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Vicky Nolan

Q & A: Graham Wood, SNAI

30 August 2001

An Italian company has been stirring up the British bookmaking industry by offering its services to both local bookmakers wanting to enter the online arena and foreign sites wanting to attain British status. The company, SNAI International, is on the brink of launching its first client site, said Graham Wood, managing director for the British SNAI Sports division. And there's plenty more action in the offing, he said. He shared those plans and more with Interactive Gaming News.

IGN: Who is SNAI?

Graham Wood: It's a group of companies. It actually stands for the "National Association of Betting Shop Owners."

It was actually born in that form, as being an association of betting shop owners. Back in the early 1990's they got together to set up a services company, which in those days was just providing audio from the racetrack. Thereafter it became TV and other services, until now where it's really involved in a whole range of things, including Internet and so on.

In Italy SNAI controls about 85 percent of the market. It provides the technology to about 85 percent of the betting shops over there. It provides terminals, hardware--a whole range of different things. And once the law allows it, it (SNAI) will also have a system for allowing the licensed bookmakers to use the SNAI Internet site for processing bets and also the call center. So, they will do exactly the same thing we're planning to do in the U.K. once the law allows.

Now, in the U.K., we're going one step farther, because there are limitations on what you are allowed to do and what you're not allowed to do in Italy. In the U.K., it's obviously a bit freer. What we will be doing is that we're providing bookmakers, and particularly those smaller bookmakers that perhaps don't have the financial resources to go out and buy their own betting sites, and we're allowing them to use our site as a way of taking bets.

Our first client here is going to be a company called Eurotip. It's a German bookmaker and we're assisting that company to open betting shops here in the U.K. At the same time their Internet address will be We will actually be processing bets on their behalf.

IGN: So you're not just a sportsbetting company?

GW: No, the thing is actually is that we started up a sportsbook here (in the U.K.) to make sure we got noticed and to make sure that people actually saw us. It's been a very useful way of us attracting the attention of bookmakers here in the U.K. We are at present a sportsbook, but in about two or three weeks time we will cease to be so.

We'll be a number of different sportsbooks. The idea is that we will be there as a structure to be used.

At the moment we are talking to quite a few different companies in the U.K. as well as a Chinese company, actually. In fact, quite a few different companies do want to set up in the U.K. because of the tax situation here. Even though the U.K. doesn't compare to Antigua, it's still a quite handy place to be if there's no tax on turnover.

I suppose the problem is that if you go to Antigua or something then people very often are a little bit concerned that they're not going to get paid, or it's slightly "unofficial" or a bit dodgy. If you're based in the U.K., it gives you an extra little bit of ...people look at you a bit more seriously. And the punters themselves feel a bit more protected.

I think also there is a concern that many bookmakers have that on the Internet you're dealing with people who tend to be more professional, and therefore your profit levels are quite low. I know myself that there are many oddsmakers that spend all their time just going to the various sites looking for the set of odds that might be slightly out of line. When they find people like that, they immediately jump on them. There are a number of bookmakers here in the U.K. that have actually closed down their sites, partly because of the lack of profitability of the betting side of things.

Really, the occasional person who wants to have a bet is more likely to go into one of the 8,000 betting shops here than they are to go and find a computer to sit in front of. The people who bet on the Internet are perhaps a little more determined to do so.

IGN: So, for clients like Eurotip, do you have to set them up to obtain a bookmaker's license in the United Kingdom?

GW: That's right. In fact, we've been helping them get a license, a bookmaker's permit. We're also organizing the licensing for their various betting shops.

We feel that we're probably offering the first service which actually brings together the Internet, call centers and betting shops. And we'll actually be allowing the customers of Eurotip to buy a Betcard and use that card in self-service terminals inside the betting shop itself.

IGN: The Betcard is a smart card?

GW: It's just a normal smart card which they (the punter) will buy to whichever value they wish. We will allow them to buy, for example, a £20 Betcard, make a number of bets inside the shop and thereafter go onto the Internet later on and see how those bets have performed.

It also means they can carry on bets on the Internet and they can bet by telephone, using the account number indicated on the card. If, at a later date, they wish to perhaps withdraw some winnings, then they can do that directly from the shop.

IGN: So SNAI is providing the software for these companies?

GW: We're providing the software and the hardware, the actual terminals and so on. The big difference is that from our research we discovered that an awful lot of people were not too keen on betting on the Internet, because they missed the excitement, if you like, of taking actual hard cash in their hands once they'd won. A lot of people did say what they didn't like about the Internet was that they couldn't get cash for their bets.

IGN: And now they can with their Betcard?

GW: They can go back to their betting shop and pick up their cash, even though they made their bets on the Internet.

IGN: Although SNAI isn't offering WAP services, something you explain on your Web site as being "painfully slow to process even the smallest amount of information,” is your company looking at interactive television (iTV)?

GW: Yeah, to be honest, I think it's (WAP) a pain, really. I don't think it's very exciting or very convenient. I think it's something customers are not going to be too pleased about having to use, just purely because the technology's not really there yet. We're keeping an open eye for various extra services we can provide to customers, but WAP betting is not one of them at the moment.

We do actually have one of our technology people doing some research (into iTV) at the moment. What we've seen at the moment, when it comes to both WAP and interactive television, is it's not user-friendly at all. Really, in desperation, you either don't bother betting or you pick up the phone and make your bet that way. It's just not a very easy thing to do. We would be hoping that the next generation of mobile phones would be the thing that perhaps makes the difference.

Q & A: Graham Wood, SNAI is republished from
Vicky Nolan
Vicky Nolan