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The latest addition to the Bodog brand family: Interview with Ian Dunning of Haydock Entertainment, BodogBrand.com's Asia-facing licensee

4 August 2009

To finish off my Bodog brand founder and licensee story writing extravaganza, I completed an interview with Ian Dunning, Managing Director of Haydock, BodogBrand.com's Asia-facing brand licensee (www.Bodog88.com). Haydock, the most recent addition to the "Bodog" brand licensee family, is licensed in the Philippines and based in Manila, a city that Ian loves and a city that I am dying to visit. Ok, so lets be real here. I will admit that I did not physically jump on a plane to Manila to interview Ian because, to be honest, it is far. Alternatively, I was unable to lure Ian across the Pacific for a face to face meeting because, in true "Bodog" fashion, Ian works around the clock to ensure that Bodog Asia is a success. Despite Ian's crazy work schedule and the notorious time difference hurdles, I was provided with the opportunity interview him at length, and now I cannot wait to meet him in person. From our many conversations, I find Ian to be a very friendly, capable, knowledgeable, and "seasoned" gaming professional who began his career at Ladbrokes before online bets were taken...or as Ian likes to say, "back in the day when you were still in kindergarten".

Ian Dunning, Haydock's Managing Director

Ian Dunning, Haydock's Managing Director

Though British, Ian has always been intrigued by the Asian market and has developed a deep expertise in the complexities of the Asian gaming markets over many years. He firmly believes that the synergies between the Haydock team and the Bodog brand are "tremendous" and that the opportunity to license the Bodog brand was a "no brainer" for him and his team. Ian's extensive gaming experience over the years brings an impressive pedigree to Bodog brand family, and even though he may be the "senior statesman" of the licensees, Ian is a big supporter of the "work hard, play hard" Bodog ethic that we all know and love. Even further proving this point, from the sounds of it, this year's Bodog88.com office party was a perfect example of the Bodog "work hard, play hard" slogan at work. Good to know, Ian. Next year I fully expect a personal invite...

Interview with Ian Dunning, Managing Director of Haydock

Where are you from? What did you study in school? How did you initially become interested in online gambling?

Ian:Originally I am from Liverpool (the red half). I spent most of my childhood in Jamaica and Botswana so I have been exposed to a lot of different cultures and experiences. Like a lot of kids, was not really sure what I wanted to do after school, but I knew I did not want to work 9 – 5 in an office. A friend of mine told me Ladbrokes was recruiting for betting shop managers- I was no stranger to gambling as my Dad always liked the odd bet, and the chance to work in a retail environment and catch up on the sports news everyday was appealing. My interest in on-line gambling started when I worked for easyInternet café as Business Development director and we had a lot of people come to see us who wanted to start on-line gaming businesses.

Tell us about your experiences working for Labrokes. What did you do for them? Is it true that you worked for them before they started taking online bets?

Ian:Wow when you put it like that, it makes it sound like I started working in the dark ages, but seriously working for Ladbrokes in the betting shops was a great experience. Dealing with real people face to face everyday made you understand the desires of the customers. Sure people want to win, but the real drive was for social interaction, entertainment and fun, the very things that Bodog have brought to the on-line world and makes Haydock association with them so exciting. I worked for Ladbrokes in various positions for 14 years and my final position was Area Manager in West London. On my last day I went back to my first shop and at least half of the customers remembered me- for them betting was an integral part of their entertainment week in week out.

When and why did you make the transition from Ladbrokes to Victor Chandler? What were some of the major differences between the two gaming companies?

Ian:Just prior to leaving Ladbrokes I had completed an MBA and I felt it was time to move on. After a period with easyInternet café, an opportunity arose to become Operations Director at VC, and to be honest, I had missed working in the betting and gaming industry so I jumped at the chance. Ladbrokes was very good at what they did but they were a traditional corporate business and VC was anything but. Victor was a bookmaker at heart and an entrepreneur by nature. I really enjoyed my time at VC, it was an exciting and rewarding and period.

You played a large role with Victor Chandler's expansion into the Asian market. What exactly did you do to facilitate the process? What challenges did you face? How was the Asian facing Victor Chandler different than the UK facing Victor Chandler?

