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Exclusive Interview with Calvin Ayre

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Calvin Ayre Interview by EEGaming
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Our colleague, Szaló Réka caught up  for an interview the one and only Calvin Ayre

 

Calvin Ayre is a semi-retired entrepreneur living in Saint John’s, Antigua. He is Founder and Director of the Bodog Entertainment brand, as well as online gambling industry news site CalvinAyre.com and his philanthropic Calvin Ayre Foundation (calvinayrefoundation.org).

In 1992 he laid the groundwork for the organization that eventually became online gambling company Bodog and the associated Bodog Entertainment brand. In 2000 he launched Bodog.com, the success of which made him a billionaire. Ayre’s notoriety increased in the mid-2000s as online gaming’s popularity surged, landing him on the cover of Forbes magazine’s 2006 annual Billionaires edition and Star magazine’s “Most Eligible Billionaire Bachelors” list in late 2007.

Ayre has expressed his admiration of Virgin Group founder Richard Branson’s use of his personal brand to promote his companies and the way Branson applied the Virgin brand to a range of business ventures. Using him as a model, Ayre aims to build Bodog into not only one of the largest online gambling brands but also a mainstream 21st-century digital entertainment conglomerate. As Bodog grew, Ayre launched several non-gaming properties under the Bodog brand.

In 2003, Ayre organized BodogConference.com (later renamed the Bodog.com Poker and Sports Marketing Conference) in Las Vegas for sports handicappers, at which National Football League Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana was a special guest, tossing autographed footballs to attendees. The conference became an annual event, attracting gambling industry executives and figures from the sports world.

In 2005, Ayre launched the Bodog Music record label with a roster featuring artists such as DMX and the Wu Tang Clan. This led to the Bodog Music Battle of the Bands television series on Fuse TV, in which celebrity judges including former Sex Pistols singer John Lydon traveled across America to find the country’s best unsigned bands.

Ayre also launched Calvin Ayre WildCard Poker, a televised poker series on Fox Sports Net featuring pro and celebrity players facing off against online qualifiers. In March 2006, filming of party scenes for the first season finale at Ayre’s compound outside San Jose, Costa Rica, was raided by an estimated 100 police who were under the mistaken impression gambling was taking place. Ayre, who was not charged, used the media spotlight provided by the raid to promote the series and the Bodog brand. He made light of the raid, claiming the police “ate half my buffet.”

Bodog also branched out into sports with the launch of Bodog Fight, a mixed martial arts league incorporating a television series and live pay-per-view events. The 2007 finale in St. Petersburg, Russia, was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and actor Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The biography of Ayre is really extended and you can study it in detail on Wikipedia 

 

We are very grateful for your generosity to answer our questions. First I would like to ask you to shortly introduce yourself and tell us when and why you started working in this industry.

Ayre: It’s a well-documented tale but dates back to the early 90s.

It is known that you are involved in the Bitcoin industry, you are a big fan of Bitcoin Cash, and you have done several investments. Please tell us more about your interests within the industry. What is special about Bitcoin Cash?

Ayre:  The internet has broken borders down on many levels but banking has not followed suit because the establishment wants to keep hold of power and, of course, the fees they charge. Bitcoin had started to break down these barriers but was then somewhat hijacked by that very establishment and so transaction feeds rose and rose. Bitcoin Cash has set itself up to return to the fundamentals of the Bitcoin movement and, therefore, the confidentially product will win out as the dominant blockchain-based currency.

What is your opinion about the perspectives the use of Bitcoin can mean for the industry? What advantages would this bring to the industry?

Ayre: Bitcoin Cash is the best option for both the operator and the customer as they will face very low transaction fees and is direct between the two parties. The more middlemen any product has the more the charges ramp up in any industry.

You have been recently appointed as Special Economic Envoy by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. Please tell us about your responsibilities, tasks and future plans.

Ayre: I am hoping to make Antigua a hub for start-up and scale-up Bitcoin Cash-based companies. I am currently building a state-of-the-art office block on the island to service those companies.

We know that you have several foundations and have supported several charitable causes. What projects are you working on now?

Ayre: Best just to look at the site: calvinayrefoundation.org but we are significantly involved in education and disaster relief right now.

Which were the most difficult periods in your career so far and what do you consider your biggest success?

Ayre: There is nothing more difficult than starting companies with no money…nothing is as tough as the early days were.  Biggest success is yet to come….the dominance of Bitcoin BCH over all other blockchains will be my crowning moment.

If you could change anything in the world of gambling what would that be?

Ayre: Governments must see the industry as a huge employer and as a vehicle for tax revenue but mustn’t get greedy. It is a low-margin business and must remain so or it will lose appeal to the customer. If structured right it can be a big contributor to any country’s economy. Gambling is good in a lot of ways.  Right now however I am focused on helping move the world towards digital currencies and this consumes all my spare brain cycles.

