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p29-31 victor chandler 29/10/08 13:19 Page 31
CI: Have you been affected by the collapse of
the US online gaming market?
VC: It touched us because we were on the
predominantly-American Tribeca network. We were
their biggest customer outside the US. What it meant
to us is, the majority of our players were sharks,
feeding off the fish in America. We would have a
cheque to come every month from Tribeca, because
our customers had won… Now we're on the Playtech
network outside the US, it can go one way or the
other on a monthly basis. Because the US was so big,
and it gave a huge liquidity, our business fed on it;
poker's become considerably harder since then.
Talking to my employees, many of whom used to
play four times a week or even more, they're bored
with online poker now, they've lost interest. I think
that is hitting the figures for some of the online CI: Did you have to make any significant
poker companies now. changes to the company?
It was a fad, a fashion for a time, everyone wanted VC: What I hadn't realised is, because my father
to play, it was in the newspapers every day, but I think had been ill for quite a long time the business wasn't
it's had its day. Like the hula hoop, one year it's in the best shape and the management of the
fashionable, the next it's not. business had been a little lax. We were also going
through a recession at the time; things weren't great.
CI: Even if you don't spot the trend though, if a We were nearly insolvent when I took over. We owned
company is positioned to take advantage of a about 30 betting shops – I sold 10 of them and that
gaming trend, to move quickly, you can still kept the business afloat, and I rebuilt it from there.
benefit enormously.
VC: Something will come along in the next few CI: Sounds like quite a pressure situation…
years and whoever is first on the bandwagon will reap VC: You don't think of it as pressure though. I like
huge benefits. I wish I'd thought of BetFair, and been working. I enjoyed most of it. If you take it day by day,
the first to go into poker in America, but I wasn't. you'll survive; if you look at the big picture, you're in
Being in the right place at the right time, trouble.
something just clicking in your head, that's all part of
it. But we're pretty agile, and able to move quickly CI: That may have been the best education for
because we're a private company and intend to you – coming into the business when it was
remain so. I don't have to refer to shareholders or a struggling.
huge board of directors, it's basically a few of us that VC: It would have possibly been the worst thing if
make the decisions, depending on what the decision I'd gone in there and it was making lots of money.
is it can take just one hour, where other companies You learn to value it. The only thing that leads to
might take three months. That's one of our strengths. success is hard work and a lot of thought; you learn
the most by making mistakes. And if it costs you
CI: How long have you been doing this? money, don't do it again!
VC: I've been in the business since I was 22, so
that's 35 years. And I still enjoy it. CI: Is there a company motto?
I went to a hotel management college in VC: Not as such. But if there was, it would be
Switzerland after I left school, then I joined a 'Understand the client'.
management consultancy company in Barcelona. I
worked for them in the Balearic Islands, where they CI: You're looking at South Africa, I
were trying to sort out a hotel chain in financial understand, as an online casino market…
trouble. Then my father became ill and died, and I VC: It's very early days. There are no licences being
took over the business. granted yet, we're waiting to see what happens. We
have started marketing with a very good partner for
CI: That must have been hard. the future there. But like everything we do now, we're
VC: It wasn't easy the first few years, but there was trying to go the completely legitimate route because
no choice. There was no-one else to do it. we value licences. Once licences start being granted
There were lots of ups and downs early on. You there… Well, we have the same problem in Spain.
learn about people very quickly; people let you down. Our software is being looked at right now, though I'm
I was lucky to have one or two very loyal people not optimistic we'll be opening there sooner than six
working alongside me. One taught me bookmaking, to eight months. It's one of several territories we're
the other was the finance director and he stayed with looking at.
me until I left the UK. It's people that help.
You learn, you evolve and change.
NOVEMBER 2008 31
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