Handa-Lopez Funscape David R. Brown Raymond L. Clark Mark Waters World Wide Multimidia Scylinx


Dormant account
Dec 12, 2000
Casinos powered by
7 by 7 Casino
Boathouse Casino
Caribbean Island Casino
Casino 21
Casino Alitalia
Casino Caribe
Desperado Casino
El San Juan Casino
Grand Dominican Casino
Pagoda Resort and Casino
Parisian Casino
Play Big

The Grand Dominican Online Casino
by Max Drayman, WINNERonline.com
27 Sep 2000

The Grand Dominican has been around a while. I was planning to review this casino quite some time ago, but they had some trouble with their software provider and were temporarily out of service. At the time I shrugged and moved on to other things but they managed a come-back and have been plugging along ever since.

The software supplier Grand Dominican (GD) had trouble with was the now-infamous Handa-Lopez. If you've been around the online gambling scene a while you'll know that, after years of legal troubles, the Handa-Lopez (H-L) offices in San Diego, California were raided in 1999, records and equipment were seized, and the whole chain of US-based H-L casinos were pulled off the web. The indictment by a Federal grand jury in US District Court of San Jose on June 14, 2000 of senior H-L execs David R. Brown and Raymond L. Clark on charges of conspiracy and conducting an illegal gambling business effectively ended H-L's operation.

And what of Grand Dominican Casino? Fortunately they were not based in the US and were relatively untouched by the police actions in California. As spokesperson for GD's current owner, TecnologiaJPR of the Dominican Republic, Barry Wilson says "the software was developed by Handa-Lopez, but the relationship ended there." In other words, they retained their software license and re-opened the doors, with or without Handa-Lopez.

The upside is that GD offers some decent bonuses. If you deposit at least $50 they'll give you a $25 bonus. And if you forgo their HTML no-download games for the download package, they'll give you another $25. Fair enough. The downside is that GD is still using the same basic H-L package. The copyright on the download package is dated 1997, and I'm sorry to say that the old H-L software is looking a little dated. Aside from the fact that there is no Play for Free option --an oversight that I usually find unforgivable-- the games are pretty dull compared to more contemporary offerings. The graphics are flat, the multi-media is old and the user interface isn't particularly friendly.

But casinos aren't all glitter and sound right? If a game pays well, who cares what it looks like? Well, in my opinion Grand Dominican is not exactly a fountain of generosity, starting bonuses aside. After being forced to deposit in order to play their games, I started with Blackjack and played about 20 hands at the minimum $5 bet per hand, winning less than 1/3 while carefully playing optimal strategy. I'm well aware that this is a puny sampling, statistically speaking, but I wasn't having much fun with the game and I wasn't winning which spells "time to move on" for me.

Next stop: Video Poker. GD's Jacks or Better Video Poker is a 8/5, $1 game with no Bonus for Max Bet and no Jackpot. Again, playing optimal strategy I was throwing away money fast and getting dangerously close to busting out. Fortunately my bonus chips came through --in less than the advertised 24 hours-- so I figured I'd move on and try something else.

GD Slots are $1 minimum, no Bonus for Max Bet and my payback on 30 odd pulls was terrible. Okay, so Roulette? It's American Roulette, not my favorite, and by this time I didn't have the heart to throw much more money away. After a few fruitless spins where the house minimum on any given bet is $2 I'd had enough.

In closing I suppose it's worth saying that I admire the Grand Dominican people for weathering their troubles with Handa-Lopez and plugging on. With over a dozen casinos now in their little family they deserve some kind of award for getting so much mileage out of the old H-L software. Be that as it may, I was happy to cash out at a slight loss and call it a day.

You do not have permission to view link Log in or register now.

The Biggest Crooks Getting Closer To Jail!

Dozens of casinos shut down leaving clients unpaid!
Illegal casinos' servers seized by the authorities!
From California to Vancouver to Australia!

Electrifying news of a group of companies that is causing havoc among consumers and servers around the world - online casinos run by the biggest crooks in the business - and a SPECIAL REPORT from an Australian journalist who's been on the trail of a bunch of illegal Internet sites, helping to investigate and track down vital information about "a web of deceit across four countries involving false addresses and dodgy gambling ventures", all of which cost customers dear. His Report details a "worldwide network of online scams netting hundreds of millions of dollars a year." You're not going to believe this! It's the best kind of investigative journalism, digging up all the hard facts to get at the truth, no matter what.