What is your personal opinion about gambling industry in general in Europe or in the countries you know better?

Ayre: I have long-since stopped running gaming companies on a day-to-day basis but it is great to see how it has flourished in countries where the government has got the balance right and on that level it is hard to look past the UK as the leader.

Who is your favorite actor or actress?

Ayre: I am a big fan of character actors like John C Reilly & Zach Galifianakis

Where would you travel the most in Central Europe?

Ayre: I like to travel everywhere and get to know new territories and spending a lot of time in London gives me easy access to pretty much anywhere in Europe. I personally like Romania, as well. Fun culture and good climate.

 

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Paving the Way for Regulated iGaming market: Will India See the Rise?

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Paving the Way for Regulated iGaming market: Will India See the Rise?
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

By Dr Aruna Sharma, Practitioner Development Economist & Retd Secretary GoI

 

Could you provide insights into the current market potential for iGaming in India, and what key challenges do you anticipate the industry facing in the near future?

The popularity of online gaming as a form of entertainment in India has surged with the widespread availability of inexpensive smartphones and affordable internet access. Global investors, developers, and other industry stakeholders are keenly watching the growth story of the Indian online gaming industry which has witnessed a 28% CAGR between FY20-23 and holds a market valuation of ₹16,428 crores.

However, instead of direct contribution in the economic growth story of India the online gaming industry is contributing in terms of increasing revenue (direct and indirect tax) collection (year-on-year). Additionally, the sector has attracted budding tech developers and entrepreneurs by providing them employment opportunities and fueling innovation to keep up with the rising demand for AI and other such immersive gaming experiences.

After some crucial and elucidative changes in the regulatory and taxation policies by the government in 2023, one can hope that 2024 for iGaming will thin the clouds that are shadowing accelerated growth of iGaming in India. 2024 holds promise for iGaming in India. While full regulation may take time, positive court ruling and increased focus on non-RMG segments could cause a casual gaming boom, potentially unlocking a multi-billion dollar market. However, regulatory uncertainty and potentially high tax rates remain a hurdle for attracting investments and interest of other stakeholders in this growing market and industry.

 

What are the main challenges facing Indian iGaming and how different are these challenges within the different regions of India?

  • The government is focusing on reducing threats like false information, mental health problems, money laundering, and financial losses for users by bringing rules and regulations such as the IT Rules, establishing SROs and SRBs.
  • Adequate regulation, that is conducive to doing business, is needed, first of all, to protect the Indian players. Because in the current situation, Indians are being abused by countless nefarious parties. Checking and curbing the illegal gaming platforms and enhancing mechanisms to ensure increased user awareness and behaviour while indulging in online gaming.
  • A pressing concern that requires governments urgent attention is to put in place parameters that differentiate between games of skill and chance for taxation.
  • As a fallout of high and retrospective taxation the industry is facing job losses, advertising and spending cuts and reduced investments in research and innovations.

Additionally, policy and regulatory compliance for the platforms have become increasingly complex with both center and state governments legislating on the same subjects and multiple ministries regulating the industry.

 

Delve into the necessity for a regulatory framework that is both balanced and adaptable.

Unregulated framework where user base is large leads to spread of iGaming in gray market with all its vices. By regulating the iGaming industry, the government can unlock other positive outcomes, such as increased tax revenues, economic growth via attracting more foreign investment, job creation, and better consumer protection. A thorough regulatory framework will enable transparent parameters to distinguish and license the game of skill accordingly and rest will fall under game of chance.

Regulations always bring in transparency and ensure there is no misleading advertising or non-payment of legal taxes. Additionally, regulations such as the IT Amendment Rules, 2023 have ascertained a robust grievance redressal mechanism by setting up of the SRBs and SROs.

Further a balanced and stable regulatory framework could provide assurance and confidence to the international iGaming companies in paying taxes while doing business in a regulated and transparent market, create jobs, and invest in the country and its people. Thus, comprehensive regulations, that are conducive to doing business and protect the Indian players, who are being abused by countless nefarious parties are necessary in the current iGaming landscape.

Consequently, foreign iGaming companies operating legally have consistently demanded that the Indian government establish an adequate and stable regulation and taxation regime. Instead, the government has consistently chosen to unwisely prohibit it, thus pushing this whole industry underground. Furthermore, iGaming companies face unfair persecution and baseless lawsuits from India.

 

The new 28% GST on online gaming has produced divided opinions about the industry’s future in India. How has the industry reacted to it?

