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Kevin Smith

Q & A: Stuart Doyle, WWTS

1 October 2004

After nine months of turbulence, new management at World Wide Telesports (WWTS) and its parent company, Betcorp, is trying to return things to normalcy.

Two weeks ago Betcorp announced the restructuring of its board of directors as part of a larger plan to refocus its energy on its core business, WWTS. As part of the plan, Betcorp will sell its Darwin-based Sportsbet subsidiary to the new management team and relocate the operation to Antigua, where WWTS is based.

"We are taking the business back to what we do well, which is offering great customer service."

The announcement ended a whirlwind summer for WWTS.

The company's CEO, longtime industry leader Simon Noble, left the company in early August. Betcorp Chairman John Priest and CEO Richard Barker both resigned later that month. Additionally, Jessica Davis-Dyett, another longtime WWTS executive, was relieved of her duties as vice president.

The shakeup resulted in WWTS founder Bill Scott becoming Betcorp's majority shareholder. Scott sold WWTS to Betcorp nearly two years ago in a deal that enabled WWTS to become a publicly listed company through Betcorp's Australian operations.

With Scott back in control, Colin Walker, who previously worked with Sportingbet and Ladbrokes, was appointed chief executive, and Stuart Doyle, WWTS's chief bookmaker during its record profit year in 2003, returned to that post. (Doyle left the company in January of 2004, when management chose not to renew his contract.)

Doyle and Walker were immediately appointed to positions on Betcorp's board of directors to fill vacancies. Bill Graham, an existing independent director and experienced bookmaker, was named interim chairman.

Interactive Gaming News caught up with Doyle this week and got his thoughts on what happened at WWTS over the last six months and where he sees the company going in the future.

IGN: I guess you could say it was the summer of discontent for Betcorp. What's your take on everything that transpired?

Stuart Doyle: There was a great degree of shareholder unease, and it was clear that the directors began to feel that heat. The last nine months have been very turbulent for this company, but all of that is behind us now. The management team and all of the staff at WWTS are looking forward to what lies ahead.

IGN: It's only been a few weeks since the reorganization was announced, but do you feel that things are headed in the right direction?

SD: The early results have been reasonably good. We are taking the business back to what we do well, which is offering great customer service. WWTS has always prided itself as an operation that had a lot to offer both the professional sports bettor and the wise guy.

Now we are just refocusing the business back to the sports fan. The focus should be squarely on the sports bettor, and we lost site of that focus over the last seven to nine months. That affected the business a great deal.

"As a bookmaker, you can deal with a string of bad results because you know that is part of the business, and if you manage your book right you will still be OK, but you compound bad luck in the outcomes of the games with poor management of the operation, and you have a recipe for disaster."

What happened over the last nine months really came down to bad management and bad luck. We had a slough of bad results during the first seven months of the year for sure. But there was also a lot of mismanagement going on that shouldn't have been.

IGN: Is that an issue you're comfortable talking about?

SD: It was a number of things really. Bet limits weren't managed well, and a number of games were just booked bad. There were games that had a lot of action on one side but not much on the other. You can live with one of those every now and then, but it happened too often during the last nine months. Then the wrong steps were being taken to remedy the situation and all that did was attract a lot of the wise guys.

As a bookmaker, you can deal with a string of bad results because you know that is part of the business, and if you manage your book right you will still be OK, but you compound bad luck in the outcomes of the games with poor management of the operation, and you have a recipe for disaster.

IGN: WWTS is known for its ingenuity, yet it sounds like you think there needs to be a return to basics.

SD: We are always looking to grow our business by making it more attractive to the sports bettor. That doesn't necessarily mean that all we offer is sports betting, but it means that our sports betting experience has to be a draw for our customers.

About two weeks ago we launched our online poker room, powered by Prima Poker, and the early results have been good. We feel there is a good crossover from the sports betting consumer to the online poker playing consumer. We would rather keep that guy on our site to play poker after he puts a bet down on the football game instead of going to another site to play while he watches the game on the TV.

IGN: So will the poker room and the betting exchange play a major roll in the future of WWTS?

SD: The next three months are absolutely vital to us, but we still are reliant on our core business. The exchange has been up and running now for 18 months and hasn't been a real huge success. I think it could benefit from a degree of promotion on our end, but I also think that exchanges really do well in markets where there is a cartel controlling the sports betting sector.

When there isn't competitive pricing, an exchange can come on to the scene and really have a huge impact with the betting public. There has always been competitive pricing in the U.S., so the exchange concept will be a little slower to catch on probably. That isn't to say that it won't, but it just will take a longer time than it did in places like the U.K., where there wasn't competitive pricing in the bookmaking industry.

What the exchange business will need in North America is someone like Betfair to come along and give it immediate liquidity.

IGN: Did the period of turmoil have an affect on the customers or WWTS's stature in the industry?

SD: There were some grumbling from our customers, and a lot in the industry were aware of what was going on, but that is the price you pay for being a publicly held company. We have never had a slow-pay or no-play complaint the whole time we have been in operation, and that is something we pride ourselves on. From a player's standpoint, that is what they are concerned with: Are they going to get paid or not? They aren't too concerned with who the CEO is or who the parent company is.

Now that we have the new board in place and Bill Graham leading it, the remainder of this year will be an important step in where we go from here. Hopefully when we put out our third-quarter report in October we can put all of this behind us and move forward.

Q & A: Stuart Doyle, WWTS is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith