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1 February 2008

Police claim defendants "had an interest in influencing the results of games."

Information on the latest round of Internet gambling busts in Israel (see previous InfoPowa report) has been expanded upon by police speaking to Jerusalem Post reporters.

Seven people were arrested and 18 were 'detained for questioning' for allegedly operating illegal gambling Web sites that it is believed earned millions of shekels per year that were then "laundered."

The sweep was carried out by International and Serious Crimes Unit detectives together with the Gidonim Unit - the operational arm of the Israel Police's Lahav 433 unit - and Israel's equivalent of the FBI, which commenced operations on January 1. Investigators raided the suspects' homes, the betting company Play 2 Bet's Tel Aviv's offices and K.G. Money Changers' office in Ramat Gan.

Police identified four of the suspects, Eliran Oved, Aryeh Avraham, David Hachmon and Yossi Ben-Shitreet, whose remands were extended until next Sunday.

The Post reports that the International and Serious Crimes Unit's undercover investigation began after the Northern Fraud Squad received information that the "Play 2 Bet" website was offering gambling which Israeli authorities believe to be illegal. Police said they found that the site's earnings were routed through K.G. Money Changers, and then either laundered domestically or transferred overseas.

Police also revealed without detailed substantiation that members of crime syndicates used Play 2 Bet to launder profits from other illegal enterprises.

Investigators described a complex system in which the bets were placed through regional and group leaders. Access to the site was via a "closed" list; each gambler received a personal log-in name and password after placing a significant down payment to cover their initial bets.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Play2Bet online managers did not accept credit cards. Once a week, police said, messengers would visit each gambler to either pick up cash or to pay winners. The site allowed a number of types of wagers; most involved sports, including bets on halftime scores, number of yellow and red penalty cards, and scoring on penalty kicks.

Bets, police said, could be placed for sums ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of shekels per week. Although much of the money was what police described as "black money" - earned from illegal activities such as prostitution, drug dealing and loan sharking - they believe some came from loans taken on the "gray market," loans from unlicensed lenders who do not, however, charge excessive interest.

Police emphasised that the site's operators "had an interest in influencing the results of games. One of the suspects was already convicted in a separate investigation of charges involving bribery and threats against players of the Hapoel Beersheba soccer team and of attempting to influence the results of matches.

The site operated 24 hours a day from its Tel Aviv headquarters, but its servers were in Europe - although police would not say in which country.

Online Casino News courtesy of InfoPowa

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