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Canadian gambler files suit over $220K jackpot

Updated May 14, 2023 - 9:28 am

Just as Nevada’s gaming regulators sent U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland a letter urging a crackdown on illegal offshore internet gambling casinos, a retired Canadian attorney filed a lawsuit against an offshore site.

Victor Janicki of Kelowna, British Columbia, said in his lawsuit filed in British Columbia Supreme Court that he was cheated out of a $220,550 jackpot off a blackjack side bet he wagered while playing the live BJ Classic Game at BetOnline.ag, an offshore internet casino based in Costa Rica and registered in Antigua.

By all indications, BetOnline.ag is affiliated with Visionary iGaming, based in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Gaming and legal experts I’ve spoken to say they’re unaware of any person who has successfully sued and collected from an offshore online casino, although there have been some instances in which a casino company settled with the plaintiff for a smaller amount.

$1 side bet

According to the lawsuit and interviews, Janicki was betting about $40 a hand playing blackjack on Feb. 23 and spending $1 on the side bet in which he could win a huge jackpot if he was dealt three 7s of diamonds from a six-deck shoe in one hand for a 21.

At about 1 p.m., he said he was dealt two 7s of diamonds and was told by casino personnel that he was eligible for the big jackpot.

That’s where the story gets a little fuzzy.

Janicki said suddenly the screen went black for about 10 seconds and he couldn’t see what was happening at the casino blackjack table. He told me that was the first time the screen went black.

When the table reappeared on his computer screen, Janicki was greeted by two casino employees who congratulated him for winning the jackpot. So he stuck around and entered a table chatroom to find out how he’d get paid.

But he was told there had been a mistake and he never won the big prize.

For the next couple months, he tried to make contact with BetOnline.ag and Visionary iGaming to get a copy of the video, since he had a record of what game and hand was being played at the time.

In early April, Janicki received an unexpected correspondence with a video of what, he says, shows a re-enactment of the dealt hand. But in the re-creation, the dealer gave Janicki two 7s of diamonds and dealt himself one card face down. The dealer said in the video that Janicki was eligible for the big prize since he already had two 7s of diamonds. After a short pause, a woman entered the frame, told the camera that Janicki’s hand was eligible for the big jackpot, wished him good luck and departed.

The dealer then dealt himself a 10 and, like every blackjack game I’ve ever seen, checked the face-down card. It was an ace and the game was over. The video showed Janicki was never dealt a third card.

But, according to Janicki and the lawsuit, that’s not what happened.

Waiting game

As a retired attorney who worked criminal cases throughout his career, Janicki felt he could file the lawsuit himself, filing it April 25. He also hired a law firm in San Jose, Costa Rica, to serve the civil claim to BetOnline.ag and Visionary iGaming.

Now, he waits.

Canadian law states the defendants will have 49 days to respond to the lawsuit when it’s served outside of Canada or the United States. After that, a British Columbian judge can enter a judgment in the case.

That’s what Janicki is hoping for — a directed verdict, which should play out around June 13.

My efforts to contact BetOnline.ag and Visionary iGaming by email have been unsuccessful.

Brad Scott of SportbookReview.com said in a blog post that he thinks Janicki didn’t win because a third card was never dealt to him during the game and that the game should have ended when the dealer hit his blackjack. Janicki still contends that the video provided doesn’t show what actually happened.

Scott, whose SBR Dispute Resolution Service helps players navigate player disputes, works primarily with U.S. and Canadian casinos and not international operations.

Janicki’s dispute with BetOnline illustrates why gaming regulators across the country asked Garland last month to crack down on unlicensed, illegally operated online casinos. Six gaming regulators in Michigan, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Jersey signed on to Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Kirk Hendrick’s letter to Garland.

It’s the same stance that has been taken by the American Gaming Association for years, but pushed to the front burner in November as a major industry problem.

The AGA said in a 19-page report that the illegal and unregulated gaming market takes in $510.9 billion a year, costing the legal regulated markets in the United States an estimated $44.2 billion, preventing states from collecting an estimated $13.3 billion in tax revenue.

State regulatory bodies can only do so much with industry bad actors, which is why they want the backing of the federal government to assist on matters like those experienced by Victor Janicki.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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