator by most of the top player forums online. In 2013 and 2014, many of these communities began to declare these sites “rogue casinos,” or blacklist them outright.
CasinoMeister named Affactive its Worst Casino Group for the third time in four years for a new reason: slow payment. Online gamblers shop for the fastest withdrawals. When they win money, they want payment quickly. Affactive Group was one of the worst offenders.
Under the terms and conditions of most of their websites, players might not receive payment for up to 4 months. Some sites had a maximum weekly withdrawal limit of $500 — a tiny amount for high rollers and progressive players.
2014 – Blacklisted by Several Review Sites
The reputation of sites like WinPalace continued to get worse by the week and month. CasinoMeister had long since blacklisted Affactive Group sites (including WinPalace). Other player forums started to blacklist the sites, including AskGamblers, Casino Listings, and Gamblers Grumble. By this time, WinPalace was considered a rogue site. The site’s owners must have considered Affactive Group damaged goods, because they launched a new affiliate program: Revenue Jet. The Revenue Jet group was equally bad, but not as infamous – yet.
With Affactive Group and WinPalace Casino blacklisted on most of the top forums, it was a law of diminishing returns for its owners. The sites fed their player information into a central database, so the casino network could target the same players multiple times before they figured out the scam. But the word was out, and people were beginning to realize how bad it was to be a member of the network. That is why Revenue Jet became important to keep the scam going. A third group of casinos likely would have continued in a few years, but fate intervened.
2015 Shutdown of WinPalace Casino
On July 24, 2015, affiliate marketers who were associated with Affactive Group and Revenue Jet were informed that these online casinos were shutting down. Players with accounts on those sites were informed shortly after. All were told that the owners were facing legal difficulties.
The gaming media soon learned that the owners of the websites were Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein, a pair of Israeli businessmen. These two men had been arrested by law enforcement in Israel for their role in a 2014 cyber-attack on the J.P. Morgan-Chase Corporation. JP Morgan-Chase is the largest bank in the United States and the sixth-largest corporation in the world.
American officials alleged that Shalon, Orenstein, and two Americans had launched a cyber-attack on JP Morgan’s database. The hack eventually targeted 10 different US corporations and financial institutions. In all, 76 million private bank accounts and 7 million small business accounts had been hacked. It was the largest cyber-attack in US history — and launched in larger part due to the machinations of the owners of WinPalace Casino.
2015 and 2016 Legal Proceedings
In November 2015, Gary Shalon and Ziv Orenstein were extradited to the United States where each faced 30 felony charges. If convicted on all counts, the total years in prison would range between 150 and 600. US financial, economic, and political leaders thought the cyber-attack was launched by the Russian Federation. When they realized they were private hackers compromising the top US bank for a pump-and-dump scheme, they would stop at nothing to get their suspects.
Articles published in the US and Israeli media showed Gery Shalon telling his alleged accomplices in emails that Israel was beyond US jurisdiction, so they had nothing to fear. The emails show he wanted to make $100 million, which he believed would allow him to build a massive financial empire. He also bragged in emails that he made between $75 million and $78 million a month in gross revenues during the time he was winning awards for the Worst Casino Group.
The Fate of WinPalace Casino’s Owners
Certainly, the gross revenues did not represent the profits of his company, after he paid out salaries to all the customer support personnel needed to keep scamming players. He needed to pay licenses to software companies and pay off partners, but he still had to be clearing eight figures every single month. Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein not only got greedy, they appear to have gotten massively greedy — and it cost them.
Gery Shalon, Ziv Orenstein, and Anthony Murgio await trial in late 2016. With email and electronic payments as evidence, the former owners of WinPalace Casino face an uphill climb to prove they are not guilty.