Gambling Magazine was the first to publish the stories about the group of companies made up of Funscape.com, CasinoSoft.com the game developer, Handa Lopez Inc. (HLI) acting as the e-cash company, World Wide Multimedia, and Scylinx Corporation, with the mastermind behind some massive frauds, David Brown, working closely with Raymond Clark.

These are the crooks that rgtonline.com and casinowire.com were so fast to help some time ago, by publishing totally untrue and misleading stories about their competitors. Casinowire.com even published some fraudulent and fake e-mails to help these crooks. Casinowire.com is obviously a failure considering the amount they spend in advertising and the very low traffic they generate.

When their good friends got shut down by the authorities many days ago, rgtonline.com and casinowire.com failed to tell their readers about it. These guys are quick to publish totally untrue stories to damage their own competitors, but pretty slow to publish real news when their friends get busted.

Behind casinowire.com is a group of Swedish people hiding behind offshore nominees, they also develop software for online casinos at Boss Media, a game developer getting really desperate to compete with the "big boys." Some time ago we tried to contact the owners of these companies and only ended up talking to a Gibraltar company, specializing in international tax evasion and tax avoidance, which was acting for the Swedish owners.

We warned our readers for months about these crooks, and even left that article in a prominent and permanent position on our main page.

On a previous article we warned any honest webmaster not to advertise any of these sites who use the same rigged software, but it did not stop these sites from continuing to heavily promote them:


These are the worst offenders, because they know what is going on. These guys must be pretty hungry and desperate to make a quick dollar, because they don't really need to promote the biggest crooks in the industry; there are plenty of honest casinos out there just waiting for the first available space. The honest casinos only pay the normal advertising rates, which are much less than what the crooks pay. They have a program where they offer to the webmasters up to 50% of the consumer's net losses, instead of paying the normal advertising rates.

Any webmaster who promotes the biggest crooks in the industry should be partially responsible for all the money fraudulently taken from the consumers. With their commission averaging 35% to 50% of the money defrauded, they are partners in the scams, and they often make more money than the casinos themselves, who have other operating costs.

It would appear that all the casinos hosted by HLI and David Brown are currently shut down, with the exception of granddominican.com and starluck.com, who have their own servers. These crooks are still in the business of ripping off consumers.

Stay tuned for more details!


Dear Sirs,

I am a Australian journalist currently trying to trace the background of a group of illegal casinos which have been operating through an ISP in Perth, Western Australia.

We've run stories in our newspaper over here over the last few days on a bunch of illegal Internet sites called Triple Heart, Lucky Liberty and Casino Utopia which have been running off a server at the offices of a company called Ace Online.

The server was shut down last week and the company maintains that it did not know what was on the server, which it says was given to it by a client (who it declined to name).

What may interest you is that there appear to be links between these casinos and funscape.com, including similar registration details (which appear to be false).

Also, in our enquiries there seems to be one constant with all the companies:

the Brand Group of Companies
Suite 1, 93 Commercial Street
Nanaimo, B.C., V9R 5G3
Tel: 250.716.8803 Fax: 250.716.8803

It appears that:

One or more British Columbia residents are operating illegal online gaming sites;
Many of these are hosted in BC or receive some direct support from BC networks;
The primary owners of these sites are BC residents;
The contact information used in the registration is listed as Vancouver but the address, phone number and name appear to be false;
Brand Communications appears to be the primary support network of the sites.
Internet traces of many of the casino sites all seem to lead back to www.brand.ca.

A scan of Brand.ca's netblock that holds a company called world-media.com (which is the contact email address given for the illegal sites) shows: casinolingerie.com funscape.com highstakes.com wallstreet-casino.com goldstrikecasino.com mikebros.com triplediamondcasino.com parisblvdcasino.com megadollar.com cybercitycasino.com grandtowers.com casinocaribe.com gamingsoft.com

It would be hard for Brand to feign ignorance about all these sites.

As I understand it (but I may be wrong) in BC all Internet casinos have to be registered. In Western Australia, where Triple Heart, Lucky Liberty and Casino Utopia were operating from, internet gambling is illegal.

I was wondering if you could tell me if Brand has any registered casinos or if they have been investigated. The names which keep coming up in connection with the casinos (although many would appear to be false) are:

Kevin Little, Robert Benson, David Brown, Raymond Clark, Yance Simonet (contact person for funscape.com, highstakes.com and casinolingerie.com), Frank Kelly (contact person for casinocaribe.com), Mark Waters (contact person for casinosoft.com), Richard vandenBosch (ditto), D. James (contact person for cybersino.com, webmaster at funscape.com). ...