Industry initially panicked at the 28% tax, fearing slow growth and reduced investments. The partial relief, clarification on the regulatory compliances have brought cautious optimism. Smaller firms remain anxious, fearing the high rate still discourages players and favors larger businesses. Long-term impact depends on pending Supreme Court judgment on game classification and potential tweaks to the tax structure.

The applicability of a flat 28% tax on the total value of bets placed in online gaming, irrespective of whether they are games of skill or chance has upset the applecart that was moving smoothly with the evolution of agreed principles among SROs and the oversight by SRB with clear distinction of the regulatory body between Games of Skill (permissible games) with that of Games of Chance.

The matter is now being reviewed by a Group of Ministers (GoMs) comprising of officials from ministries such as the Home, Finance, MeitY, etc. to reconsider the GST and how to counter episodes of money laundering and other such scams and frauds.

 

Finally, what can we expect from Indian iGaming as a whole this year, if you were to sum it up in three key points?

It is expected that 2024 will set pace by bringing in clarity in rule making, consistency of rules, inculcating a more stable policy environment that enables India to not miss the bus of becoming a hub for developers. The iGaming industry is expected to tighten its grip for filling the digital divide, enabling learning of cognitive skills and enhance conscious citizen messaging to further tap into the positive side of iGaming.

Additionally, iGaming industry should leverage technologies like blockchain to further the purpose of transparency and tracking of digital payment as a technical solution and for permanent storage of records to curb money laundering. Alongside formulation of regulatory policies, a stricter implementation of policies such as IT Rules (establishing SRBs), mandatory KYC, and compliance with Advertisement Standard Council in India (ASCI) norms for iGaming industry need to be inculcated in ensuring safe and secure gaming platforms.

The future of the gaming industry holds promise of growth, however, there is still a hazard that due to absent market regulation and destructive policies, international iGaming companies shun India, sending an unwelcoming signal to many other potential foreign investors.

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Software is complex and success hard to achieve, Q&A w/ Max Francis Founder of Black Cow Technology

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Software is complex and success hard to achieve, Q&A w/ Max Francis Founder of Black Cow Technology
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Online gambling operators continually engage with different software projects but the rate of failure remains incredibly high. This is usually due to time pressures placed on the project. To learn more about software development, and some of the pitfalls operators need to be aware of, we spoke to Max Francis, founder of Black Cow Technology and 25 year veteran of software development. Max also talks about Agile and Rapid Application Development, and how by adopting these approaches, and working with a specialist software developer, operators can hugely increase the chances of success of any software project.

 

What are some of the main challenges operators and suppliers face when it comes to software development?

Software development is about solving a problem and the very nature of this means that we don’t know how long it will take. This is one of the biggest challenges operators and suppliers face when it comes to software projects. They struggle to understand that software development is a creative process and that we are trying to solve a problem we haven’t tackled before and we simply don’t know how long it will take to do this. This doesn’t reconcile with the date-based mentality of most organisations when it comes to deadlines and completion. This often sees projects rushed and hurried to meet an arbitrary deadline and this usually results in the project falling short of the mark or failing completely. It’s much less painful for all involved if there is a universal, upfront understanding that we can never know how long a software project will actually take.

 

What do companies need to consider if they are to complete software projects successfully – on time, on budget and in a way that effectively solves the issue?

Operators and suppliers need to make business commitments of their own and they need to be able to rely on the software provider they are working with on the project. To be able to do that, both sides need to accept the project is going to vary and evolve over time, and that they will have to trade off three crucial dimensions if it is to be delivered successfully:  features, quality and timescales. It is impossible to secure all three and at least one will have to give. So, if a project needs to go live by a certain date, that might be fine, but functionality can’t be fixed for that date. If the project needs certain functionality, then you can’t set timescales. If certain functionality is absolutely required by a certain date then the quality will have to give. Most projects try for all three – features, timescales and quality; and this is why they fail.

 

It seems that being realistic about what can be achieved is key.

It is indeed. When it comes to it, a software development project ends up in one of three places. Good with all the features but not quick; good and quick but not with all the features; or all the features and quick, but not good. The latter approach, perhaps surprisingly, can be useful for prototyping and proof-of-concept projects but care must be taken when developing without quality. All too often, trial projects end up seeping into mainstream production and people wonder why the quality is so poor. In my experience, it’s much better to be realistic about what can actually be achieved rather than trying to run a project with blindly perceived “needs” that just can’t be met. This doesn’t mean scaling back ambitions, it just means understanding the compromises. That said, to be able to predict what can be done, we need to understand and deliver small useful chunks of what we know rather than failing to deliver based on what we want. It’s always best to be realistic, and Agile and Rapid Application Development principles help us to do this.

 

Can you tell us more about Agile and Rapid Application Development principles?

