“We are closing. We recommend that you play out your balance or request a payout prior to August 1st. In the event that you have any questions please contact customer support,” is an unlikely and sad epitaph for a group of internet sportsbook-casinos that has been around since the pioneering days of online gambling, and yet that was what greeted would-be players visiting the websites of VIP.com, BetGameDay.com and Nine.com this week.
All three venues date back to the late ‘nineties, with Nine.com acquired by VIP.com some time ago, and it is disappointing that the operators apparently did not see fit to issue a public statement announcing the closures more timeously and explaining the background to the shut downs.
VIP.com was started in January of 1997, going on to acquire other sites. Together with BetGameDay.com and Nine.com, it made up a group of three respected sportsbook-casinos operated by the same owner. The group proved popular with players, and pre-2006 and the UIGEA it formed part of the publicly listed Leisure and Gaming group.
The advent of UIGEA resulted in L&G selling off the group, along with other US-facing operations like MyBookie.com and BetCom.com, for a nominal price to Stockdale Investment Ltd., based in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. It is understood that Stockdale also had operations in Antigua.
In related news, there is confusion in the player community over the status of the generally respected English Harbour group of online casinos.
This is another veteran online gambling enterprise that is currently displaying what appears to be a closure notice on its .com site similarly worded to that of VIP.com, BetGameDay.com and Nine.com: “We recommend that you play out your balance or request a payout prior to August 1st. In the event that you have any questions please contact customer support.”
This appears to be something more serious than advisories issued in May this year, when marketing affiliates of this large and long established internet casino group reported that: “E.H. Gaming Ventures closed all of its casinos to new player registrations on May 16, 2011. The casinos remain open to existing players.”
Adding to the confusion, UK players have noted that they still have untrammeled access to a UK version of the site at http://www.englishharbour.co.uk/, suggesting that the .com shutdown is directly related to the American clampdowns.
On the Casinomeister message board, the closest thing to a public announcement was posted on July 8 by an EH representative, who advised:
“We just wanted to clear the air that EHCasino’s is still operating for its customers. Yes some changes has happened over the past couple months with no longer accepting registrations. We are also faced with the same challenges every operator is faced with and that is reliable deposit options for our players. We are continuing to work through this period with hopes of getting some alternatives soon. Until then customers are able to continuing playing with their balances or request cashouts if they choose. We are not blocking our customers from their funds.”
It’s a disappointing way for a respected group formed back in 1997 to conduct its public and corporate communications.