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Anne Lindner
 

Q & A: Mitchell Garber, SureFire Commerce

21 February 2002

SureFire Commerce, a provider of e-commerce services, announced last week that it is forming an advisory committee made up of gaming and electronic payment experts. The aim of the committee will be to help the company ally with more gambling and e-commerce firms. The announcement coincided with a decision by MasterCard to discontinue its service with FirePay, SureFire's e-cash section. IGN recently spoke with Mitch Garber, SureFire's executive vice president of business development, about both recent developments.

IGN: What will the purpose of the advisory committee be?

Mitchell Garber: Well, the purpose of the advisory committee is really twofold. First of all, it's to really put a lot of emphasis on our focus toward supplying our company's services of fraud and risk management and transaction processing to the land-based gaming industry that is going online. There's been a lot of talk and a fair amount of intent expressed by many of the larger offline companies to go online.

IGN: Such as MGM Mirage?

MG: MGM, Harrah's, Sun International, the Crown Group, a number of groups. And so we're certainly looking to play an important role when that part of the industry becomes prominent online. So I think what I've done is put together a group that is the strongest group out there-- people like Robert McMonigle, who's got a worldwide reputation over the last 12 to 15 years; very successful in over 100 major casinos, having placed maybe 75 percent of all the world's slot machines in all of the world's largest casinos and having relationships with all the top executives of many of those companies. And he's a very good personal friend of mine. Frank Catania comes with his own impressive background from the state of New Jersey. My own background is one of having practiced gaming law for nine years and having represented many of the large companies and knowing many people inside there. On the other hand, we've got a very large focus on alternative methods of payment online and e-checks and EFT and stored value (cards). Chuck Crawford and Steve Shaper are two exemplary members of our advisory committee. Steve Shaper is the former CEO of TeleCheck, a multibillion-dollar company, and Chuck Crawford's got his own impressive bio. They are really helping us in every way in terms of our fraud and risk-management and alternative payment methods. So that's really the purpose; it's two fold. There's the land-based gaming going online and there's the alternative payments. We think we've put together a great group.

IGN: Will you be going after new partnerships with companies that are strictly online gaming, as opposed to land-based?

MG:Currently, we do the processing for over 225 online gaming companies, and many of them don't have offline casinos. We'll continue to pursue that and market in the U.K. and Australia and abroad, and we'll focus very heavily on the land-based group that is going online.

IGN: Last week IGN did a story about MasterCard removing itself from FirePay. Is FirePay the main, consumer stored-value account system that SureFire has? And do you see the MasterCard issue as having a huge impact?

MG: No, I don't see it as having a huge impact. FirePay is our stored-value system. We're going to address the MasterCard situation at first privately and then publicly. We feel that the inability for FirePay to accept MasterCard prejudices all of the non-gaming merchants and consumers who are using FirePay to purchase non-gaming related goods and services, and so we'll deal with that hopefully in a way that will favor the consumer and all of the merchants, gaming and non-gaming alike.

IGN:A lot of companies are trying to distance themselves from online gaming. If they are not directly related to it, they really don't want to talk about it. Why is SureFire being so out in the open about its pursuit of the industry?

MG: I don't know what companies you're talking about that want to distance themselves from it. SureFire is a payment company. We process payments and fraud and risk management for a number of companies, including Intuit, QuickBooks, American Airlines, America West--all through our points.com partnership. So we have thousands of merchants who are non-gaming merchants. We see ourselves as a payment company, not very different from PayPal, Western Union, MasterCard. And those companies clearly process all kinds of transactions, gaming and non-gaming, and we see ourselves as processing all kings of transactions, gaming and non-gaming.

IGN: But some of the companies are really having issues processing gaming transactions. Visa and MasterCard are really cracking down.

MG: Well, cracking down. . .I'm not sure that that's necessarily true. I think that Visa and MasterCard aren't really cracking down to the extent that the media is making it seem that they are. Visa and MasterCard both process gaming transactions as long as they are properly coded and properly entered. And so Visa and MasterCard haven't changed in any way their approach to processing properly coded gaming transactions. So I would disagree.

IGN:One more question about the advisory committee. When and why did you decide to set it up?

MG: I've been thinking about it for a while. Two years ago I had been speaking frequently with many of the top executives of offline gaming companies, and they were kind of privately planning for online gaming, but publicly weren't able to talk about online gaming because it seemed very vague and very gray. And as time has gone on, the Nevada regulatory bodies and others have looked at Internet gaming. They're starting to understand it a little better, and the reality that there will be Internet gaming for these licensed, Nevada-type casinos has struck home with most or all of the top executives. They are looking for assistance and advice and are taking very seriously what they are considering to be a very lucrative future revenue stream for them. I thought we should make a focused, concerted effort and announce our intention to make that focused, concerted effort. In fact, we announced our first deal this morning that's in some way related to that advisory committee, which is to process transactions for the Codere Group of South America. They're a land-based group; you can look at that press release on our Web site. That deal did come to us through one of our advisory committee members, so it's very, very exciting.

Q & A: Mitchell Garber, SureFire Commerce is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner