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Pragmatic Play? Not Today, We Urge You to Stay Away!

Logo of Pragmatic Play

Every once in a while, a solid-seeming organization turns out to have been built upon a shaky foundation. We believe that we've identified such a rickety construction in the form of Pragmatic Play, a casino game supplier that's well-regarded in most industry circles. However, a dig beneath the surface reveals a history of buggy games, payment disputes, and corporate obfuscation.

Pragmatic Play Has a Checkered History

Pragmatic Play Today

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Pragmatic Play is a vendor of online casino games, mostly slots and live dealer titles. The firm has been around since 2015, offering titles that are desktop- and mobile-compatible and available in dozens of languages. In the five short years since its appearance, this enterprise has certainly created an enviable name for itself.

Website of Pragmatic PlayHome Page of Pragmatic Play

On Pragmatic Play's corporate website, it boasts partnerships with some of the leading gaming firms on the planet, like PokerStars, PartyCasino, William Hill, and Vera & John. Moreover, it's licensed by a couple of the most respected bodies for internet casino regulation: The United Kingdom Gambling Commission and the Malta Gaming Authority.

Pragmatic Play has won tons of industry awards, including a 2018 Malta Gaming Award for Best Slot Game, a 2020 prize from the International Gaming Awards for best iGaming Software Supplier, and a 2018 EGR B2B award for Innovation in Slot Provision.

Wolf Gold SlotThe Award-Winning Wolf Gold Slot Machine by Pragmatic Play

With such a stable of recognizable names and awards attesting to its uprightness, Pragmatic Play appears on the surface to be an honest and forthright supplier of excellent casino software. However, diligent observers will note a few oddities when examining the history of the company.

The TopGame Connection

Business Chart

When Pragmatic Play came on the scene in 2016, it featured a game library containing titles from TopGame. This was a troubled operator that existed from 2007 to 2015, providing games to USA-friendly casinos while seeming to have a penchant for software glitches, financial improprieties, and deceptive practices.

Pragmatic Play claimed that it had merely purchased some of the assets of the defunct software house, but there are clues that imply a closer tie between the two corporations. The most damning, in our eyes, is that TopGame and Pragmatic Play appear to be managed by the same people.

The Same Owner?

About a year after its founding, Pragmatic Play was taken over by IBID Group. As is evident from a press release issued by IBID celebrating the acquisition, David Barzilay was the CEO of IBID at that time. This is the same individual who was earlier named in a Romanian court document as the owner of TopGame.

The court filing from 2013, while it did not state explicitly that David Barzilay was definitely the owner of TopGame, did note:

We underline that the defendant David Barzilay is the beneficial owner and the director de facto of TG Service Inc. [TopGame] as it is clearly shown by the fact that he coordinated and directly managed the business relationship established between TVMUK and TG Service Inc.

A look at Barzilay's LinkedIn page shows that during the timeframe in question, he was an “Independent Business Man.” Indeed, his tenure at this vaguely titled position coincides pretty nicely with the years that TopGame was in operation.

Incidentally, he is shown as having left his position as CEO at IBID Group in March 2019 to become a “Commercial and Strategic Advisor” with the same firm. Our money is on Mr. Barzilay still being the power behind the scenes and still calling all the shots.

The good folks over at CasinoListings.com have uncovered further evidence of the fact that Pragmatic Play is merely a rebranding of TopGame. They have found out, for example, that one of the directors of the new corporation was a former exec at TopGame and that the old firm was listed as a shareholder in the new one.

More About the Lawsuit

While our research into the above-mentioned legal paperwork was inspired by a desire to confirm David Barzilay's connection to both TopGame and Pragmatic Play, we couldn't help but read the rest of the document out of a sense of curiosity. What we found was laughable, despicable, and amateurish in about equal measure.

It turns out that TopGame, represented in the person of Mr. Barzilay, was allegedly attempting to redirect traffic from its own customers' websites in favor of online casinos managed by TopGame itself! For example, TopGame supposedly created the website romevipcasino.com in order to confuse users of romecasino.com (a gaming site using TopGame's software) while making the new site's theming and language as similar as possible to the preexisting legitimate one.

At the same time, TopGame stood accused of blocking access to the romecasino.com website, which it hosted, unless the legitimate owners paid $1.4 million immediately. This sum was said to be the amount of an unpaid royalty fee owed to TopGame for the licensing of its casino software.

Shockingly, about a week before this supposed extortion attempt, David Barzilay met with an employee of this customer, a company known as TVMUK. Barzilay revealed that the websites run by TVMUK would soon be closed, and he tried to get this employee to jump ship and work directly for TopGame.

Software Not All That Hot Anyway

Downward Slope

It's ironic that TopGame was attempting to hold a client's websites hostage over a dispute regarding the value of the gaming software being used. You see, the casino games supplied by TopGame were nothing to write home about anyway.

This proposition had been amply demonstrated in June 2009 when several customers realized that certain wild symbols were not appearing on reels 1 and 5 in three games: Diablo 13, Wild Sevens, and Dougies Delights. These missing icons substantially reduced the return to player and made it impossible to win the jackpot.

Diablo 13 SlotCurrent Version of the Diablo 13 Slot
A Previous Version Had Broken Wild Symbols on Reels 1 + 5

After initially remaining silent on the matter, TopGame eventually announced that the error was fixed and had been the result of prematurely pushing testing code live. It's astounding that such a mistake could have been made by any gaming house and that it was left up to the players to inform TopGame of it.

The company agreed to pay compensation to the affected users. Yet, we have not been able to dig up any details of how the amount of this compensation was determined. In any case, it's probable that many customers who busted their account balances never knew about this glitch and thus had no clue that any funds had been reimbursed.

Incredibly, this was not the end of the matter. A month later, the following post appeared on the CasinoMeister forums:

Negative Forum Post About TopGame

That's right – after TopGame apologized and fixed the error, a similar snafu cropped up in another game. This shows that the developers didn't learn any lessons or improve their procedures to prevent similar mistakes from recurring in future.

Disappearing Jackpots

Masked Criminal

After being in business for about eight years, TopGame collapsed under the weight of its own ineptitude. There's a lot more shady stuff that this group was up to that we don't have the space to elaborate on. But there's one more bit of malfeasance that we could not let pass unmentioned.

At the time of its closure, TopGame was responsible for several progressive jackpots, including three that totaled an incredible $6.4 million. All of this money had been contributed over the course of six years by customers, as tracked by CasinoListings, but not a cent of it was paid out.

Yes, in six years, the jackpots for Bingo Slot, Monster Madness, and Stars and Stripes had never been hit. This is suspicious in and of itself, but what really takes the cake is that none of this money was carried forward to the games sold by Pragmatic Play.

We suppose the team behind TopGame just kept this cash for their own purposes. It looks like this was a fine way for them to capitalize their new venture, Pragmatic Play.

Beware The Undersea Monster

Caution Sign

Additional research has informed us that TopGame, in a fit of last-minute procreation, spawned another devilish offspring besides Pragmatic Play. This Lovecraftian horror goes by the name of Octopus Gaming, and we wouldn't be surprised if it has all eight of its grasping appendages nestled deep within the wallets of its customers.

Those old TopGame titles that were not carried over to Pragmatic Play were transferred instead to Octopus Gaming. How apropos that Pragmatic now hosts a slot called Release the Kraken!

Homepage of Octopus GamingDon't Let This Monster of the Deep Grab Ahold of You!
Those Dead Dudes in the Background? Former Customers

Exercise Discretion

Magnifying Glass

Needless to say, we advise our readers to keep well clear of both Pragmatic Play and Octopus Gaming slots. Because most of the reputable online casinos that deal with these crooked entities also provide games from more trustworthy houses, you can still satisfy your gaming urges without wasting time on these two blemished developers.

It can sometimes be difficult to tell who created a particular title, but you can pay attention to the loading screens. If you see a progress bar like either of the following, it's time to click the “x” in the top-right and find something else to play:

Progess BarsRUN If You See Either of These Loading Bars

As for casinos that rely exclusively or primarily on Pragmatic Play and Octopus Gaming, you ought to fend off their disgusting marketing advances if you value your bankroll. We can't give a complete list of these operations because they tend to be of limited lifespan and ever-changing nomenclature, but it's a good idea to avoid any gaming site run by Engage Entertainment Group or Celicorp Limited.

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