Ian:If I knew before I arrived in Asia how much I didn't know about the market I don't think I would have left Gibraltar. Luckily the company was smart enough to engage local marketing partners who gave us a lot of sound advice and over the years we learned our lessons and ended up with a successful business. There are many differences between Asian and European betting markets, but the bottom line is that in the cash market, most of the young Asian punters want fun and entertainment. A strong brand trusted and respected is in my view the key requirement for success, which is why being a licensee of the Bodog brand is so important for us.

How did you become interested in the Asian market? Do you have any Asian heritage? Do you speak any of the languages? What is it about Asia that you like so much?

Ian:The sheer size and potential of the Asian market first attracted me to it. The region is growing so fast and the excitement you feel in every Asian country about the future is invigorating. I am ashamed to admit I still only speak English; the problem is just about everyone in Asia I come into contact with speaks English better than me. The people in Asia are on the whole fantastic, they are hard working, respectful of other cultures and love to have fun, a perfect character mix for the Bodog brand. Then there is always the food.

The Asian market has always been somewhat of a challenge for online gambling brands that have traditionally focused on the USA and Europe. Why? What are the major differences? What are the biggest challenges?

Ian:The Asian market is huge- sometimes people forget this- and companies need to focus on a particular area and do this well. Traditionally many of the most successful Asian bookmakers have focused on the credit market relying on sophisticated agent networks to market and conduct the business on the ground. I do not believe any western bookmaker will successfully break into this type of business. The good news is that as more and more Asians move into the middle classes and have access to fast reliable internet connections, they will not want to transact with underground agents. This emerging middle class is our target market, one in which I am convinced we will succeed in, especially given the proven strengths the Bodog brand has is on-line marketing and P.R.. In any region where legislation is still evolving the same challenges face all legitimate bookmakers: marketing your product and providing fast efficient payment back to your customers…areas we excel in.

How did you meet Calvin Ayre? It is common knowledge that he really enjoys spending time in Asia. How often do you see him? To what extent is he involved with www.Bodog88.com branding?

Ian:I first met Calvin for a breakfast meeting at a casino in Macau. It was a nerve wracking experience meeting the creator of one of the world strongest Brands, and for once I was lost for words. I see Calvin on his trips to Asia, as the Ambassador for the Bodog brand he obviously takes an interest in how we are delivering the brand values to Haydock's customers. For the brand to have value around the world there needs to be a consistency of delivery from all the brand licensees of the key values, fun, entertainment and great customer service.

Tell us about Manila, the location of the Haydock headquarters. What is it like living there? What is it like running a company from there? What are some benefits and shortcomings?

Ian:Manila is a great city, friendly people and lots to do in the evenings. Add in a large number of betting and gaming professionals and you have a nice place to live and work. It is a good place to run a business; we have fantastic offices, excellent support from the local regulator and a good pool of talented people to recruit from and a fantastic team working here.

Tell us more about Haydock, an online gambling operation you have been running out of Asia since 2006. What is www.9play.com? Does this brand have anything to do with www.bodog88.com?

Ian:Haydock is the license holder and was originally set up to exploit opportunities in the betting and gaming market in the region. Starting from scratch the company had to develop a new brand and 9play was chosen as the brand name. We became aware of the opportunity to license the Bodog brand, and honestly, it was a no brainer. Here we had the opportunity to trade under one of the best know brands in the industry with a great reputation for honesty and trust in a market where these attributes are key to success.

You have stated that the synergies between the Haydock Team and the Bodog brand are "tremendous". Why do you think Haydock is such a good fit for the Bodog brand?

Ian:At Haydock we believe we are in the entertainment business, delivering benefits to our customers by offering great products and service to people who are looking for fun and value. Work hard play hard is a famous Bodog tag line – one we happily embrace here at Haydock.

How is Bodog Asia different than the other Bodog Brand licensees? Are you in close contact with Keith McDonnell and Alywn Morris, the European facing and USA facing licensees?

Ian:As one of the licensees of the Bodog brand, we are keen to ensure that the key brand values are maintained and consistently delivered across the globe (as are the other licensees). As such we obviously have an interest in what the other brand licensees are doing. Also as one of the newest Licensees of the Bodog brand, it is good for us to learn from the experiences of the others. Bodog.com will be the common portal any customer in the world can use- when a customer types this into their browser they will be directed to the relevant brand licensee site depending on their location. This has tremendous value for us as a brand licensee, so while we are all separate businesses, the customers perception is of one worldwide Bodog family albeit with products tailored to their individual needs depending on the market they are in.

