CasinoOnNet Interview

Not all think the way Casinoonnet does.......There's Jack Stroll, for instance. A marketing whiz from Montreal, Stroll founded Golden Palace, considered the second-largest Web casino, in Antigua in 1997.

Part 3 - Interview With The Worlds Largest eCasino - CasinoOnNet

In the mid-1990s, Stroll (a.k.a. Jack Strulovitch) ran a boiler room that promised respondents fabulous prizes that turned out to be near-worthless junk, Canadian authorities say. He pleaded guilty in 1999 to "deceptive telemarketing," and he and his firm paid a then-record $300,000 fine.

Another Antigua pioneer, William "Billy" Scott, launched Intercasino. A Toledo, Ohio, bookmaker jailed in 1984 for racketeering, Scott was charged in 1998 by U.S. prosecutors with illegally taking online sports bets. He's been a fugitive since. Steve Adkins for a time headed the Online Players Association. His real name, it turns out, is Sam Alvin Ashley Jr. His criminal past allegedly includes passing counterfeit cash and bad checks. He was nabbed in 2001 by Ohio authorities after 17 years at large and is currently in jail awaiting sentencing for tax evasion and defrauding a charity he once ran.

Stroll says he pleaded guilty in the telemarketing case to avoid the trial expense and denies doing anything improper. Golden Palace has since been relicensed in the Mohawk Indian tribe's Kahnawake territory in Canada. A spokesperson for Scott says he has sold Intercasino; the new owners couldn't be reached for comment. Ashley also couldn't be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, sleazy if aboveboard operators keep rolling in. DrHo888, another Antigua casino, uses webcams to show its bikini-clad dealers in action. The dealers get $50 monthly "cleavage bonuses" and flirt with bettors via instant messaging.

The brazenness of the Antigua crowd fueled the U.S. government's crackdown on online gambling, which at first focused on sports betting. Accepting sports bets electronically is expressly barred by law. The legality of online casinos is a murkier question. The Justice Department says they're illegal, but a federal appeals court ruled in November that they aren't banned by current statute. The unsettled state of the law is the reason Anderson and other online casino operators have to date not been charged with any crimes. It has also prompted Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, and several allies to propose legislation that would effectively ban any form of Internet gambling. Many U.S. banks, bowing to pressure, have already blocked the use of credit cards to pay gambling debts.

Anderson knew when he came to CasinoOnNet that he would never hold off the prohibitionists if he didn't distance himself from the business's seedier elements. "The days of carrying a laptop to Antigua and opening up shop are gone," he says. That helps explain why, on a recent blustery afternoon, he came to be chain-smoking Marlboro Lights in temporary offices at the base of the Rock of Gibraltar.

By this summer, CasinoOnNet will have relocated its nerve center to the British territory of Gibraltar. Gibraltar is an offshore haven too, but it's far more reputable than most. It also provides Anderson with several practical business advantages, including modern communications systems. Its online licensees include Ladbrokes. "Gibraltar is clean as a whistle," Anderson says.

Anderson is building a 20,000-square-foot headquarters in Gibraltar with sweeping views of the Mediterranean. There'll be 350 employees staffing a 24-hour customer service center and maintaining a server farm with 200 computers. No other online casino has ever had that kind of technological muscle, according to people in the industry.

Though the facility is only half-finished, Anderson has a fully formed vision of the business model it will house. Online gaming, he believes, is as close as anyone has come to the much-hyped ideal of the virtual corporation. It scales like crazy -- overhead hardly changes whether you have 300,000 customers or 300 million. Adding to the product line usually requires no more than tweaking some software code. And Andersonand CasinoOnNet has the ultimate edge shared by gaming operators everywhere: The house always wins in the end.

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