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Vicky Nolan

Q & A: James Caddy

19 May 2001

A number of leading online sports betting firms, including Ladbrokes, Littlewoods, Blue Square and Sports Internet Group (BSkyB), have achieved their Internet success using a betting platform developed by Orbis, a software development firm recently acquired by NDS Group plc. The Orbis betting platform, OpenBet, provides the backbone for bookmaking companies seeking to develop Internet, wireless and/or iTV betting services. Clients can use the product to offer sports betting, pools betting, financial betting, fantasy sports and lottery games. Casino games are in the works too.

IGN recently spoke with James Caddy, the company's managing director, who provided some background information on the company and how he feels the company differs its competition.

IGN: Can you explain the corporate structure at NDS and how Orbis fits in with other NDS holdings like BSkyB and Open television?

James Caddy: Well, there is News Corporation, which I think owns 37.5 percent of BSkyB. They own something in the region of 80 percent of NDS and NDS wholly owns Orbis. That's the structure of it.

We kind of came together with NDS as of December 1 of last year. NDS are probably the leading provider of conditional access systems for digital pay TV. They work with people like BSkyB, people like DirecTV, a whole bunch of people around the world.

They're also an early leader in the world of interactive applications. The whole world of interactive TV commerce is in its infancy right now.

Orbis are a company that focused on providing technology for people who want to run interactive gaming and gambling enterprises. So our product is OpenBet. It really enables us to provide an end-to-end solution for anybody in that market.

That started live with the Internet because three years ago that was what people were doing. We saw quite early on that things like interactive television and mobile devices were going to become an important way for people to access not just this kind of content, but any kind of content. So, if you were providing solutions in that market you needed to be able to allow your customers' customers to be able to access the service wherever they happen to be. They might be on a mobile phone, they might be at home watching TV, they might be in front of their PC.

So to be able to offer the delivery of those applications and content across all those different delivery channels is really important. And that's what we've really concentrated on. So we pretty much provide all the tools for someone to do online sports betting and different types of gaming.

IGN: Do you work with companies wanting to offer casino-type games over the Internet?

JC: We traditionally haven't done that. We are very seriously considering developing a casino solution, primarily to offer to our existing customers. We have tended to shy away from casino stuff because it had tended to be the kind of stuff that a lot of the operators take a lot of business from out of the U.S. And that's something we don't do and never have been involved in. So we tend to stay to the right side of the U.S. regulators and the U.S. law as well. And all of our customers take business not out of the United States.

Now it has become clear to us that there is potentially the opportunity for casino-type games and we are in the early stages of building some casino-type games right now. We'll be offering them to our existing customers and we anticipate that they'll be very interested in them.

IGN: What types of games would they be?

JC: Typical casino type games. To start with, the most popular casino games like roulette, blackjack and slots--those types of things. But, we've got a few things up our sleeves which I'm not going to tell you about right now--different types of games that people would be prepared to pay to play. I think that if you have the right type of game, people will pay to play them. If you have the wrong kind, people won't always pay to play them.

We're late into that market, but we're kind of glad to be late into that market. I think there is a little bit of feeling that perhaps with respect to things like casino gaming the position in the United States may soften somewhat.

Obviously we are a company with very reputable credentials. We haven't been involved with any of the sort of illegal or unregulated gaming stuff offshore. So we hope that if there is a softening of the position, we will be well placed to support those people who want to set up reputable and regulated operations.

IGN: Can you breakdown the various OpenBet features?

JC: Basically, it's broken into three tiers. The bottom tier is the kind of server part of it, which holds all of the customer records, the events and settlement information and account information. It would handle any live feed of prices or things like that, sort of a backend administrative kind of an account engine almost.

The middle tier is sort of the application tier, which gives the scalability so you can roll out on lots of different machines. And it's got all the software boostings.

We already support lottery-style games, number-style games and sports-betting types of games. So you'll see our customers' sites--like Littlewoods--have lots of different types games there. We support fantasy games there.

All of these games are supported by that middle tier, which is pretty powerful for it.

The top level is which platform? Is it Internet? Is it interactive television? Everybody dreams of a new platform all of the time. If there's any new way of viewing information, if it's not a new digital TV platform it's a new kind of mobile phone browser of 3G. So, it's important to build your software so that it can easily support them because your customers are going to want to be on those platforms if they become successful.

IGN: What is Orbis' revenue model like?

JC: We are a software company. We don't see ourselves as an operator of Internet gaming sites. The economic model for our software tends to be that of software licensing and support and development fees rather than whatever other economic models there are.

Although, we do have a number of arrangements that are just slightly different than that. So we might charge a slightly lower upfront fee or we might have some kind of sharing or per-customer or whatever-type fee.

You have to pick the right type economic model for both you and your customer. We don't dogmatically adhere to any particular one. Fundamentally we see ourselves as a software company. We're a technology company, not an operator that's kind of pretending to be a technology company.

IGN: What about the relationship that Orbis has with one site that's available through BSkyB?

JC: Let me tell you how that works. . . We had a customer called Sports Internet Group. They then happened to get bought by BSkyB sometime last year. So, BSkyB became our customer. We had been talking with NDS about what we might do with them. There were various options at the time. So Sports Internet Group or BSkyB (clearly we prefer to say BSkyB because people have heard of them) are now our customer and we do lots of very interesting things with them. We don't do any more or less with them then we would anyway. They are another one of our customers and we seek to serve them as best as we possibly can. They receive no special treatment, I can assure you. Orbis have very aggressive targets to meet as part of the acquisition process with NDS. And we're not about to start treating BSkyB differently to any other of our customers.

IGN: What do you see happening to the interactive gaming industry once the U.K. Gambling Review Body releases its findings?

JC: I think the general consensus is that it's going to meddle at the edges of things a bit, but there's probably not going to be any real written branch changes to anything. Probably there's going to be some liberalization of what way you can gamble.

Generally the consensus is that things aren't going to change much. The biggest change was the betting duty, which was pretty widely predicted. Probably it's not going to suddenly become legal to have a casino in your TV at home. If it is, then all well and good. We're working on the basis of very little change.

Q & A: James Caddy is republished from
Vicky Nolan
Vicky Nolan