Life-changing, multi-million-dollar progressive jackpot wins are for many gamblers the Holy Grail of gambling, and for online players it is no different. Major gambling software providers have adapted and developed the land gambling concept, where a number of casinos are networked and pay into a common winner's fund, to create some truly massive – up to $5 million – wins.
But the experiences of one Canadian player which surfaced this week on the Casinomeister information portal, could cast a shadow over the sector, and will hopefully cause providers to take a second look at how they structure their payout procedures.
Major software providers like Cryptologic and Microgaming use big winners to create massive publicity for their licensees, flying major winners in for cheque presentations and photo opps, laying on financial advice if required and handing over the prize in one big tranche.
Other providers restrict the payouts to monthly instalments – a frustrating experience for a million dollar or more winner.
And it seems that yet others simply pay the jackpots over to the online casino where the big win was made, and leave it up to them.
It is the latter policy which appears to have applied in a case where French Canadian player Sylvia P. won a staggering $4 188 719.98 playing the Beach Life progressive slot at Joyland – a Playtech powered casino which is now (but was not at the time of the big win) part of the William Hill Online group following the major Playtech-Will Hill deal earlier this year.
The "win" was widely publicised as one of the biggest jackpots ever paid out. The sad thing is she only received about half of the winnings.
It turns out that the Terms and Conditions under which the player gambled at Joyland, specified a maximum payout of $9 000 a month. This would mean that SylvieP would have to be around for the next 39 years to collect her full winnings….and that does not include interest accrued! A thought that must have crossed her mind was whether Joyland Casino would still be around in 2048, let alone herself.
Given that Playtech presumably made the full jackpot payment to Joyland's management, they would appear to have been sitting pretty.
SylvieP's first disappointment came when she tried to collect her multi-million dollar windfall. She says she was told that the only way was the $9 000 a month route specified in the T&C's to which she had agreed before playing the progressive. But there was an alternative if she decided to play out the money. So if she wanted to collect, say, $100 000 she would need to spend it first!
After some rather strange unprofessional communications via a hotmail address and early morning telephone calls, SylvieP was put under pressure of time to decide on which course she wished to follow.
SylvieP takes up the tale: "Feeling like there was no way out of this I decided to go ahead and collect only $2,3 million (half the prize) plus bonus which was $61 000 in VIP points because I was not getting anywhere and I felt that the VIP manager was not honest because he was changing and using words one day and the next day there was always something else. So to collect most of my winnings and make sure I was getting it I did as per their request.
"I was forced to collect what they offered to a total sum of $2,3 million I was so upset that on our last conversation I requested a witness and also recorded the whole conversation when all the sums and terms were discussed with them in order to finanlise the 2,3 mill. I made the VIP [casino representative] talk and asked him how much was my total winnings how much I had lost as per their requests and my bonus points? He summarised it and he stated at the end that he had erased my account balance, after which I tried to re log in and was unsuccessful. I guess they have blocked my account."
What is not clear is whether a formal agreement was presented and signed by the parties. Surely a win of this magnitude would be documented? And yet to date nothing has been made publicly available by the former owners, or Playtech.
Subsequent to SylvieP's experiences, Joyland was taken into the William Hill Online stable following its mega-deal with Playtech. But there is perhaps understandably no relief forthcoming from William Hill Online, which considers that SylvieP accepted the Joyland terms and conditions, had an offer to accept a lump sum if lesser payment, and took it. Even though William Hill purchased the casino, it purchased the assets and not the debt.
Playtech has been less forthcoming when approached by Casinomeister, leaving some major question marks over what happened here:
1) Is it Playtech policy to allow licensees to do what they like with the progressives prize once it has been paid to them by the network? If it is, that needs to be changed asap as it offers too great a risk to the player as we have seen in the Joyland case. A full payout is what players anticipate when they hit the big one – not offers of half the prize or payments to eternity.
2) Where is the missing 2 million left after the player was only paid half the prize? And to whom should it rightfully belong? Joyland? Playtech's progressive network?
3) Who were the owners of Joyland? According to Trading Markets.com Joyland was previously owned by Six Digits Trading, allegedly through a trust associated with Teddy Sagi….who is a major shareholder in Playtech.
4) Where is the full agreement as accepted and signed by the complainant?
The lesson that comes out of this sad tale is that players who go after progressive jackpot action need to first weigh up whether they will be paid in full and immediately or instalments over time. If the T&Cs specify that progressive jackpots are paid over time, that multi-million-dollar win may not seem quite so attractive.
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