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Kevin Smith

Q & A: Betinternet

21 February 2001

Although bookmaker betinternet plc is located on the tiny Isle of Man, it's taking some big action. The company has grown from a small telephone betting service into a thriving international online bookmaker. Along the way, betinternet has also gone public with a listing on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), and found the need to create a "brand awareness" among punters.

Betinternet has made significant inroads into the Far East market (in support of which it employs a number of Cantonese and Mandarin speakers). betinternet does not target UK punters. However, its wholly owned subsidiary, betinternet Malta Limited, has now been awarded a license in Malta, enabling it to add the UK to its target markets, although the main objective of the Malta operation will be to facilitate totalisator wagering into racing pools throughout the world. Also on the horizon for the company is a new online casino.

IGN recently spoke with betinternet Operations Director Pat Flanagan about the company’s past, present and future and where he sees the industry heading.

IGN: What kind of changes has betinternet gone through since going public?

Pat Flanagan: We have gone from a very small operation to a company that employs over 50 people. There were certain people that were brought on board to manage and run the company beyond the transition of going public. I was among those who came on board around the time we were floated to the public.

The biggest advantage of us going public is the added credibility. People tend to want to do business with someone who trades on the London Stock Exchange or any other exchange. That gives them a little assurance that they are dealing with a legitimate operation and not one that is going to be on the shady side of the industry. Clients are more likely to send their money to us then one that maybe is not public or one they haven’t heard of.

IGN: There is a move in the UK to repeal the 9 percent betting levy in order to bring offshore operations such as betinternet back to the mainland. What effect do you think such a move would have on the industry itself, and on betinternet?

PF: I think the effect on the entire industry will depend on what jurisdiction companies are in. There are other jurisdictions, such as Isle of Man, where the taxes already are virtually nothing. I am also not sure what response there will be from the big bookmakers either. What I am sure of though, is that we are not going anywhere. The only place we are going is Malta, and that is only to attract and target the UK bettor.

IGN: You guys were able to reap an enormous benefit from Euro 2000 by taking your online sportsbook action to the next level, what did the company learn from that tournament about its customers and future events?

PF: We didn’t really learn a great deal about the clients. We already were pretty familiar with what they wanted and preferred, but we were able to really learn a lot from the whole Euro 2000 experience. A lot of people visit you for the first time. The fans who are caught up in the excitement of the event and are looking for as many ways as possible so support one team or another. The best thing about tournaments like the European Championships, is that if you handle it the right way, you can get some of those casual bettors to become regular clients. What we did learn from Euro 2000 was the modern-day bettor is attracted to all the side-bets. They don’t want to just bet on the outcome of the game, but who is going to have more corner kicks, shots on goals, who will score the first goal, who will get the first throw in, etc.

IGN: That said, how much preparation went into getting you ready for Euro 2000 and your web offerings?

PF: We took quite a while to prepare for the tournament on the web. The website was kind of a soft launch for the tournament. We hadn’t really promoted it all that much and the majority of our business was still coming in from the telephone. Now people are using the website a lot more than they are using the phone. Every year tournaments like Euro 2000, the UEFA League and the World Cup get bigger and bigger. I think the fact that our business on the web has also grown is a direct correlation to that.

IGN: What kinds of steps are being made to continue that growth?

PF: That still is where most of our efforts are centered right now, on growing the business. The World Cup is the next biggest football event for us, and we have already begun to prepare for that.

IGN: How have you taken an active role in preparing for the 2002 World Cup, which will be played in Japan and Korea?

PF: The biggest thing we are trying to do is getting our sites to have Asian languages on them by next year. Certainly with Asia hosting the event there will be a great deal of interest on the tournament. We already know that the Asian market is a hotbed for gamblers and hopefully we can tap into that market.

IGN: It certainly sounds like soccer has become a big part of your operations.

PF: It is rather funny, because we have seen a change in our business over the last couple of years. In the past horse racing was the majority of our wagers. Now, horse racing is a much smaller part of our business. About 70 percent of our action comes from soccer.

IGN: With a year like 2001, when there is no World Cup or European Championship, where does that action come from?

PF: The English Premiereship brings a lot of action for us.

IGN: The league in general has seen a lot of growth in popularity, do you think you guys are a contributing factor?

PF: For sure. When the league started in the late 1980s, there were only 30 countries which carried the matches on television. Now there are 127 countries showing Premiership Soccer matches. What is really odd, is that the league has such odd rules relating to broadcasting the games within Britain, often the coverage in these other countries is better than what you could get in England. They can’t show a match live in the UK on matchday, and those rules don’t always apply to other countries. People love to see live action and when they are watching the live games, their interest in them tends to rise. Like with the big tournaments, when watching a live event, placing a bet on the game is an easy way for the fans to get involved with the match. Once that happens you have brought in the casual bettor. The growth of the league certainly has helped our business.

IGN: Outside of gearing up for the World Cup, what kind of long-range goals does betinternet have?

PF: Our main long-range goal is to brand ourselves. We are working on getting our name out among the betting public. Other than our efforts to increase brand awareness, we are keen on pool wagering. If we can globalize pool betting that could be huge. If we can replicate what is being done in the U.S. with off track betting and take it to sports betting, that could change the business entirely. We already have a great base of sports, but if we could pool that and take it to NASCAR, Formula 1, the NFL we believe will be the future. In order to do that though, we have to come in with a whole new set of programs and get the bettors used to the system, but we hope that can happen very soon.

We also would like to add a casino as part of the experience as coming to the site. Virtual casinos are very popular, and many of our clients go back and forth from us and various virtual casinos. If we could offer them the whole experience right in one place, I am confident that they would stay with our site instead of bouncing back and forth.

IGN: Is there a target date in which you hope to have the casino up and running?

PF: We hope that by April or May we can have it up in its initial stage.

Q & A: Betinternet is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith