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Calvin Ayre
 

Life of a Sports Book CEO on the Road

26 March 2004

Last year I wrote an article on the life of a Sports book CEO living in San Jose, Costa Rica. I consider this to be the optimum jurisdiction for running an international Sports book for a number of reasons. Anyone wanting to read the precursor to this article as well as others I have written can go to www.coleturner.com.

This year as our business becomes more and more global, I thought it was time to pen an article about what the rest of our lives are like. In an industry like international wagering, you can imagine there is a lot of travel. Because BoDog.com has a large business development office in Canada I have to visit there regularly. Therefore, I am on the road more often than not. It is particularly applicable now since I just got back from a two-month trip where I visited five countries and I want to share with the readers what this lifestyle is like, since it is actually a critical part of the job.

In a previous article on marketing I outlined our philosophy of treating networking as a strategic necessity, not something left for chance. It’s why we show up at conferences with an eight-person team. It’s also why I spend more time on the road than anyone in our industry. I budget my time a year in advance and a certain amount of time is dedicated to our Vancouver office while other time is dedicated to meeting people we consider spheres of influence in our industry. In the past this was difficult, but now that we have become one of those larger spheres of influence ourselves, there is no one in the industry that I cannot drop in on and see, making this part of my job that much more enjoyable.

Additionally, it is my opinion that I can add more value to our organization as a strategic thinker than I can by micromanaging areas of the company. I find that the exposure to new environments and ideas I get while traveling helps me from getting stuck in comfort zones, something all CEOs have to fight against in a competitive world like the one we live in.

Because BoDog.com has two major offices it was necessary to set each one up so it runs optimally whether or not I am actually physically present. This was helped by being, significantly, an Internet focused company, meaning most everything we do is digital and everyone uses email. The net result of this is that I am 99-plus percent effective no matter where I am in the world, as long as I can get my laptop plugged into a high speed Internet connection.

One other thing I have is a tri-band GSM cell phone that is international roaming enabled and allows me to communicate with all my top management from anywhere in the world by either text or voice. If there is an emergency they can call me or text me, in some cases just to tell me to check my email. I can do my work from any place on the planet where I can find these high-speed Internet connections and the list of places where this is possible is constantly growing, opening up the world to me.

On my last trip, I left Costa Rica in late November and flew to Miami, Florida. I stayed in The Tides Hotel on South Beach in a room looking out to the ocean. This is a great little hotel and has a trendy bar area downstairs. It also has an easy to use wireless high speed Internet connection. While in South Beach I met with Peter Gold and Jason Port of VegasInsider.com, Robert and Suzan Cole of Casino Times News Magazine and a number of other marketing and creative types to plan some upcoming BoDog.com marketing programs. BoDog Girl, Suzy Jackson, was also in town for a photo shoot for one of her upcoming articles.

One of the highlights of this stop was a side trip up to Boca Raton to visit with Frank Rosenthal. Frank is the real life person behind the character played by Robert Deniro in the movie “Casino”. You can read more about Frank by visiting his Web site: www.frankrosenthal.com. We dinned at the top steak house in Boca Raton, New York Prime Steak House. Included here is a picture of Frank and myself at the steak house.

From here it was off to Boston, Massachusetts for two days where I stayed in The Colonnade Hotel in the Back Bay area of town. The Hotel of course met my minimum standard of high speed Internet and more. There I met with Dan Krus of Endicottmedia.com and his lovely friend Laura. Dan does marketing consulting for a number of International sports books and was an all around nice guy to meet.

From here it was off to Vancouver, Canada, my second home given how often I am there. Vancouver is a lovely city and if you go to Canada, it’s a must-see. All the areas of our business model that would be difficult to do in Costa Rica are done here and, at least over the last five years, wasn’t really any more expensive. The main departments housed in the Vancouver offices are software development, network design, creative, marketing and business development, such as event planning. The atmosphere and the offices are world class and are a big part of what has helped to make BoDog.com the industry leader it is. In Vancouver I stay at a company owned apartment, walking distance from the office on the shores of False Creek. This is actually a small fiord or inlet that is narrow enough to have a pretty good tidal current much of the time and hence the name.

After a few weeks at the Vancouver Office it was back on a plane for Makati in the Philippines. Makati is the main business district in the country and is just outside Manila. I stayed at an inauspiciously named hotel called City Garden Hotel. It is relatively cheap, but brand new, and has my requirement for high speed Internet in the rooms. It is well designed, with great views, and has a very cool rooftop pool and hot tub. It is also very close (walking distance) to lots of clubs and restaurants in a very safe part of the city. Additionally, it’s also very close to where my two Filipino friends live and is the reason I first found this place.

Since an ever-growing portion of our business is coming out of Asia, it’s high on our strategic plans for expansion into this region. The Philippines is one of the few optimized jurisdictions in the region to use as a base and one of the few countries in Asia where you can get an International Gaming license. While there, I stopped in to see Rafael Francisco. Rafael is the president of PAGCOR, the government-owned corporation that has full jurisdiction over gaming in the country. I also stopped by the offices of SAGE (Sports and Games Entertainment Corporation) and met with CEO Antonio Lacdao. SAGE is an actual licensed and operating international gaming company with its head office in Makati, not far from my hotel. I also met with a number of other leading members of the business and political community including a member of the Aquino family.

Next stop on the trip was everyone’s favorite destination in the region, Bangkok, Thailand. This is a city that has everything you could want, including, the residence of a famous member of our industry. Legendary oddsmaker Michael (Roxy) Roxborough, who for many years up until the late nineties, was the definitive final word on the starting line on all US sporting events. He now lives part-time in Bangkok and no trip to Asia is complete without a stop to visit him. On this trip I was also lucky enough to be taken out for dinner by Hugh Carr and Mick Embleton of U.K. gaming giant Ladbrokes. Pictured above is Roxy in between myself and a long time friend of Roxy’s and a fellow sports bettor from Canada.

While in Bangkok I stayed at the JW Marriott Hotel right downtown. It has got everything you want: high speed Internet, raised pool, great gym, and is right in the heart of all the great nightlife. One of the most bizarre things a new person notices when they first start wandering around downtown Bangkok, is that the city never seems to sleep and you can buy all manner of things on the street. For instance, there are carts full of cooked bugs for sale. I swore I would never try them when I first saw them, but while walking home after being out with Roxy one night, I actually did try three different kinds of cooked bugs. The white insect larva was disgusting, but the other two were surprisingly good. I must have had too much to drink because the next day they looked disgusting again!

The last leg of this trip was originally supposed to just be a holiday, but I am an incorrigible workaholic and love what I do, so I turned the trip into Cambodia into a publicity stunt by doing a photo shoot for an eight-part Cambodian adventure. (See: http://www.sportz-images.com/Cambodia.) It was loosely based on fact since I was in there on an expedition anyway and was easy to do. The temples of Ancor Wat are without a doubt the highlight of any trip to Cambodia. With my doing a photo shoot there, it created enough of a buzz that it kind of took over the trip. They don’t get many visitors doing anything like this, so I was treated like a movie star on the way out, with the staff of the hotel asking me for my autograph. This one campaign alone would have paid for the entire trip from the low cost branding we got so it made for a nice conclusion to the trip.

From Cambodia, it was back home to Costa Rica where I can thankfully stay for a few months. As much as I love traveling, it is always nice to be back home in my beloved Costa Rica. In this particular case it was even nicer since I landed just in time for College Bowl season and the beginning of the dry weather season.

Life of a Sports Book CEO on the Road is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Calvin Ayre
Calvin Ayre