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Kevin Smith

Q & A: Charles Malir, Orbis

7 February 2002

For years Orbis has been developing software solutions for the gaming industry. The international cooperation has diversified itself by offering platforms for both land-based betting facilities and online operations. IGN recently sat down with Charles Malir, the managing director for Orbis' U.K. operations. He discussed the company's direction and goals for 2002 and how it is focusing on a more global approach to the interactive gaming market place.

IGN: You guys have been busy in the early part of 2002 with setting into place your new plan. How is the implementation process going?

Charles Malir: We have always restricted ourselves to large, land-based operations in fully regulated jurisdictions, so we have never been involved in the Caribbean. When people have wanted to base themselves down there, we have turned them down. In the short term that has cost us money, but we have always had our eyes on the future. We knew we might be turning down a few million dollars right away, but by doing that we were leaving ourselves open to make the big bucks down the road.

The larger players need to be squeaky clean and they want to deal with squeaky-clean suppliers, and that was a long-term strategy--we started that three years ago. We have always said that you can't use our product and accept bets from U.S. residents. That was quite a forward-thinking thing for us to do, and we got a lot of criticism for it at the time because a lot of people felt that we were over-reacting and being cowards But the reason we did it was to make sure we were going to be in this for the long term.

IGN: That philosophy is starting to pay off now, isn't it?

CM: Now, with things kind of happening in a way to where those kinds of organizations are wanting to come online in the British Isles, we are seeing some good opportunities opening up. We fit the profile of the supplier that they want.

IGN: Having places like the Isle of Man has got to have you in a good launching-off spot to get your software out to other land-based operators looking to the Internet in other parts of the world.

CM: We are lucky in that we are based here. The industry is coming to us and we don't even have to move. So we are lucky in that respect. For whatever reason, the U.K. seems to be a bit more advanced than other places with technology such as interactive TV and other things. A lot of the wireless carriers have 3G already. So those are our home markets. We have been doing interactive TV for over two years now. When people come to us and they determine they need these things in their own market and jurisdiction, they can see that it has already been done. It isn't a matter of "we can" do this, for us it is "we have done this," and a lot of time that includes improving it.

IGN: Will interactive TV continue to be a focus for Orbis in the next year?

CM: Yes, especially for sports betting. We feel that interactive TV is a very good fit for sports betting. The juxtaposition of the event taking place and the opportunity to bet on the event is a very compelling proposition. You can argue that casino-type games on the Internet are just another opportunity to play the games, you are just going to do it on whatever is convenient, whether it be TV, your PC or whatever. With sports betting it is a different matter because the event is on the TV and that is the place you are going to watch it. That is a very strong area for our future.

IGN: Things move so fast in this industry, as a supplier, how ahead of the game are you? Are you working on things now that consumers will see in six months or two years?

CM: We are working on things that you will see in six months. We are very demand driven, so we tend to do things when people ask for them. We don't believe in the blue-sky development where we created a great product and then try to sell it to someone. I guess we are lucky because we have always been associated with the bigger-name operators and they have as good an idea as anybody to what the consumers want. We aren't going to second guess what they want. So what we are looking to do is cover all the bases.

Historically, sports betting has been our background, but we want to get away from the emphasis that we are sports betting operation. What we have now for sports betting is the Internet, TV, and mobile devices. We also do call centers now, so we have call center software if operators want to implement a call center.

IGN: Who are some of your clients for that software?

CM: Ladbrokes has a 300-seat call center that is running on our software, and we are looking at doing interactive voice-recognition software. That will allow the caller to just talk to the machine and place their bets through it. We are testing that right now on the trial level, and it has been pretty impressive. We also have software that covers over-the-counter cash betting, so we feel like we have sports betting covered from pretty much every angle. The important thing for the operators is that there is one single system that can be used for all of these types of betting. When you have to manage your book and liability, you want to be able assess your vulnerability at any given time. You don't care where they money is coming in from, you just want to know what side of the bet it is on. If you have to collect two or three reports, that can be time consuming. We can offer them a very important aspect in assessing the book.

IGN: What steps have you taken to be a supplier beyond the sports-betting world?

CM: We have put a lot of work into our casinos now. We have developed our own software games and we are expecting each customer to take its own games, so what we are doing is developing individual games instead of a whole suite of games. If people want a different look and feel to their casino, we will do a tailored casino for them. We also have a deal with Wager Works, which has a big focus on branded Vegas-style games. The idea is if you want braded games right off the shelf, we can take care of you. And if you want to spend more money and get a highly tailored and customized suite of games, we can do that too. And some people will do both. We are hoping that Wager Work's reputation in Vegas and long-standing relationship with MGM will be a good strategic tie up for the U.S. market.

IGN: How important is it in Internet gaming to align yourself with those known brands, either land-based or not, such as Ladbrokes and Wager Works?

CM: The reason why we have always gone for bigger customers is to look into the future. We have always been maxed out in terms of resources for designing sites for our customers, but I don't think anyone in the gaming business has. At any one time we will have anywhere from 50 to 100 projects going on at the same time. We have never had people sitting around. You get picky then on how you are going to spend your time. The gaming industry is a very friendly industry in the sense that everyone talks to everyone. They want to know what software you are using and so forth, so a lot of our business comes from word of mouth. The large land-based guy has more contacts, and that has proven true for us. It is a bit mercenary if you like, but from a forward-looking stand point it has worked for us. … Down the road the bigger clients are the ones that are going to pay off the most for you.

IGN: As a supplier, how do you see games and sports betting changing in the next six months to a year?

CM: I think there will be an emphasis on games that people know how to play and are familiar with, but still come under the proper regulations of various jurisdictions. A lot of places have different wording in their regulations about casino-style games and other games, and the trick is to get a game that falls under the regulations but still has the interest of the player. It isn't like they have to learn a completely new game that way.

There will be a lot of creative work going into "is it a bingo game, or is it a bingo-like game," or is it fixed odds numbers betting? That will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Our main focus now, though is that we want to be talking to the Vegas casinos and find out what kind of activity they want to be doing online outside of the States. We have talked with some of them, and we know that what they are looking for we will be able to provide for them.

Q & A: Charles Malir, Orbis is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith