Shooting the breeze with a rival Costa Rican bookmaker at his competitor’s office in San Pedro a few years ago, Cole Turner still remembers how the conversation turned.
“We were discussing payment space and I mentioned we were going to roll out a new online checking product to replace credit cards,” said Turner, CEO of BoDog.Com. “He burst out laughing and spat back that his European debit card initiative was the way of the future.
“Well we all know what happened. BoDog.com is now the most recognized brand on the Internet for U.S. style sports betting and still growing strong. We owe a lot of this to us skating seamlessly through the demise of credit cards as the primary payment method.”
Certain offshore bookmakers have hit upon the right business model to become highly successful Internet books. Pinnacle, with its low juice, World Sports Exchange, with its interactive wagering, and Olympic, with its early line and original props, are some that come to mind.
But not all of these bookmakers feel comfortable talking to the media about their business. BoDog is. Savvy marketing and publicity have helped BoDog become a major mainstream consumer brand. Turner, for instance, did this interview while getting ready for the BoDog Handicapping Conference set for July 29-30 at Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.
With the U.S. government cracking down on moving funds, one of the biggest challenges to offshore bookmakers is how to work out money transfers. Banks, middlemen like PayPal and many credit card companies have been intimidated enough by the government to stop servicing gambling websites.
While there are still a number of ways to transfer money such as NETeller and Western Union, alternative methods are needed. Turner realized this back in the ‘90s. So he came up with a withdrawal and payment method called Instant Check. He’s not comfortable laying it out in step-to-step detail, saying the content is proprietary. But simply put Instant Check is a fast, secure withdrawal/payment system using online checks (available only to Americans).
“What made ours different in the early days was just that it existed and worked,” Turner said. “Nobody else, even the E-cash companies, was doing it when we started. We have had an electronic check product since back in the late ‘90s before PayPal started up.
“What makes us different and unique now is that because we are the most vertically integrated organization in our industry, and we do all our technology in-house, we are able to make our payment systems integrate much more seamlessly and therefore much easier for our players than what competitors offer.”
Offshore and other Internet bookmakers who have a strong American customer base realize the importance of staying one step ahead of the U.S. government. These books can have the greatest odds, give generous bonuses and be totally reliable, but if bettors have problem sending and receiving money none of that is going to matter.
Asked about developing an alternative payment and transfer method, one bookmaker said, “Yeah that would be great. But it’s like trying to find a cure for cancer.”
In other words, it’s easier said than done.
“I don’t anticipate that there will ever come a day when you cannot get paid,” Turner said. “To do this would entail closing down international trade globally. What I do see based on our experience is that this space is in fact an opportunity. No matter how bad payments become, it is merely necessary to be better at them than the rest of the industry, to find yourself gaining market share at the expense of your competitors.”
Despite the U.S.’s stubborn refusal to embrace Internet wagering, Turner is optimistic about the future of the online gaming industry.
“For all the hoopla of the potential for our industry to get shut down, I think that you are seeing the opposite occurring internationally,” he said. “More countries are legalizing online gaming, and it’s gaining in legitimacy. The huge online poker boom has legitimized all other forms of online gaming.
“Great Britain moving towards becoming a major force in international online gaming will really ensure its continued rise in stature internationally and with the general population in North America.”