A Visit to the Vault From the Pit to the Podium: Phoenix Awards 2011 & 2015

Featured stories from the Casinomeister Archives, 25 years of tales from front lines.


Head of Complaints (PABs), Senior Forum Moderator
Staff member
Jan 20, 2004
Given the discussions that have been going on recently regarding Curaçao and whether it will -- or won't -- pull itself up and make a go at being a decent licensing jurisdiction I thought a look back at a couple related success stories from years past might be appropriate.

For a good many years -- admittedly the early years -- Kahnawake was the joke of the industry: a "licensing" jurisdiction with no power, no credibility, no accountability and seemingly no hope. In those days trusting a Kahnawake-licensed casino was like putting a "kick me" sticker on the back of your head and hoping for the best.

Countless complaints for the better part of a decade went unheard and unresolved as players were repeatedly cheated, lied to, abused and ignored. Things at Kahnawake went quiet for a couple years and then, around 2009 or so, Kahnawake was back, actively participating in industry events -- which they never had before -- and assuring the curious that they were cleaning up their ways and turning things around.

IIRC we sat down with them a couple times over the following year or so to meet the principals, hear what they were doing and give a little feedback. By 2011 we were convinced and said so in the 2011 Casinomeister Awards:

The Phoenix Award is given to those persons or entities that have arisen from the ashes. In other words, something was broke and they fixed it in a big way.
This year the Kahnawake Gaming Commission can truly be proud of how the KGC – once a mediocre ineffectual licensing jurisdiction – has become a true standard bearer of what a licensing jurisdiction should be: approachable, responsive and effective. A lot of hard grueling work has been put into turning the KGC around. The commission has a high profile at industry events, and they are now publishing their yearly dispute resolution results.
Kudos for excellent work that has benefited not only players, but operators as well. Congratulations!

Kahanwake has since gone from good to excellent and remains one of the best run jurisdictions in the business. Now limited to Canadian players not many people hear about them these days but their great work remains a perfect example of what a jurisdiction can do if there is a determined and sustained effort to improve themselves.

Kahnawake may have been the first serious jurisdiction to rise above its dark past but it wasn't the last. Let's set the stage a little by looking at where our next example, Malta, was around the time that Kahnawake won the Phoenix award:

I think that it’s gotten so bad at the Malta Lottery and Gaming Authority that they have cut off the circulation to their hands. I was really hoping to bestow this award to another worthy contender this year, but after the iButler software issue (see Stupidest Casino Trick 2011), these guys win it “hands down”.
iButler Casino is licensed by the LGA, and for some time iButler was using pirated images from Rival for their slots. It wasn’t until it was noticed by some players that iButler was running scammy software. But this is something the licensing authority should have noticed. It really illustrates that there is no due diligence by the LGA – no quality control or inspections being done. I guess as long as the operator fees are promptly being paid, the LGA is happy.

For years Malta's reputation was very much like the early days of Kahnawake: bad news for players with no hope in sight. Perhaps the powers that be in Malta were inspired by Kahnawake's turnaround, perhaps the seriously bullish market prospects at the time encouraged them. Whatever the reasons things we definitely on the mend and our 2015 Awards brought the story to the people.

The Phoenix Award is given to those persons or entities that have arisen from the ashes. In other words, something was broke and they fixed it in a big way.
This year the award goes to Malta Gaming Authority – for years the MGA (formally the LGA) was the recipient of strong, biting criticism, and a number of Casinomeister Awards including Biggest Disappointment of 2008 and Sitting on One’s Hands award for 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Wow – that’s a lot of awards.
Most of these criticisms stemmed from their flaccid approach to player issues, their absence from the playing field of how casinos ought to be run, and their player complaints were generally ignored.
Well – things have changed. In 2014 I met up with a number of operators in Malta who explained why the MGA/LGA seemed so screwed up – they had no training in player complaint management, and their staff was rotated out whenever there was a change in government heads. In other words, they didn’t have a clue on how to deal with any complex player issues (usually stemming from promos gone wrong – or disheveled terms and conditions).
In February 2015, both Max and I met up with the individual who was consulting and training the MGA staff. He was adamant on making a change at the MGA since he had a vested interest, and he was friends with many operators who rely on the MGA to do the right thing. It was an altruistic thing to do – and, well, it’s working.
In November 2015, I met up with the Player Support Officer from the MGA in Malta, and he pretty much explained to me how everything was getting squared away, and we had an open dialogue between me Max and him.
I also explained how the Kahnawakees (recipient of the Phoenix award of 2011) were reporting on their player complaints each year. He seemed keen on checking out how they were doing this. I hope this is something that they can emulate
So finally… a rise from the ashes. It’s great to see positive change in this industry that affects both players and operators. Job well done.

So what does all of this say about Curaçao? From the "glass half full" perspective it could mean good things: others have made the climb from the pit to the podium so why not Curaçao?

From the "glass half empty" perspective things don't look quite so rosy: Curaçao's change -- if there really is any serious change coming -- is being imposed on them from their political masters, the government of the Netherlands. This isn't a "we want to do better and we will" situation, it's rather more a "we're being forced to do better and so here's our plan" thing. Will that yield good results? We'll know soon enough as the new Curaçao rules are set to start kicking in within days.

Want to read more about what's happening in Curaçao regarding the proposed iGaming licensing changes? Check out our ongoing editorials in the Curaçao 2023 - Casinomeister's Forum: Largest Online Casino Community Since 1998 forum.
Last edited:

Users who are viewing this thread

Click here for Red Cherry Casino

Meister Ratings