I hope this information is of use to you but I was also wondering if you might have any more information on these companies, specifically Triple Heart, Casino Utopia and Lucky Liberty - particularly on the connection between the sites, which are all registered in Canada, and Western Australia.

I was wondering if similar operations linked to funscape had been run offshore in other countries. It seems a good way of avoiding national laws.

Feel free to use this information. I hope we can be of help to each other.


[Name withheld for reasons of confidentiality]
The West Australian

PS. Here are the stories we have run so far:

SAT, May 15:

AN illegal online casino which encourages people to gamble with their credit cards has been operating internationally through a Perth Internet provider.
The operators of the site, Triple Heart, claimed the cybercasino was based in the Dutch Antilles and the name was registered in Vancouver, Canada.
But the website was actually being housed on a hard drive at Nedlands Internet service provider Ace Online.
The site was shut down suddenly on Thursday afternon after enquiries by The West Australian.
Ace Online said yesterday that they were unaware what was on the Triple Heart server, which had been sent to them by a client.
They said it was shut down at the request of the client, who they declined to name for confidentiality reasons.
"Basically I didn't even know it was a casino until yesterday," an Ace Online technician said yesterday.
He said he did not know how the website had operated.
"As far as I know it was just a website which was linked back to a US gambling site," he said.
The elaborate site had been set up as the Internet equivalent of a casino.
It offered people the chance to win money by buying virtual gaming chips with their credit cards which could then be used to place bets on a variety of games.
All the credit transactions were redirected to an Internet server in California where the money was deducted.
It is understood that about one gigabyte of Internet traffic was going through the site each day, indicating a large number of users.
The director of Q-Net Australia, which shares an Internet link with Ace Online, said yesterday that he did not know much about Triple Heart.
"All I knew was it created us a problem and we suggested to Ace Online that it was perhaps not a very good client," Philip Wilton said.
He said he had been concerned that the website was generating the Internet equivalent of junk mail, known as spam. He did not know where it was operated from.
"It may well have been (run from Canada)," he said.
"I don't know why they would have put the site here if it is originating in Canada but maybe the rules over there are slightly different to what they are here."
WA Racing and Gaming chief Barry Sargeant said he would not comment on a case of which he was not aware.
"Give me the location of the site and we will investigate it," he said.
Mr Sargeant said WA had no plans to licence cybercasinos.
Under the Gaming Commission Act, anyone who is knowingly involved in an unlawful game faces a $2500 fine or six months imprisonment, or both.
A person who places bets in relation to unlawful games can be fined up to $500.
International gambling industry consultant Glenn Barry said some casino sites were genuine and well-operated but it was hard to separate these from the scams.

SAT, May 15:

