The BetIslands’ debacle is one of the most notorious online sportsbook scams in recent history, and it is infamous for a numbers of reasons. Most notably, Sportsbook Review’s promotion of Bet Islands and their ringing endorsement and B rating of the now defunct online bookmaker.
We source SBR often on in our Sportsbook Scams section because they truly do help players who have been stiffed by online sportsbooks. The site keeps an eye on the industry by offering ratings for online bookmakers and warnings on slow-pay or no-pay sportsbooks. They also offer a large forum for players to discuss the online sportsbook industry and keep track of payouts from various sites.
However, it’s clear after the BetIslands’ fiasco – which has left players without balances totaling $1.5 million – that they have motives of their own, as well.
The Rise of BetIslands
Sportsbook Review is a powerful entity when it comes to online sportsbooks and especially frequented by US based bettors. If a bookmaker rises in the ranks with SBR and is listed as one of their primary go-to betting sites, they will more than likely receive plenty of business from sports bettors.
This is precisely how BetIslands rose quickly through the ranks to become one of the more popular sites for US sports bettors. BetIslands owner John Kreta and SBR founder John Walker had apparently been friends for years, and even discussed having a beer together in a peepsplace thread.
SBR reported on March, 22nd, 2011 that BetIslands was now being covered for ratings and that their initial rating was a C-. In just under two months later in 2011, the rating moved from a C- to a C+ rated book. Then a month later SBR posts a news story which endorses BetIslands. In the post, it notes that “SBR has confirmed that BetIslands is backed by established bookmakers.”
The post also links to a SBR forum thread titled, “BetIslands Sportsbook” in which many forum members posted their experience with BetIslands so far. While it looked like the SBR community was discussing a new sportsbook, the thread would later be revealed to be filled with shills enticing players to deposit and hyping up the BetIslands. Notice the alarming number of low post counts in the thread.
In August 2011, BetIslands was then given another SBR rating upgrade. This time they went from a C+ to a B-. In November, they were again upgraded from B- to B. Things appeared to going swimmingly for the young sportsbook as they were flying up the ranks of SBR’s rating guide.
In the few months leading in 2012, SBR has been heavily promoting BetIslands and running almost monthly news stories singing the praises of the book and their management and ownership. SBR promoted many contests and promotions related to BetIslands and even allowed the upstart sportsbook to sponsor their SBR Forum Bash in 2011.
What Was SBR Not Telling Bettors?
SBR obviously had a financial interest in BetIslands doing well, but don’t they have this same vested interest in every bookmaker they promote heavily? Yes, at least to some degree.
However, SBR’s obsession with BetIslands seemed to have everyone wondering that their motives truly were, other than perhaps greed. Forum posters at SBR and many others in the offshore industry questioned SBR’s choice to move up a relatively unknown book so quickly into the ranks of semi- top tier books.
Heavily promoted sportsbooks on SBR generally receive preferential treatment from the SBR Mods in the Forum and BetIslands was no exception. SBR management vouched for BetIslands on several occasions and was ultimately responsible for driving 80% of their deposits.
SBR made BetIslands. Without their heavy promotion and quick jump in the SBR Rankings there was no way BetIslands would have been in the position they were in early 2012.
BetIslands was not exactly projecting a strong image people who knew the offshore betting industry either. They were paying players on time (at least at first), but the company was offering massive bonus offers and rebates to players. They also offered free half points, the best teaser odds around and low juice on large markets. These things look impressive on the surface to bettors, (and were also quite profitable options for bettors) but many of these promotions and odds are classic scam book tactics, which drew the concern of many.
The quick ascent of BetIslands was quite strange, and some bettors were right to be skeptical. As it turns out, their suspicions about the company would turn out to be right.
EZStreet, 7RedSports and BetIslands?
In July 2012, a thread appeared on SBR Forum that alleged a connection between BetIslands’ ownership and two poorly rated online books, EZStreet Sports and 7RedSports. Again, the rumors were denied by the BetIslands apparent owner and manager who posted under the name “betislands” on SBR by went by the name John in his posts.
Of course, not so shockingly, SBR mods/management again chimed into the threads denying these rumors and supported Jon’s assertion that BetIslands had no relationships with the poorly rated sportsbooks EZStreet and 7RedSports.
Financial Backers Gone, BetIslands Goes Bust
Just a few short months after the rumors surrounded BetIslands’ ownership leaked, the company was revealed to be insolvent. The balances stuck on BetIslands around this time were estimated to be around $1.3 to $1.5 million. It was eventually later found out through a leaked balance sheet reported by AskTheBookie that BetIslands owed players just slightly under $1.54 million.