Lets talk more specifically about www.bodog88.com. How is it different than www.bodog.com and www.bodog.co.uk? What unique games do you offer for the Asian market? What languages are available? What is your target audience? How does Bodog88.com fit in with the "work hard, play hard" Bodog lifestyle?

Ian:Each of the Brand Licensees have their own strategies and objectives, but we will all share the common goals of delivering a great product range tailored to our own individual markets under the Bodog brand and brand values. In the Asian market Live Dealer is a key difference, RNG casino games are viewed with distrust here. Haydock offer a great Live Dealer experience, one which we will look to develop further over the next year. On the sports betting front, football is our main product, although in Asia, the focus is on Handicap betting and in-running. We have spent a lot of effort to customize our football betting coupons to accommodate our target market which is right now young male Chinese across the region. We currently offer English and Chinese language options and will be looking to extend the range in the future.

We have a young talented multi-cultural workforce based in Manila, they work hard, and if you had been here to experience our recent office party, you would have seen for yourself they can really play hard as well. Actually this is my experience of many Asian cultures, particularly the Chinese, hard work and success is a key ingredient of their culture, but come Friday night it's no holds barred down at the local bar or night club. Bodog's ethos of "work hard play hard" is a perfect fit with both our team here and our customers.

What's the typical demographic profile for an Asian player? How does that differ from European and North American players?

Ian:Ignoring the credit market, I believe our target customer shares many similar demographic features with European and American customers. We want to focus on the already large and growing young male middle class, people with disposable incomes and a passion for sports and having fun.

What future plans do you have in store for Bodog88.com? New games? Languages? Promos? Land based events?

Ian:Haydock objective is to be the largest on-line provider of betting and gaming in Asia. Right now I cannot give you a definitive time line but I am convinced that with the strength of the Bodog brand behind us we will get there. We have plans to roll out exciting new products and games over the next year or so and a significantly enhanced Live Dealer product. As we succeed in each individual territory we will look to enter new ones. Asia is a big place; it will keep us busy for a while yet.

How does advertising change in Asia? What do you have to do differently there than you would in North America or Europe?

Ian:I cannot comment on the North American market as I have no experience there, but in our chosen markets in Asia, advertising is a challenge. What would be deemed acceptable in Europe is frowned upon here. We are sensitive to local regulations and media restrictions, and the messages we use to prompt out products are less hard hitting than they would be in Europe. Conveying the history of the Bodog brand and all that it stands for is a key message for us.

What is Bodog's reputation in Asia? What was it before you became the licensee? What do you want Bodog's reputation in Asia to be?

Ian:Bodog is a truly global betting brand and I cannot think of another brand that is represented in markets right across the globe. Asia is probably the region where the brand is least well known, but it still has significant traction. Our challenge at Haydock is to make sure the brand values that have served other brand licensees so well become more well known in Asia. The huge amount of information available about Bodog via the simplest internet search is a great boost for us. Trust is a big issue in the Asian betting market and our potential customers can easily check the brand out and start betting in full confidence that they are dealing with a trusted and honest brand.

How are Asian igaming affiliates different than the American and UK igaming affiliates? Do you have your own affiliate team for www.bodog88.com?

Ian:Affiliates are the same the world over- if you offer them a compelling product to promote supported by a great brand, and give a fair reward for their work, they will deliver customers. While the affiliate networks in Asian bookmaking are not a sophisticated as those in the west, things are changing rapidly. Haydock has just launched its affiliate site and affiliates will be as important to our success as the agent network was to the underground bookmakers. Having the ability to market ourselves under the Bodog brand, with its deep history and large amount of relevant content about it on the web, gives our affiliates a huge advantage in the market place.

Do you plan to have a presence at some of the upcoming Asian facing affiliate conferences? If so, which ones?

Ian:We are still working on our approach to this, but yes we will be represented at most of the Asian Affiliate conferences.

Does Bodog88.com participate in any offline advertising in the Asian market? If so, what kind?