TRACKING down Triple Heart involves tracing a web of deceit across four countries involving false addresses and dodgy gambling ventures.
To visitors to the well-constructed site, the casino appeared to be operating from the Dutch Antilles but The West Australian has traced it back to a web server sitting in the Nedlands office of Perth Internet provider Ace Online.
The Triple Heart website name was actually registered in Canada 10 weeks ago to a man named Robert Benson. A Vancouver post office box is given on the registration form as a contact address.
But the phone and fax numbers listed as belonging to Mr Benson are not connected and Canada Post says the post code listed in the address is not valid.
The West Australian has also not had any replies to email sent to Mr Benson or to a man named Keith Little, who has gone by the title of Triple Heart administrator in emails sent by the site to disgruntled US Internet users.
When Triple Heart went online about two months ago it advertised itself through mass emails proclaiming it as "better than Vegas".
"New Award Winning Casino... Pays Instantly! Win Real $Money$ Blackjack Video Poker Slots Roulette Keno and more..." read the blurb, which was sent out en masse to email addresses across the world.
Once visitors were at the website, they were invited to register their name and email address and submit credit card details so they could buy "virtual" gaming chips. With these they could enter the casino and place their bets. Wins would be credited to their credit cards.
To complicate things further, a trace of the credit card details reveals that they were actually diverted to another web site owned by a company called World Systems at the same Vancouver post office box address listed for the elusive Mr Benson.
And while the address for that separate website is listed as Curacao, it can be traced back to a computer server in Redwood City California.
And this, of course, traces back to that post office box in Canada.
It is ironic that it is most probably the massive amount of emails sent by the Triple Heart operators to drum up business for the website that may have proven its downfall.
Hundreds, possibly thousands of people were spammed (the cyber equivalent of junkmail) by the website's owners.
When an Internet user in the US contacted Triple Heart to complain about the spam, he was told to stop the sham in a reply from Mr Little.
"Why don't you admit that you are not interested in email but rather doing away with internet gaming?," the email read.
".... you aren't getting any mail at all. You're a fraud and a sham. You are only interested in eradicating internet gaming.
"Mr. XXXX, we will continue this game as long as you want it to go on."
Emails like that prompted a worldwide group of loosely-organised anti-spammers - going by the name of the Lumber Cartel - to start an active campaign against the site and previous casinos which were also believed to be run by the elusive Mr Benson.
One of those sites, Lucky Liberty, was terminated after complaints about spam.
Joe Sekhon, from the abuse department at Canadian ISP BC Tel, said the operators of the site had been given a warning, which they had ignored.
It is also understood that the Triple Heart operators were behind another ill-fated online casino venture, Casino Utopia.
"When is Canada going to crack this guy's walnuts?" one member of the Lumber Cartel asked in a post on an Internet newsgroup.
And now that Triple Heart has been taken offline, it is unclear what will happen to the many punters and their virtual chips which have now vanished from cyberspace along with the casino.
Q-Net, which shares an Internet link with the company, has named two of its servers Keno and Blackjack. It said yesterday that this was an unfortunate coincidence.
Ace Online maintains that it was unaware of the cybercasino until yesterday.

MON, May 16:

THE organisers of an illegal online casino which operated through a Perth Internet provider are believed to be behind a worldwide network of online scams netting hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
The elaborate Triple Heart cybercasino - which promised quick wins and "thousands paid out every day" through bets placed with a credit card - was taken offline last Thursday after an investigation by The West Australian tracked the site to the office of a Nedlands Internet provider.
The West Australian understands that at least one other illegal casino, Casino Utopia, also operated through the same hard drive as Triple Heart.
The company, Ace Online, maintains it was unware what was on the Triple Heart server, which had been sent to it by a client.
Director Lawrence Fowler said yesterday that the company had not had any contact with the client, who he declined to name for confidentiality reasons, since the server was pulled offline.
The Triple Heart site purported to be based in the Netherlands Antilles but was actually registered in Canada and housed on a hard drive at Ace Online.
The site is believed to have been run from Canada with credit card deductions taking place in the US.
Triple Heart and Casino Utopia were both registered in Vancouver using the same false name, address and contact details.
They are two of the dozens of illegal cybercasinos which have operated briefly in the last six months.
Credit card transactions for all of the sites were redirected to the same Internet address in California.
Several Internet sites used by the casino operators for illegal gaming and redirecting of credit card details or mail were off-line yesterday. But a separate link to Canada remained active.
The WA Department of Racing and Gaming said yesterday that it was very interested in the operations of Triple Heart but was not prepared to reveal its next move.

TUES, May 17:

A Perth Internet provider linked to an illegal online casino operation was told almost two months ago that a casino was being run through its offices.
Ace Online claimed last week that it had no previous knowledge of the casino website.
But the West Australian has copies of emails sent to the company as far back as March complaining about the casino and junk email which had been advertising it.
The Triple Heart cybercasino - which encouraged people to gamble with their credit cards - was registered in Canada and purported to be based in the Netherlands Antilles.
But the website was housed in a hard drive at the Nedlands office of Ace Online.
At least two other online casinos, Casino Utopia and Lucky Liberty, are now believed to have been housed on the same server. All share links with a worldwide network of online casinos believed to be worth hundreds of milions of dollars a year.
Ace Online staff said the hard drive had been given to them by a client, who they declined to name. They said they were unaware of the server's content until last week.
But the company was repeatedly contacted by frustrated Internet users who complained about junk email - known as spam - which was advertising Triple Heart, Casino Utopia and Lucky Liberty.
On May 3, Ace Online replied to one of the complainants: "I have spoken to this customer on a multiple number of occasions and I have been advised they do not spam.
"We lease rack space to this customer in our server room on a monthly/3 monthly pre-paid arrangement," the email read.
"When our initial contract was signed it was for server hosting for web purposes."
When told that a new casino site, Triple Heart, was operating through an Ace Online server, the company replied: "We lease rack space to them and I do not have any access or control what so ever to their server.
"... We are a company, they are our clients. I am not at liberty to chop them off the air without some very solid reasons."
Q-Net Australia, which supplies Internet bandwidth to Ace Online, distanced itself from its client yesterday and confirmed the existence of the emails.
Q-Net director Philip Wilton said his company had received copies of emails about the casino which had been sent to Ace Online.
Ace director Lawrence Fowler refused to comment yesterday, saying he had been advised not to say anything about Triple Heart.
WA Racing, Gaming and Liquor chief Barry Sargeant confirmed yesterday that an investigation was being carried out into Triple Heart's Perth connections.


Further Evidence of Massive Fraud Uncovered

A group of companies involved in massive fraud, using software programmed to cheat the consumer, as well as cheating amongst themselves. Deplorable practices by any standards. In striving for high standards for online gambling sites, it's high time they were shown the door. If you enjoy online gambling, read what follows carefully - and take note.

A while ago, we reported that a group of companies comprised of Funscape.com, CasinoSoft.com the game developer, Handa Lopez Inc. (HLI) acting as the e-cash company, World Wide Multimedia, and Scylinx Corporation, were involved in massive frauds when they cheated so much from their own casino operators, that twenty-nine of them decided to stop doing business with this group.

The mastermind behind these massive frauds is David Brown, working closely with Raymond Clark.

There is hard evidence that these crooks have also massively cheated thousands of their merchants who are advertising their banners on a commission basis. Approximately four thousand are getting ripped off every day, without even knowing it, by using software programmed to cheat.

These crooks also owe substantial amounts of money to their casino operators, and they have made no effort whatsoever to settle this case.

We have now discovered, by looking at the statements provided by Handa Lopez Inc., that everything indicates that their software is also rigged to cheat the end consumers, the people gambling on their web sites.

By the way, Handa Lopez is David Brown's ex-wife, but she distrusted him so much, he could not sign so much as a $ 5 check in his own company.

Handa Lopez's own statements over a nine-month period show an incredibly low amount of checks being issued - representing only 0.009% - which is less than 1% of the total sales. This clearly demonstrates that virtually nobody can win at their casinos using this rigged software.

On the top of all these facts, this group of crooks has openly encouraged the people advertising their own sites to steal graphics and animations from competitors' web sites, and very often they steal whole pages and just make a few minor changes.

Only a few weeks ago, CasinoSoft, in a desperate effort to sell its inferior and rigged software, got the bright idea to make some web sites with graphics and animations they stole from casino operators and a game developer, who are their direct competitors. The Internet service provider hosting the sites for David Brown had no choice but to remove the pages to avoid legal proceedings.

This group of people and companies are, without any shadow of doubt, the biggest crooks in the whole industry.

They will stay on our Not Recommended list until these deplorable practices stop, and until they pay their debts.

Stay tuned for more details!


Any honest webmaster should not advertise these sites. They use the same software:


You have been warned!

article # 34/06
The Big Losers

Evidence of massive fraud uncovered

The big losers of the year are a group of companies comprised of Funscape.com, Casino Soft, the game developer, Handa Lopez Inc. (HLI) acting as the e-cash company, World Wide Multimedia, and Scylinx Corporation. A few months ago, twenty-nine online casinos decided to stop doing business with this group, because they were being massively cheated, and as it stands today, HLI owes them substantial amounts of money.

A spokesperson for the companies who were cheated told us that the mastermind behind these massive frauds has been named as David Brown, working closely with Raymond Clark, the new owner of the company, a man who was reputedly hiding for months, using an anonymous e-mail address at Hotmail. We were told that this group are, without any shadow of doubt, the biggest crooks in the whole industry.

We have had the opportunity to study this case in depth, and there is plenty of evidence of massive fraud and cheating. We will soon publish some of the details of this horror story. Funscape.com is claiming to be the "world's largest" - but they forgot the word
RGT Online Articles

What Happened to Handa Lopez?
You do not have permission to view link Log in or register now.


Rumors are spreading like brush fires about an incident last week in which the California office of online software provider Handa Lopez Inc. was reportedly raided by federal agents. The question of the hour, which remains unanswered, is: Exactly what happened?

Their computers and files were seized, and most of their licensees, with the exception of a few who maintain their own servers have been shut down. Clients and licensees are still in the dark as to what happened. The reason(s) for the raid are unclear.

