AN INTERVIEW WITH BODOG OWNER CALVIN AYRE - FEDS CAN'T STOP HIS ONLINE EMPIRE
25 October 2006
“American gaming enthusiasts have been asking themselves that very question, after Republicans in Congress recently amended the Safe Port Act (H.R. 4954) to prohibit financial transactions between American financial institutions, such as banks and credit card companies, and online gaming sites…”
“Apparently, Presidential hopeful Senator Bill Frist, who helped push the last minute amendment through, wants that money back in the pockets of hardworking local bookies – after all, online gaming, much like online pornography, has been one of the most profitable areas of internet commerce.”
“…Close to 95 per cent of Bodog’s sales come from the US, while neither Ayre nor the company hand a single red cent to the US in taxes. We decided to interview the betting playboy for an insider’s perspective on what are certainly proving to be interesting times for the online gaming industry.”
“ First off, how does it feel to have Forbes put out Calvin Ayre playing cards?
It was a big honor to be asked to be on the face of the Forbes playing cards, especially considering they were handed out to each new magazine subscriber. As if being on the cover of Forbes most popular billionaires issue wasn’t enough.
Right, we heard you were modest.”
EXCERPTS FROM INTERVIEW OF CALVIN AYRE BY BURKE HANSON, PUBLISHED BY THE REGISTER
“ Maybe you could give our readers a little history of the Bodog Entertainment Group. You started it with only $10,000, correct?
How could something that built Las Vegas be a miss on the Internet? This question puzzled me in the early 1990s and was essentially the basis for my decision to sell all my possessions and start an online gaming company. Once the ball was rolling, I then accurately predicted where the industry was headed and modeled my business around creating an all-encompassing digital entertainment experience. Bodog.com Entertainment Group is now considered an international leader in the digital entertainment space with a number of revenue-generating product channels, including online gaming, television, music, publishing and event planning, with over $300m in annual sales across all channels worldwide – and we’re still growing.”
“ You’re something of an outlaw, inasmuch as the American government has taken a much more strident view of internet gambling than the Europeans. To what extent has that helped or hindered your ability to grow the online gaming industry? We all know women like a bad boy, and you’re constantly surrounded by beautiful ladies, but do you feel that the almost fugitive status of the leaders of this industry has made it more difficult to gain legitimacy as an industry?
The media love to play up the bad boy billionaire image, and we’re more than happy to play along – it’s good marketing! This should, however, not be confused with what you suggest as an almost fugitive or outlaw status. I don’t consider myself to have this type of status; I actually travel quite freely and consider what we do to be legal in all the jurisdictions where we carry out our operations. In terms of making our brand more accessible and attractive to an international audience and our particular demographic, we made a very deliberate business decision early in the game to tack my face all over our website and on all campaigns associated with the Bodog brand. More than simply a branding strategy, this tactic allowed us to add an extra layer of transparency that – along with our focus on customer service and our expansion into new forms of entertainment has allowed us to play an integral role in legitimizing an industry well in need of a face-lift.”
“ To what extent can the online gaming industry survive without North America? There seems to be a ton of potential in Asia. Do you agree? And how do you tap that market?
A solid brand is solid brand no matter where you are in the world. Bodog.com will continue build on its current success, while pursuing its aggressive plans to expand into new markets around the world, including Asia and Europe. This has always been part of our long-term objectives.”
“ Why do you think the American gaming industry has put so much money into trying to shut you down, rather than joining the party? Word on the street is that some hefty lobbying money from the American side of the industry is behind this attempt to cut off the air supply of the online outfits.
It has been reported that certain traditional gaming interests are in fact not opposed to having an open and regulated online gaming market. That being said, our focus has always been on evolving our brand and growing our business channels instead of spending time and effort questioning the internal politics within the borders of these countries. Bodog.com is now considered one of the largest brands in the digital entertainment space, and as long as we stay focused on growing our business, we couldn’t be positioned better to continue our extraordinary evolution.”
“ How much of your business really depends on the American market? This has to pinch a bit, right? You re almost the Richard Branson of your industry, but how does Bodog roll with the punches this time – I know you’ve been branching out into other forms of entertainment such as music and television, but is there really enough synergy between those businesses and online gaming to make it worthwhile?
Bodog.com is far from being a one-market-facing company, and, at this time, we couldn’t be better positioned to build on our solid foundation in the markets we’re in, while continuing to expand all of our entertainment channels into international markets.
Since its inception, Bodog.com has modeled its business around the idea of creating an all-encompassing digital entertainment brand. Music, television, publishing and online gaming have certain synergies that, when combined, can form an all-encompassing entertainment experience, and these are only a few of the strategies that we have employed to get us to the point where we are.
Bodog.com is now considered a broad-based digital entertainment brand and the power of our model is certainly being realized as we are witnessing a surge in popularity in all of our digital entertainment channels, including online gaming.”
READ THE COMPLETE INTERVIEW WITH CALVIN AYRE AT THE REGISTER