At Black Cow we have the mantra “something useful to someone, sooner”. It’s essentially about partnership-oriented iterative delivery. Satya Nadella of Microsoft put it quite nicely: “set and repeatedly meet short-term goals”. The central idea of any Agile development practice is that we don’t know what we’re going to eventually need, so expect change and collaborate to deliver for the biggest difference to the business now. Think vertical slices rather than layers: do some of it fully rather than lots of it partially. Everything flows much more easily in our projects once our partners understand that it’s ultimately about delivering to their imminent business need. For me, the most important aspect is the partnership – all parties are delivering this project. We’re not trying to ruin your day by telling you that it can’t all be done; we’re trying to help you plan! Choose the compromises before they choose themselves.

 

Can you give a few real-world examples of what these approaches look like?

So, it’s good to have a plan but make every effort to base your plans on what can actually be achieved now rather than what you ultimately want to achieve. Then you need to recognise that plans always change. It’s important to tackle small enough chunks to allow yourself a better chance of success by predictably delivering, then delivering to the imminent business need. And be sensible about what that need is. To determine this, look to solve today’s problems and not the problems you might have tomorrow (unless that is in itself today’s problem). Recognise that there will always be compromises.

Think progress and not perfection. Success comes from delivering as consistently as both sides can manage and seeking to optimise at all times. Adjust the process based on the progress you are making. Don’t believe anyone who tells you they will deliver on time – they are only saying this and can’t guarantee it. This includes the customer providing material to the software developer such as specifications and responses – this is also a form of delivery.

Finally, always treat timescale requirements with suspicion. You must ask if time really is of the essence or whether it is just a desire to get something done as quickly as possible. A real deadline means the project fails completely if it’s missed. This is usually not the case.

 

What do operators and suppliers need to look for in a software development partner? And what should the working relationship between both parties look like?

Working effectively and with the right software provider is mission-critical. The supplier and the customer need to deliver, support and commit to each other. There are no sides here, this is a partnership of equals. It’s a relationship that works best when the customer keeps the supplier focused on the requirements and the supplier keeps the customer focused on what’s technically possible. In this way both parties converge on a solution and are equally committed to the shared goal. “I’m the customer and this is what I want” doesn’t get software delivered. A more intelligent approach is needed.

Software projects are highly complex interactions between several parties with requirements that change on the fly. Projects also continue well after delivery – it’s never about providing a fixed bunch of requirements as a package and then you’re done. That’s why we ensure we take the customer on the journey with us, acting as a true partnership. This is why non-software businesses should engage good software experts for their software projects, allowing both sides to get on with what they do best and allowing the project to succeed.

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How has 3 Oaks Gaming’s Flip to Win promotional tool set the market alight

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How has 3 Oaks Gaming’s Flip to Win promotional tool set the market alight
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

In 2023, 3 Oaks Gaming enjoyed a breakthrough year, with its powerful portfolio of slots and promotional tools resonating with players worldwide. With 2024 still in its infancy, 3 Oaks’ Flip to Win tool has proven to be one of its most successful released, with impressive stats showcased across a number of facets. We caught up with 3 Oaks Gaming’s Promo Marketing Lead, Maria Osyka, about how the tool has put the distributor on the map.

 

Promotional tools still have a hugely important place within the market. Much like a new slot game, a successful promo tool needs to be unique and stand out in a saturated environment. Numerous tools will keep being churned out with no outstanding differentiator, and this is what makes Flip to Win so distinctive – an emblem of how a tool can entice players by keeping it relevant and fast-paced.

How Flip to Win works

Flip to Win is a proprietary in-game bonus engine, guaranteeing randomly generated prizes to reward players throughout a gaming session.

A trio of cycles takes players on a rapid adventure, returning to the main game after the initial flip, repeating the sequence twice more, with the ability to enhance player retention and acquisition. This provides the ultimate gaming experience. Since being introduced to the market, the tool itself has gone from strength to strength, enjoying spectacular results since launch.

Positive results across multiple indicators

Within two hours of the campaign going live, the Average Bets and Average Rounds indicators of the promo winners showed an increase of 127% and 143% respectively.

When we compare a player’s session to the following week,   with the same number of hours by the Average Rounds indicator, we can conclude that participation in the Flip to Win campaign has a positive effect on the length of the spin session, exhibiting a 45% increase.

With the Flip to Win tool to the fore, the average session duration indicator shows that the length of time participants play for is extended by approximately 25%, ensuring that retention dramatically increases.

Thanks to these results, the effect of the Flip to Win promo tool has reached its goal in terms of retention, extension of sessions, and bets placed.

It has shown that it primarily affects important KPI indicators as short, three-hour campaigns can influence these parameters, which means a win-win situation for both the operator and us at 3 Oaks Gaming.

The quality and unique nature of promotional tools has never been more important!

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