Handa Lopez carefully structured its approach toward offering Internet betting around a "contest model" in which online gaming currency is gained through mail-in offers. The company has licensed its software since 1995 and the model hasn't been challenged by authorities.

RGT will report on further developments as the story unfolds.
You do not have permission to view link Log in or register now.

U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney
Northern District of California

11th Floor, Federal Building
450 Golden Gate Avenue, Box 36055
San Francisco, California 94102


Tel: (415) 436-7200
Fax: (415) 436-7234

June 14, 2000

The United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California announced that David R. Brown, age 45, of Gilroy, California, Raymond L. Clark, age 46, of British Columbia, Canada and Handa Lopez, Inc., formerly located at 457 E. Evelyn Avenue, Suite E, Sunnyvale, California, were indicted today in a two-count indictment by a federal grand jury, charging conspiracy to gamble in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371 and gambling in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1955. In a separate document, Mr. Brown was charged in an information with committing tax evasion in violation of 26 U.S.C. 7201.

According to the indictment, Mr. Brown and Mr. Clark, who were officers at Handa-Lopez, are alleged to have operated an illegal interstate and international Internet gambling operation. The business hosted a number of web sites which permitted interactive "Las Vegas style" gambling. It is alleged that from July 1996 through May 1999, the credit card service company that managed the Handa-Lopez merchant credit card account processed in excess of $6.2 million dollars of credit card transactions for Handa-Lopez.

In addition, the indictment alleges that Mr. Brown used business proceeds to purchase a 1998 Piper Seneca V Aircraft, a 1998 Lincoln Navigator, a 1998 Ferrari and a home in Gilroy, California. The home is also the subject of a civil forfeiture complaint (C- 99-20639-SW), which alleges, among other things, that Mr. Brown used Handa-Lopez proceeds as a down payment to purchase a family home, causing title in the home to be in his mother's name.

The information alleges that Mr. Brown evaded the payment of personal income taxes. Specifically, the information alleges that Mr. Brown failed to report approximately $331,190 of personal reportable income in 1997.

The maximum statutory penalty for each of the charged criminal offenses is 5 years imprisonment, 3 years supervised release and a fine of $250,000. However, any sentence following conviction would be dictated by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of factors, and would be imposed in the discretion of the Court. An indictment or information simply contains allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, Messrs. Brown and Clark, as well as, Handa-Lopez, Inc. must be presumed innocent unless and until convicted.

It is expected that the defendants will be arraigned on the charges within the next 30 days in federal court in San Jose, California. No court date has yet been set.

The prosecution is the result of a 16-month investigation by agents of the United States Customs Service, the Criminal Investigations Division of the Internal Revenue Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and detectives of the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety. Carlos Singh and Robert Ward are the Assistant U.S. Attorney who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Elise Etter and Michael Tarkington.

All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney's Office should be directed to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Jacobs at (415)436-7181 or Assistant U.S. Attorney Betsy De La Vega at (408)535-5032 in San Jose.
You do not have permission to view link Log in or register now.

Georgia Association for Women Lawyers
Newsletter - Fall 2000

Recognizing the Utility of Arbitration Clauses in On-line Agreements
By C. Celeste Creswell, Esq.*

The global marketplace afforded by e-commerce poses risks that may be addressed by including arbitration clauses in on-line contracts. Placing millions of consumers one click away from completing a transaction creates the risk of millions of consumers filing lawsuits in their hometowns or, worse yet, joining in a class action lawsuit. Consider the following true story.

A California corporation, Handa-Lopez, Inc., maintains an Internet site that allows users to purchase tokens and play casino games on the site. The server for the web site is in California, and Handa-Lopez's principal place of business is in California, but the web site is continually accessible to every Internet consumer in the world. A Texas consumer, Tom Thompson, enters an on-line contract to play games on Handa-Lopez's web site. Included in the contract is an arbitration provision, which provides that all disputes shall be resolved by binding arbitration in California. Thompson plays games on the Internet site and attempts to redeem on-line tokens for $193,728.40, but Handa-Lopez refuses to pay.

Thompson files a lawsuit in Texas, alleging breach of contract, fraud, and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Relying on the arbitration clause in the on-line contract, Handa-Lopez files a motion asking the court to dismiss the action or transfer it to California. The Texas court finds that it has jurisdiction over Handa-Lopez, based on Handa-Lopez's contacts with the State of Texas through its Internet transactions with Thompson. The court also finds the arbitration clause does not require that the dispute be resolved in California because the clause was inconspicuously buried within a multi-page contract and did not give Thompson sufficient notice that California was a possible forum. Ultimately, Handa-Lopez must defend the lawsuit in Texas, where it may be subject to treble damages under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, punitive damages, and a jury of Thompson's peers. Thompson v. Handa-Lopez, Inc., 998 F. Supp. 738 (W.D. Tex. 1998).

