Questionable goings on in the Low Countries this week, as the Blue Gem Gaming website flat-lined while its third-party gaming software disappeared from its clients’ casinos, all of which points to a crackdown by the Dutch authorities.
Blue Gem took over some of the assets of disgraced Eindhoven-based slots software developer Sheriff Gaming just last month, claiming to be unaffiliated with the bankrupt company. Blue Gem began to market and license Sheriff’s game titles to online casinos, but it seems that the authorities just aren’t buying it.
Sheriff was a successful 3D games developer, producing popular titles such as Atlantis, Mr. Good and Fortune Farm, until May 2013 when, bizarrely, Dutch police arrested the owners and CEO of its parent company, The Bubble Group, and charged them with criminal offenses, including illegal gambling, money laundering and drug dealing. In the aftermath, Dutch prosecutors seized 100 bank accounts, 80 residential properties and 20 vehicles across Central Europe.
It seems the company’s CEO, Stijn Flapper, along with two brothers, Maurice and Michel Gregoire, had links to telecommunications and online payments company Teletick BV, and it’s alleged they were dealing soft drugs and operating seven illegal online gambling sites as a means of funding that company’s operations. Several online casinos were immediately shut down, including AmsterdamsCasino, AmsterdamsPoker, JackpotRed, TripleGold, Golden10Casino, Tanzoo and FruitLuck.
Flapper and Michel Gregoire were denied bail.
The Alderney Gaming Control Commission, which licensed The Bubble Group, immediately launched an investigation and, following a regulatory hearing in February, decided to revoke the company’s B2B gaming license, declaring that it was “no longer fit and proper to hold such a certificate.” A few days later, Sheriff Gaming was forced into bankruptcy.
Sheriff remained defiant, issuing a statement which claimed that “so far no evidence whatsoever has been presented … it is still uncertain whether there are any links between the allegations and Sheriff Gaming/Bubble Group.” Sheriff added that it hoped its “strong reputation … [would] contribute to the continued support of the market in these difficult times.”
New Sheriff in Town
And then the plot thickened. Suddenly, Curacao-based firm Blue Gem Gaming appeared on the scene in early March, claiming to be an independent company that was founded by “the development team that originally created the games and exclusively licensed its IP to Sheriff Gaming whilst the company was trading.” However, it emerged that amongst this “development team” was Tim Flapper, the brother of imprisoned Bubble Group CEO Stijn Flapper. The company was quick to distance itself from Tim, telling eGaming Review that he was not “on the payroll, in a key-figure position or co-owning in any way.”
Just one month ago, Blue Gem trumpeted their arrival in the online gaming space with a press release: “We are really excited to be positioning our team at the forefront of 3D game development within the online gaming industry,” said the release. “Over the last few years, we have worked incredibly hard to provide cutting edge games and we want to continue exceeding expectations within this field. The most precious commodity we have is our IP and we want to take this opportunity to let our partners know that we can be relied upon and trusted to work with them to create games that will engage with their players.”
It seems Dutch authorities had other ideas.