December 7, 2018
Online gambling operator Betway has been getting a lot of undesired attention lately; the company has come under fire after appearing several times in Paradise Papers. In this massive leak of discoveries, names related to the global gambling industry have come up, and Betway in particular. Paradise papers has shed light into the tax havens of powerful individuals and companies, and how avoiding the tax burden is happening at the expense of the rest. After the revelations by Paradise Papers, further investigations have been launched into Betway’s business activities. Belgian newspaper De Tijd have published several articles investigating the matter. One question they have raised is why Betway is allowed to sponsor the Royal Belgian Football Association and the Belgian professional football club, R.S.C. Anderlecht.
Betway operates under a licence from Belgium’s Gaming Commission. According to the report from De Tijd, the holder of the casino licence was actually Grand Casino Brussels Viage. Thus Betway has been eligible to enter the Belgian gambling market through this partnership.
Although holding a Belgian licence, the Betway brand is owned by Betway Limited, which is a Malta-based company. De Tijd has found it hard to find out who has actually founded the company, and where the ownership is. The Maltese office is supposed have 1,000 employees, according to the company’s website. However, a quick search shows that the Maltese address is actually an abandoned building. So this raises questions about the company’s headquarters and its employees.
Malta is home to several online casinos, licenced and unlicenced, known brands, and new startups. So having the headquarters or operations in Malta is not unusual in itself. What is odd, is how difficult it is to find any trace of Betway’s office in Malta.
The company’s establishment has been previously linked to Swedish poker players Patric Selin and Jonas Ödman. Both gentlemen have also appeared in Paradise Papers, due to their activities in different tax havens. They founded a gambling company called Gnuf Limited, which was also located in Malta, and it was reportedly merged with Betway at a later stage. Betway Group Limited appears to be the owner of Gnuf Limited, and moreover, the larger group is located on the British Virgin Islands.
Online casinos are required not only to follow legislation of the countries they are operating in, but also to have a valid iGaming licence. The licence can be obtained from a body such as Malta Gaming Authority, UK Gambling Commission or the Belgian Gaming Commission.
De Tijd has raised concerns about the fact that Betway has been granted the iGaming licence, even though already tracing its owners is troublesome. Even the Belgian Gaming Commission itself has admitted that it doesn’t have the means to trace the owners of the operator. And not only this, but Betway is permitted to sponsor The Belgian Football Association, and the team of R.S.C. Anderlecht. Morever, several of Betway’s sister brands have been completely blacklisted and banned in Belgium.
De Tijd has raised valid questions and concerns: how is it, that a company with non-traceable ownership and questionable financial operations has been granted a permission to practice online gambling, and to sponsor football associations in Belgium? It appears that the international bodies controlling and regulating iGaming have failed in their task.