The Handa-Lopez litigation highlights the risk of doing business on the Internet without a binding arbitration clause. Although the chief benefits of arbitration are the same for brick and mortar and click and mortar businesses (i.e., arbitration is generally quicker and cheaper than litigation), e-commerce magnifies the risk that click and mortar businesses will be subject to jurisdiction in the user's home state and adds importance to arbitration clauses' added benefits of ensuring a nearby forum for resolution of the dispute and removing the specter of class action litigation.

In the few reported decisions on this topic, courts generally have divided Internet sites into three categories for jurisdictional purposes: (1) sites that allow the parties to transact business and enter contracts on-line, which subject the site host to jurisdiction where the user is found; (2) passive sites that merely make information available to the user, which do not provide a basis for jurisdiction where the user is found; and (3) interactive sites where a user may exchange information with the host computer, which may provide a basis for jurisdiction where the user is found, depending upon the nature and quality of the information exchanged. Significantly, however, a passive site has provided a basis for jurisdiction in at least one decision. Therefore, in assessing risks, Internet businesses should assume their web site could subject them to jurisdiction in their users' home states. If given the option, users will choose to litigate in their hometown and take advantage of punitive damages provisions of local laws, which will be interpreted and applied by a local judge and jury. Internet businesses will not only be forced to face a local judge and jury but also will incur the expense of travelling to the consumer's hometown and hiring local counsel in that jurisdiction.

E-commerce also enhances the risk of a class action lawsuit by allowing businesses to reach millions of consumers instantly, rather than wait for the slow, deliberate growth of a customer base through physical expansion into adjoining states. Unlike the court system, arbitration does not have a class action mechanism. Instead, disputes are arbitrated on an individual basis.

Thus, in the world of e-commerce, arbitration's additional benefits of ensuring a nearby forum for resolution of the dispute and removing the specter of class action litigation take on added importance. On-line agreements may include an arbitration provision with a forum selection clause (e.g., the arbitration shall be conducted in Atlanta, Georgia) and a choice of law clause (e.g., any disputes concerning this agreement shall be resolved in accordance with the law of the State of Georgia).

Having discussed the advantages of using arbitration clauses in on-line agreements, it is important to note that the enforceability of on-line arbitration clauses is an open question. The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 2, presently requires an agreement to arbitrate to be in writing. Whether an on-line contract with an electronic signature will qualify as a written agreement under the Federal Arbitration Act remains to be seen. Moreover, electronic signatures are not yet widely accepted. Thus, caution counsels backing up electronically signed contracts with a requirement that the user print, sign, and return the contract.

Assuming an on-line contract may qualify as a writing under the Federal Arbitration Act, it is also important to make sure the arbitration clause meets the other requirements for enforceability. In traditional written agreements, the enforceability of an arbitration clause generally depends upon whether the clause is sufficiently clear and conspicuous to put the contracting party on notice that he or she is waiving the right to litigate, i.e., the arbitration clause may not be inconspicuously buried within a multi-page contract as in the Handa-Lopez case. The Handa-Lopez court found that a reasonable person would not have noticed the arbitration clause. On-line contracts could be used to prevent this finding. For example, the user may be forced to move through the contract page by page before electronically signing the agreement and transacting business on the site. If the arbitration provision is prominently displayed on one screen in this process, it will be difficult for the user to argue that the provision was not sufficiently conspicuous to put a reasonable person on notice.

In short, Internet businesses may use on-line arbitration agreements, in connection with choice of law and forum selection clauses, to manage the risks of litigation in remote forums and class action litigation. Without on-line arbitration agreements, click and mortar businesses may be forced to stand before a jury in the user's hometown, facing punitive and statutory damages under the law of the user's home state.

* C. Celeste Creswell (ccreswell@akl.com) is an attorney in the litigation group at Altman, Kritzer & Levick, P.C. (www.akl.com), an Atlanta based law firm with offices in Chicago, Phoenix, and New York City. Ms. Creswell practices in the areas of technology litigation and general commercial litigation.

Users who are viewing this thread

Meister Ratings