'Forgotten Souls'

5 June 2002

One of the original sports book licensees in the Isle of Man is expressing frustration with what it perceives to be a lack of cooperation from government officials regarding its efforts to secure a casino license.

Last year the Isle of Man broadened its gambling laws to include the licensing and regulation of online casinos. Officials with betinternet.com, a bookmaker that started as a telephone betting operation in 1998, saw the change as a perfect opportunity to strengthen its brand awareness by expanding its services to include an online casino.

"I have been shouting from the rooftops for sometime now," he said. "I feel like we are the forgotten souls here."

-Vincent Caldwell

betinternet.com officials are claiming, however, that they've gotten little or no response from the government regarding their effort to secure a license. The issue has gotten so bad, according to the company's chairman, Vincent Caldwell, that the company may be forced to look at another jurisdiction for its casino operations.

Caldwell made his feelings public in an interview with an Isle of Man news service Monday and minced no words Tuesday when contacted by IGN.

"I have been shouting from the rooftops for sometime now," he said. "I feel like we are the forgotten souls here," he said. "We have been here for three years, operating away and building ourselves up, and it appears they don't want to deal with us."

Caldwell's frustration stems from the Isle of Man's rejection of betinternet.com's application for an online casino license and the subsequent failure of the government to give an explanation for its rejection. He said he was told originally that the betinternet.com brand wasn't strong enough to warrant the granting of an early license, which he was willing to accept as long as the group would be considered for a license down the road.

Caldwell claims that the additional applications that have been made since the initial refusal have gone ignored by the Department of Home Affairs, the government office that handles all gaming licenses in the Isle of Man. Repeated efforts to contact officials, he said, have gone nowhere.

"I have put in between two or three calls every day to the minister (Phil Braidwood) for the past 30 days," he said. "I have also put in calls to David Killip (chief executive of the Department of Home Affairs) and have gotten no response."

Ruffling the feathers of government officials in the press must have achieved something, Caldwell said, as he was able to get a verbal meeting arrange with some government ministers after his comments were made public. He said he was told he would hear something about the status of his application within the next few days.

"We are at 'D-Day' and we have to call it one way or the other. Either we will get a license, or we will go elsewhere and get one."


Braidwood and Killip were out of the office on Tuesday and unavailable for comment. An official with the DHA said he couldn't comment on the status of a application for betinternet.com, or any other possible future licensee. Caldwell said the government has taken the position that any casino licensees should either be a land-based casino operator or a major household brand. Caldwell feels a company needs to be neither.

"What you do need is online gambling experience, and that is what we have," he said.

With the IOM government dragging its feet and not responding to betinternet.com's needs, Caldwell said, the company has been stalled in its path forward. He said the site wants to offer as many gaming services to its customers as possible, but wants to do it the right way. He also said there is no desire to relocate operations in a jurisdiction where a license isn't needed.

"I am the home team," he said, "I have always wanted to play from home."

Regardless of what happens to the betinternet.com casino, Caldwell said the sports book part of his operation will never leave the Isle of Man, and he hopes that his flap with the government doesn't paint a bad picture for other companies wanting to locate in the jurisdiction.

"I have shown my loyalty to the jurisdiction," he said. "I think the jurisdiction has a lot going for it. I hope they don't put a negative spin on people coming here to the jurisdiction because of what they are doing to me."

Caldwell said Isle of Man officials are new to the game of granting casino licensees and he realizes resources have been spread thin for the effort, but he feels "things need to be done in a professional manner."

He saw no fault in the jurisdiction's approach to granting licenses in the early stages, which favored companies like MGM Mirage and Rank, but doesn't think recent licensees have much merit. He pointed to one startup company that has no land-based experience, and was granted a license, as an example of how bad things have gotten.

"I have fully accepted the last eight or nine months," he said. "I am just not prepared to accept the last two."

As for the future, Caldwell leaves no mystery about what it will take to make him content.

"What I am saying now is quite clear," he said. "We need to have a response, and a favorable response, because I don't want to have to go elsewhere. I have put an infrastructure in place that will compete with anybody in the world. I am frustrated that I am still sitting here unable to expand our business. We are at 'D-Day' and we have to call it one way or the other. Either we will get a license, or we will go elsewhere and get one."

Nobody knows where Kevin Smith came from. He simply showed up one day and started writing articles for IGN. We liked him, so we decided to keep him. We think you'll like him too. Kevin can be reached at kevin@igamingnews.com.