Paradise Papers, the recently leaked trove of 13.4 million files from two offshore service providers, threw fresh light on how tax havens are used by powerful individuals and major corporations to avoid tax burden and thus profit at the expense of the rest.
(Un)surprisingly the names of stakeholders in the global gambling industry also appeared in the recent revelations made by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with the help of the leaked collection of documents. And even more (un)surprisingly the name of one particular online gambling operator was also mentioned in relation to the massive leak of discoveries.
As it can be recalled, Casino News Daily recently produced a series of articles in regard to the controversial practices deployed by major online gaming and betting operator Betway in building its playerbase. Belgian newspaper De Tijd today published a piece based on its own investigation into the gambling company’s presence in Belgium. The investigation itself was triggered by the recent publication of the Paradise Papers.
Generally speaking, De Tijd asks the same questions as our team of journalists asked previously. For instance, it is really curious why a company with hard-to-trace ownership is allowed to operate in regulated markets. It is even more curious why a company that has been working somewhat indiscreetly with a notorious hacker for years, or has at least done little to distance itself from said hacker is allowed to operate in regulated markets.
De Tijd also raised the question why this same company is allowed to sponsor R.S.C. Anderlecht, the Belgian professional football club, as well as the Royal Belgian Football Association.
Who Owns Betway?
Betway entered Belgium’s regulated gambling market in July 2015. The company operates under a license from the country’s Gaming Commission. De Tijd reported that Grand Casino Brussels Viage was actually the holder of the license and that through a formerly inked partnership with Betway, the latter was allowed to enter the Belgian gambling market.
Betway Limited, the Malta-based company that owns the Betway brand, was found to have received a Belgian license as “repairer and installer” of gambling-related services back in November 2014, De Tijd had also found, while trying to discover more about the operator.
However, the newspaper reported that it had been quite difficult to trace who had found Betway and who the owners of the company were. According to the operator’s website, over 1,000 people are employed at its headquarters in Malta. A quick check of the address listed as Betway’s Maltese home showed an abandoned building in a clear state of neglect, De Tijd reported. Where are the company’s employees and where is it headquartered? More questions added to the list.
The company’s inception in 2006 was linked to Swedish poker players Jonas Ödman and Patrik Selin. The latter two found Malta-based gambling company Gnuf Limited in 2006, which reportedly merged with Betway at some later point. Both Ödman and Selin were mentioned in the Paradise Papers in relation to their financial activities across tax havens.
Here it is also important to note that Gnuf Limited’s owners were not mentioned in official documents. Instead, it turned out that the business was owned by different entities based on the British Virgin Islands. The British Overseas Territory is not only a popular tax haven destination but also a friendly destination for all those who do not want to be listed as the owners of one business or another.
As disclosed in the Paradise Papers, Gnuf Limited was rebranded as Betway Limited in July 2012. Betway Group Limited is currently listed as the owner of the gambling company and, as one could suggest, the larger group is based on the British Virgin Islands.
Anthony Axisa, a Maltese lawyer, and his consultancy firm Cybergaming Consultants have been tasked with Betway’s day-to-day operations in Malta. Mr. Axisa is a person with quite extensive experience in the online gambling industry.
Yet, despite the information above, it is still unclear who exactly owns Betway and why they are hiding their identity.
Betway’s Belgian Football Sponsorships and De Tijd’s Concerns
Last year, Betway became the official sponsor of professional football club R.S.C. Anderlecht as well as of the Belgian Football Association. De Tijd raised questions why a company with practically untraceable owners and with questionable activities is allowed not only to operate in the country, but also to establish sponsorship agreements with local football clubs and even with the Football Association.
Agreements of this nature allow sponsors broad brand exposure. However, as De Tijd reported, not all of Betway’s brands are authorized to target Belgian players. In fact, a number of its sister brands are banned and blacklisted in the country, following the re-regulation of the local gambling market in 2011, when international operators were allowed to apply for a license with the Gaming Commission.
De Tijd voiced concerns about the fact that the operator with banned brands is still allowed extensive brand exposure. When it asked why the Football Association has partnered such an operator, the latter simply pointed out that Betway was licensed by the country’s gambling regulator.
And the Gaming Commission itself told De Tijd that it did not have the means and resources to trace Betway’s owners. This raises certain questions. Are gambling regulators diligent enough in researching license applications and who stands behind them? It really seems that both the Belgian Gaming Commission and the UK Gambling Commission as well as other regulatory bodies that have granted iGaming licenses to Betway may have failed in their task to prevent a questionable company from entering their regulated jurisdictions.
Casino News Daily’s Own Investigation and Concerns
In a series of articles, Casino News Daily raised its own questions about Betway’s activities and most importantly, about its continued work with a notorious hacker who has been referring players to the operator’s brands for years. The hacker has been targeting different websites, inserting links and gambling-related content into those and thus encouraging players give a go to Betway’s brands as well as to those of other gambling operators.
Most recently, we wrote an open letter to the UK Gambling Commission, asking the regulator why a company that has failed in obstructing criminal activity is allowed to operate in UK’s regulated market. We are still awaiting answers to our questions and we believe that the recent discoveries will help the Gambling Commission provide us with its opinion on the matter. The same applies to the Belgian Gaming Commission, which just as its UK counterparts, is responsible for providing a crime-free environment for players.
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Robert Johnson is an experienced web author and blogger. He has over three years of experience as a freelance journalist and writer.