BetIslands was downgraded from a B to C sportsbook on SBR on December 17th, 2012. On the same day, SBR reported that processor delays were the reason for the slow payout complaints and that players were told the withdrawals would be processed today, but that no payouts were completed. Within 24 hours, BetIslands would be downgraded from a C Rated Sportsbook to an F Rated Sportsbook.
BetIslands was reported insolvent by SBR on December 18th, 2012. The company had apparently lost its financial backer and “the people left could not make it work.” As you can see from that forum thread, players with bankrolls on the site were shocked that the BetIslands collapsed so suddenly.
Some players were owed close to $50k in their accounts and wanted an explanation from not only BetIslands but SBR. Bailout talks fizzled in the weeks after, mostly because two-thirds of the accounts were sharp players with sizable balances. No existing bookmaker wants to foot the bill to bail out a bunch of sharps that can then turn around and cost them more money.
SBR’s Fault in the BetIslands’ Disaster
SBR heavily promoted BetIslands taking from a relatively unknown book to one of the top options for US online sports bettors. The vast majority of players referred to BetIslands came from SBR.
SBR has monitored thousands of online sportsbooks in their history and know the warning signs of book that might not be financially secure. BetIslands was, without a doubt, was exhibiting many of those characteristics.
They offered lucrative deposit bonuses, free plays, the best teaser odds around and were not afraid to take heavy sharp action. They got in over their head and fast. No one is sure when BetIslands was no longer solvent, but it is likely they kept taking player deposits during that time and operated “on the float” (taking deposits to cover pending withdrawals) for several months leading up to going completely bust.
SBR Owner John Walker and GM Bill Dozer clearly had a vested financial interest in BetIslands, but would they clearly mislead players knowingly just to add some extra money to line their pockets? Possibly.
SBR is critical of most online bookmakers that use the same the tactics BetIslands utilized while it was still in operation. Others in the industry thought the writing was on the wall when it came to BetIslands downfall, and it turns out they were right. How could SBR, the self-proclaimed online bookmaker watchdog site not see this coming?
No one will know what SBR knew and when they knew it, but it is clear they have a double standard for sportsbooks they heavily promote and profit from and those that they do not. This can still be seen today with their questionable ratings and promotions of certain betting sites, some of which certainly do not deserve the praise.
Is SBR Still A Trusted Source For Bettors?
Yes, and no. SBR has been in existence since 1999 and has no doubt been a reliable resource for sports bettors across the world when it comes to choosing reputable online bookmakers. We source them in many articles here on SBO and they have no doubt helped thousands of players with payout complaints and other issues when it comes to online sports betting. They are still a reliable source for these reasons today.
However, their involvement in the BetIslands fiasco makes it hard to trust their word. BetIslands was clearly not a B rated sportsbook, which makes SBR either incompetent or complicit at least from a ratings standpoint. SBR always preached to bettors to only play at books rated B or better using their own ratings standards. This give them a lot of power to drive traffic and make or break a book.
Bettors certainly should not altogether doubt SBR’s ratings and promotions of certain books, but they should be taken with a grain of salt. Their management is clearly motivated by monetary gains, and despite claiming to be a player’s advocate in the sports betting world, ultimately they may be more motivated by self interest.
Still, they are a valuable resource if used in conjunction with other watchdog sites, sports betting forums, etc. Sports bettors, especially in the United States, can police the industry themselves quite well and have built a community around doing so.
As we mentioned previously, SBR may or may not have known that BetIslands was going bust, but still chose to promote the sportsbook and not change its B rating until all hope was lost. That’s something we’ll never likely know for sure, but it seems almost impossible that they would not have known the company was in trouble.
Sportsbook Review is still a reliable source for offshore betting news and for finding a reputable bookmaker, but players clearly need to do their own research on a variety of different sites before depositing.
The worst part of the story is SBR’s inability to apologize to players or even take some of the blame for the fiasco. Management ultimately blamed the players for their loss of funds and took no responsibility for BetIslands failing. Even though, they profited the most from their now defunct shop. They also actively policed their forums and denounced any claims that were unflattering about BetIslands.
Spend some time researching your prospective sportsbook before depositing. Don’t fall for lucrative bonus offers or lucrative odds – these are utterly irrelevant if the book does not pay. In the offshore betting world, if it looks it good to be true, it most certainly is.