A behind-the-scenes recounting of Boomtown Reno’s $40K fine for illegal online-gambling links is markedly different from the casino’s official version.
The former Boomtown Reno Casino web developer who programmed the casino’s online site and its affiliate links to illegal-in-Nevada, real-money offshore gambling sites has posted a blog declaring his/her exoneration by NGCB investigators regarding the hapless Boomtown Reno case.
The pseudonymous former web developer at Reno, Nevada’s Boomtown Reno Casino, writing as “Lola Liberta” on a blog featuring New Age-themed musing, has published a formal declaration of innocence in regards to the casino’s offering of affiliate-style signup links to offshore online-gambling sites that are specifically illegal under Nevada gaming law.
The Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) brought a formal complaint against Boomtown Reno’s parent company, BCH Gaming Reno LLC (BCH), in May. The complaint alleged that Boomtown Reno’s online home contained signup links to 15 different “black market”, Curacao-based online-gambling sites from March 2017 to August 2017, when private citizens alerted the NGC’s enforcement wing, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB), to the links. The links were ordered removed at that time, though the formal case against BCH was not filed until May 2018, following an extensive NGCB investigation. That investigation determined that the casino and its executives had received payments from the Curacao-based affiliate operation, despite such activity being illegal under Nevada gaming law.
After reviewing elements of the case in June, the NGCB fined Boomtown Reno’s parent company $40,000 (£31,016). The casino was also ordered to publish a compliance statement acknowledging its responsibility for the affiliate links.
Web developer ends 90-day silence
The former Boomtown Reno web developer who blogged the whistleblower tale about the scandal ended a self-imposed, 90-day period before writing the story, which differs significantly from the official tale of events. The web developer walked away from the job in late May after giving statements to NGCB investigators and after discovering that the casino was trying to lay virtually all of the blame at his or her feet.
As “Lola” told VSO: “BCH did like me at one time, as they recognized my performance during my annual review: ‘A true asset not only to the marketing team but to the entire property, saving the property an incremental amount that is hard to put numbers to as it relates to EBITDA. With a received review score of 83, this employee is a Rock Star team member.’ In literal numbers, I was able to significantly help BCH by increasing monthly website traffic from 16k to 52k per month, increasing online hotel reservations by 8k per month, and saving BCH over 30K in outsourcing costs. However, when BCH got caught by the law, instead of rockstar, I became their scapegoat.”
“Lola”, whose real identity has been separately verified, was a newcomer to gambling-related web development and marketing before accepting the position with Boomtown Reno, which had been advertised on Craigslist. Lola wasn’t even from Nevada but was ordered to take on the project when the casino’s management became enamored with online gambling and marketing possibilities. Lola departed a much-higher paying developer’s job in another state, taking the BCH position for less than one third of her or his previous pay. In the wake of the abrupt ending of the BCH gig, Lola has taken a job overseas, for much lower pay, but likely outside the reach of vengeful retribution from a former employer.
Developer contradicts casino’s published statements
The published blog and separate statements sent to this writer indicate that the compliance statement issued by the casino contains false statements and that the NGCB, in crafting a settlement to the scandal, may have helped whitewash the entire affair. First, there’s this excerpt from the official settlement between BCH and the NGCB, which implies the acceptance of the statement by the NGCB while making the $40,000 (£31,016) settlement official: “None of RESPONDENT’s members, managers or executive officers knew or were aware that the websites employed by RESPONDENT for free-for-play casino games also offered access to play-for-cash websites offered by offshore internet-gaming providers.”
There’s also this from the compliance statement: “None of our owners, managers, or executive officers knew or were aware that the website our company engaged for promotional free-for-play casino games also facilitated access to play-for-cash websites offered by off-shore internet gaming providers.”
All this is untrue, according to Lola, who offered this about the Curacao affiliate links: “I never entered into any affiliate agreements or contracts with the Curacao companies, because I was technically and physically unable to. I was not a BCH business owner, executive, manager, nor authorized employee with access to BCH banking accounts. Affiliate companies require verification of business ownership and company URL ownership before you can partner with them as an affiliate. Business owners have to fill out an application, agree to the affiliate terms and conditions, and enter Tax ID and banking info right out of the gate. BCH didn’t exactly hand over their Tax ID and banking information to me, an employee with very ‘little, if any, understanding of gaming laws’, lol. The Curacao accounts and affiliate agreements were set up by the Marketing Director, and his name was on the commission checks. The Tax ID and banking info was input by the Finance Director; she logged into the affiliate systems and entered this data. The weekly status reports and commission checks were reviewed and approved for deposit by the GM.”
Perhaps even more damning, Lola also offered this: “I thought everything was legal, because the BCH Finance Director submitted the BCH Tax ID and payment info to the Curacao affiliate companies; BCH execs tested out the online games using their credit cards; BCH execs signed the commission checks that were made out to them personally, and the BCH GM approved the deposit of the checks. The BCH Marketing Director even upped the ante with freeway billboards to see if we could generate more traffic, especially those out of towners who may ‘Play When Away’. We (the Marketing Team) met every Tuesday in marketing meetings and looked at the numbers, both traffic and financial, and every week those numbers were reported on Wednesday to executive management and the GM.”
Attempting to force a changed story
Lola also related attempts by her or his BCH bosses to force her or him to change the personal account of the episode as requested by NGCB investigators. Lola offered this on the NGCB interview: “One day, while working at my desk at BCH, the Marketing Director and GM called me into their office and informed me the NGCB would be speaking to me privately, and they wanted to make sure that there were not going to be any surprises in my statements. A couple days later, I was summoned to the GM’s office where there was a conference call about to happen with the NGCB investigating officer. I was told to answer ‘Yes and No’ and not to elaborate if not needed. During the questions, I did start to elaborate a bit, and literally, the GM gave me the hand across the throat ‘cut it off’ sign, so I did.
“A couple days later, the Marketing Director stopped by my office with a visitor, the NGCB investigating officer. The Marketing Director lingered in the hallway as the officer and I began our interview and discussion, so I asked the NGCB officer if he minded if I shut the door. He said please do, then he proceeded to tell me that in these situations, and they see them a lot, the ‘Casino’ will do whatever they can to mitigate the situation, to reduce the impact. He told me the NGCB had already been logged in to BCH systems and computers for several months, and they had copies of everything they needed. However, to speed up the process, they wanted to get the true perspectives from each person involved. His primary 2 questions were: ‘Why did the BCH Finance Director ask you to alter your original statement?’ and ‘Did you in any way profit from online gaming?’ He also told me that it seemed all BCH executive statements implied I was solely responsible. The NGCB officer asked that I consider adding any additional details to my statement that I had, and he also asked for copies of every email and every document I had related to the allegations. I said absolutely, yes. A few days later, after taking a few vacation days and clearing my head, I hand delivered everything to the NGCB officer.”
Lola pondered whether to accept BCH’s scapegoating plans during those few off days, before fully sharing her or his tale with the NGCB and resigning the web developer’s position for the casino. Lola also noted in the original whistleblower blog that “A few months later the casino was convicted and I was exonerated.” The “convicted” likely refers to the $40,000 fine levied against the casino. Lola’s additional recounting also named three BCH executives deemed to be most responsible for the situation, but none of them have been named in case dispositions published by the NGC or NGCB to date, again suggesting a joint effort by the casino and regulator to bury the matter.