Ian:We do run some campaigns based around offline advertising with our main focus based on placements in sports related papers and magazines. We are also focusing on getting good editorial coverage in the same media. Having Bodog88 as our brand is a real asset here as many Asian editors, in particular the sports press, already know about the Bodog brand and its history. Most bite our hands off at a chance to do a story about Bodog.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Have you ever tried wake boarding?

Ian:Well I might not be as good as some of the other Bodog licensees at wake boarding, but I have tried it and I did stay up. I was immensely pleased with myself, until I saw my children doing all sorts of complicated jumps and turns. Other than that life is pretty much focused on the business right now, it's an exciting time for as all here in Manila and are all focused on delivering success.

Rumor has it that you are one of the more senior Bodog Brand licensees. Do you feel older and wiser than the rest of them? ;)

Ian:You have certainly put me on the spot here, yes I suppose at 50 I am one of the more senior Bodog Licensees, but that's another great thing about Asian people. On the whole they respect us oldies and perceive us as being wise, deserved or otherwise.

The latest addition to the Bodog brand family: Interview with Ian Dunning of Haydock Entertainment, BodogBrand.com's Asia-facing licensee is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Rebecca Liggero

Rebecca Liggero loves meeting new people and traveling – perfect qualities for someone who has won friends and influenced people in the worldwide online gaming community.

After graduating from Bates College with a degree in psychology, Rebecca spent four years in Washington, DC, working in relationship management, dreaming all the while about someday making it big in online gaming. After turning down an opportunity to live in New Zealand, she moved back to Boston and signed on as Senior Account Manager for Casino City – the beginning of a dream come true!

Rebecca’s work on behalf of Casino City (and later for the GPWA as well) took her to trade shows and conferences everywhere – Amsterdam, Barcelona, Costa Rica, Montreal, London, Las Vegas, Macau and many other ports of call – and along the way she began chronicling her incredible around-the-clock adventures in a wildly entertaining and industry-savvy weekly column that quickly became – and still remains – must reading for everyone who is anyone in online gaming. Following almost three years with the Casino City team, Rebecca spent a few months at Everest Affiliates where she was the Brand Manager of the affiliate program. While working on “the other side,” she realized that she truly missed her weekly column and the affiliate side of the business and decided to return to the Casino City family.

One and a half years later, Rebecca resigned from Casino City and joined industry icon Calvin Ayre to serve as the Bodog Global Brand Ambassador and the head on-site reporter for the online gambling industry tablog, CalvinAyre.com. In her new capacity, Rebecca continues to travel the world, and when asked where she is based, her response is usually "on an airplane."

Contact Rebecca at rebecca@liggero.net. Be careful, though – she might quote you.
Rebecca Liggero
Rebecca Liggero loves meeting new people and traveling – perfect qualities for someone who has won friends and influenced people in the worldwide online gaming community.

After graduating from Bates College with a degree in psychology, Rebecca spent four years in Washington, DC, working in relationship management, dreaming all the while about someday making it big in online gaming. After turning down an opportunity to live in New Zealand, she moved back to Boston and signed on as Senior Account Manager for Casino City – the beginning of a dream come true!

Rebecca’s work on behalf of Casino City (and later for the GPWA as well) took her to trade shows and conferences everywhere – Amsterdam, Barcelona, Costa Rica, Montreal, London, Las Vegas, Macau and many other ports of call – and along the way she began chronicling her incredible around-the-clock adventures in a wildly entertaining and industry-savvy weekly column that quickly became – and still remains – must reading for everyone who is anyone in online gaming. Following almost three years with the Casino City team, Rebecca spent a few months at Everest Affiliates where she was the Brand Manager of the affiliate program. While working on “the other side,” she realized that she truly missed her weekly column and the affiliate side of the business and decided to return to the Casino City family.

One and a half years later, Rebecca resigned from Casino City and joined industry icon Calvin Ayre to serve as the Bodog Global Brand Ambassador and the head on-site reporter for the online gambling industry tablog, CalvinAyre.com. In her new capacity, Rebecca continues to travel the world, and when asked where she is based, her response is usually "on an airplane."

Contact Rebecca at rebecca@liggero.net. Be careful, though – she might quote you.