Bodog was one of the biggest brand names in gaming in the world. Can you explain how you got involved in the gaming industry and how Bodog was born?
I started out working for my father who was a pig farmer in Canada who gave me some of my own pigs to rear and sell. That was the first introduction into developing something tangible and putting them in the market place. I then put myself through college. In 1992, I read about Ronald Sacco, an American bookie who was operating out of the Dominican Republic and accepting wagers from the US via phone. I realised this would be a good business to take online and started designing software for offshore gaming operations. In 1996, I decided to start my own company in Costa Rica and created an online sportsbook, for which I wrote the computer code myself. I then had to think of catchy names and the brand Bodog was born.
How did you make such a success of that business?
We took the decision to market both the brand and my lifestyle rather than prices, value and bonuses for which we were laughed at initially but soon imitated as it took off. I see Paddy Power as Bodog’s awkward teenageson, but he’ll develop and start drinking red wine rather than lager at some point.
What are your favourite memories in the early days when you were just beginning?
Well, they are very fond memories now because it turned out great. Like any start-up, it was constant fire-fighting but we always felt we were onto something big. The internet was taking off but none of the businesses had a way of making money, betting had no product to deliver and made money – it was perfect for the internet.
How do you feel on closing the case with the US authorities? Relief? Anger?
Anticlimactic really, it was such a marathon, I mean it was good to get it behind me but the documents speak for themselves.
What is your view of the gaming industry at the moment? What changes in terms of trends and regulations do you see?
The most important thing is that once governments legislate, they don’t get too greedy. Kenya has upped their taxation to 35%, which will kill the industry. France went too big when they started but I understand they have realised that a growing industry is better and amended things.
How are you enjoying working with the Antigua government as a Special Economic Envoy advising the Prime Minister on internet gaming and Bitcoin?
It’s a huge opportunity for the country, for investors and for myself. The infrastructure in Antigua is amazingly, perhaps surprisingly, strong. I am very passionate about both industries and the country I call home, so to be given the opportunity to promote all three is fantastic.
To what extent have you invested physically, emotionally and financially in crypto currencies and why?
I’m ‘all-in’ from every angle – there’s a digital version of everything there can be: music, movies, TV. It is inevitable to me that currency will be the same. Obviously, the establishment are terrified of it, but they were the same in the music industry too and look how that ended up.
In my opinion, Bitcoin BCH is the only true coin. It already scales massively compared to any other chain. It is the only fully functioning cryptocurrency in the world, and we are investing in all sides of BCH including mining, software development, marketing, merchant adoption and education.
Calvin Ayre, Founder of the Ayre Group and Bodog
In your opinion, what impact will crypto have on the gaming industry?
Crypto is perfect for the gaming industry and the two are interlinked – some of the early Bitcoin code is very similar to that in the gaming industry. Online gaming has also been one of the early adopters of Bitcoin BCH. At the end of the day it’s a payment solution but one that suits both sides, merchant and customer, because it has the lowest transaction fees of any solution out there – on average around $0.02.
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What’s your insight into the growth prospects of the gaming industry and why should investors have online gaming in their portfolio?
In short, people have been betting since the dawn of time, couple that with the fact that live events and sports are a huge growth industry. Who watches a match without having a bet? Man, that would be dull.
What’s your opinion on emerging gaming segments such as esports and DFS?
Esports is great and brings another market to bet on but it is just that – another market like tennis or football – something else to bet on. DFS really only works in countries where sports betting is banned – it’s a loophole really. All the big DFS players in the US are now looking to offer sports betting.
Calvin Ayre is a Canadian billionaire who founded Bodog, an online gambling business in 2000. Ayre’s fortune got him on the cover of Forbes magazine’s annual Billionaires edition in 2006. Six years later the US Attorney for Maryland charged him with illegal gambling and money laundering. Calvin pled guilty to a single misdemeanor in 2017 and the USA dropped the other charges against him. In August 2017, Ayre became an Economic Envoy for Antigua and Barbuda, where he currently lives. His recent projects are cryptocurrency and building a resort in Antigua. He is known for throwing large parties and having many girlfriends.