"My best advice to any-one starting out in the online gaming sector or indeed any business is “Don’t follow a trend, create one."
Vahe thank you for talking to us today, can we start by asking you for our International readers what is your role with BetConstruct and what does the company do?
BetConstruct is an award-winning developer and provider of online and land-based betting and gaming solutions, including market-leading Sports-book, Live Dealer Casino, RNG Casino Suite, Poker, Skill Games, Virtual Betting, Financial Betting and Fantasy Sports. It’s a forward-looking company with almost 1000 employees, over 120 partners, and a growing number of sales and service offices on almost every continent.
After working with the company as an executive consultant for years, I have been asked to assume the position of the Chief Executive.
What made you decide to take up the position of CEO?
Above all, the company’s culture and the founders’ approach to business. BetConstruct is a customer-driven company, which is quite rare in this industry. I have been a technology vendor to BetConstruct, and then they have been clients of my consulting business. We kind of dated for a long time before making the move. For the last few years I’ve also worked as an adviser to BetConstruct’s executive chairman, the company’s co-founder. When speaking about the company’s culture, I mean it internally and externally. Internally, for example, it is preached and practiced that employees should work at Bet-Construct only if they love what they do and love what the company does. Otherwise, it is a waste of valuable time and resources for both. Externally, it is the partners and the trust they have placed in us that are treasured the most.
BetConstruct has been going since 2001, how has the company grown over the last 14 years?
It was an exceedingly focused growth from being an operator to becoming a supplier of sports betting products and services and then expanding into other verticals. Although we have been in this business for a long time now, we didn’t come out with a splash on a first day hoping to survive on a momentum created by it. We made sure that our products can sustain the test of the industry’s most demanding opera-tors and suppliers before we brought them out to international markets. BetConstruct is a profitable organization because of this measured approach.
What has seen the biggest expan-sion in the company’s portfolio of games?
I cannot name just one. We have achieved unprecedented growth in our in-play betting offering, covering around 20,000 live matches per month. Our casino content has grown to almost 2000 games, including 3rd party titles. Portfolio of games streamed in multiple languages from our own live dealer casino studio has also seen new additions. We introduced Fantasy Sports. The list goes on. And of course, the Spring plat-form, a result of innovative approach and technical ingenuity, brings everything together.
The industry is highly competitive, what gives BetConstruct an edge of its rivals?
It is a combination of the quality of our products and services, the breadth of our offerings, the unrelenting attention to our partners and their requirements and goals, and, of course, the most talented team of achievers that we were able to assemble.
We develop all our core products. We don’t buy and sell companies, avoiding the clash of cultures and integration nightmares. Having organically grown and experienced very challenging periods in our history, we appreciate the difficulties other companies are facing in today’s arduous business environment. That’s why we are not squeamish about working with companies of any size, from small operators and start-ups to the largest gaming groups.
Creating a level playing field and help-ing maintain a diversified gaming mar-ket is the reason why we don’t overprice our state-of-the-art products out of the new entrants’ reach and don’t require our partners to pay minimum monthly fees, unless these are mandated by a third-party supplier.
The company is very transparent with services and pricing on the website unlike many of your com-petitors, does the company do that to show how competitive you are?
Potential clients can learn about our competitive prices even if we don’t publish them on the site. Regretfully, as a rule, getting the pricing information takes time, effort and can be quite annoying. Often it is similar to walking into a store where none of the products have price tags. I don’t like asking for price and receiving “well, it depends” answer. Therefore, the goal of straight-forward transparent pricing is to eliminate the frustration and confirm that we are open to talk business candidly and from the start. We have seen superb re-sults because of this simple change in the way we treat our potential partners.
Vahe, you have been in the on-line business for a long time, an industry veteran for sure. From when you started out would you say it is more difficult now to be successful or back then?
Now is more difficult because the rules of the game have changed, supply and demand traded places, and companies have matured. However, since wisdom does not always accompany maturity, some of the companies become too ar-rogant, complacent, and find themselves fighting for their seats in the front row. And to take their place the newcomers don’t even have to be very innovative. They just have to do what these mature companies did when they were young.
You have been involved in the US online poker business for some time prior to BetConstruct, how do you see the short term future and long term future for online in the US given that currently the RAWA bill is doing the rounds backed by Sheldon Adelson?
Long-term, I trust and hope that Mr. Adelson and his surrogates will lose. I have heard them defending their cause at different venues. It’s a very uncomfortable experience to watch otherwise upright adults lie as a favour to their benefactor or because they have been hired to do so or because they have been duped into believing the untruth. One can misrepresent reality, propagate fear, and be taken seriously only for so long.
Short-term, it is going to be a tough fight. Not least, because of the self-defeating arguments that the industry is using in favour of regulation. In my opinion, legalization is not about money for the government. It is about freedom to play games online, something that has been proven can be done without harming oneself and others.
Why is it that some people think prohibition is a good thing?
Well, because those who think that pro-hibition is a good thing – by definition, don’t think much.
California is a hot topic with ru-mours of changing times ahead and possibly PokerStars being al-lowed in but Racetracks not. As someone who is very involved in California what is your thoughts?
It is sad that in the land of the free we are discussing how to prevent this or that entity from offering something that will be legal, once regulated.
I think that the argument against Poker-Stars will wither away and they will be allowed in, even if with a certain penalty.
As for the Racetracks, if there is a coalition of cardrooms and tribes, why there can’t be a coalition of racetracks and tribes? I would expect that there are some legal or other reasons prevent-ing this but whatever these reasons are they are created by people and if they make no sense they should be done away with.
BetConstruct won Innovator of the Year at the 8th International Gam-ing Awards earlier this year, does that show how far the company has risen over recent times?
Absolutely. The decisions to participate in the prestigious competitions like IGA demonstrate how confident we are now in what we have to offer. Awards are im-portant because they energize the team and push us to continue to live up to the recognition and trust the industry peers placed in us and our products.
How far can the company grow and what makes BetConstruct such a strong player, is it the soft-ware, the service or great sales?
We have just started. There are many challenges ahead and amazing things that we are planning to accomplish. We measure growth not only by revenues, number of partners, and other data. We look at how our employees have grown and developed as specialists, how the new ideas that they give birth to posi-tively influence our industry.
You mentioned software, service and sales. Sales team can’t sell for long unless their representation is endorsed by actual delivery of technology and service. In this industry reputation is of paramount importance.
What is the company’s focus, is it Europe or expanding markets like Asia and or America?
Last year, in addition to our European offices, we have opened sales and service centres in Latin America, USA and South Africa. These three regions are very important. However, we have a large sales team which makes an effort to present our products in any region where we can find partners looking to benefit from our solutions. Only in 2015 we are sponsoring, exhibiting and speaking at about 30 industry events on every continent.