Friday, June 24, 2005

Innovation In Bookmaking

Q & A with
Dalton Wagner, Founder V.O. Group, S.A.

As Founder and Proprietor of V.O. Group, S.A., Dalton Wagner has the reputation of ferreting out new markets and attacking while other companies sit on their hindquarters and watch. One market that has always eluded offshore bookmakers is the ‘guy who likes dealing with his credit bookmaker’. Typically this market has been untouchable for the offshore bookmaker, but NOT for Dalton and V.O. Group, S.A. We had an opportunity to catch up with Dalton Wagner on his last visit to Panama.

Vegas Offshore: Tell us about this new product that you are calling your Price Per Head Agency Relationship.
Wagner: As you know, one market that a post-up sportsbook has historically been unable to attack is the huge market of bettors that have been betting with their local guy for years. The reason this market exists is the personal relationship that an onshore bookie has with his clients. Sportsbooks have attempted to educate the player and lure him away from the local bookie, however we have taken another tact. We have partnered with local bookies around the world to make their offering better and more valuable.

Vegas Offshore: So instead of attacking the local guy, you actually approach him with your offer?
Wagner: Exactly. The fact is that the relationship is the last thread holding clients to a local guy. Yes, there is the fact that the local guy extends credit, but with bonuses and promotions we can overcome that offering. The key is the relationship.

Vegas Offshore: I’m confused, please explain.
Wagner: As you know, the onshore bookmaking market has lost steam to the offshore providers like V.O. Group, S.A. The reason is that the offerings that I can provide are far superior to those that any onshore bookmaker can offer. The PPH concept is based on allowing the onshore bookmaker to provide his clients my offerings on a purely anonymous basis via an online automated tool. Rather, by signing up with my PPH service, an onshore bookmaker can compete with all offshore sportsbooks on equal footing offering 24-hour wagering, 365 days a year. All the bookmaker does is use an online system to assign PINs and PASSWORDs and pay me a small fee per week for the service.

Vegas Offshore: Wait a minute. So, this means that a small time operator in Cleveland, Ohio can offer all the same things that V.O. Group, S.A. does without making the multi-million dollar investment?
Wagner: Now your catching on. For as little as $25 per head per week, a guy in Ohio can compete with the biggest sportsbooks in the world. And, better yet, never answer another wagering phone call again.

Vegas Offshore: OK, I get it. They use your automated tool to drive their clients to your software online, and they simply pick up the figures at the end of the week.
Wagner: Exactly correct with one exception. Their clients can bet on the phone via our call center staffed with 250 people OR bet online. Again, they have access to all of the offerings V.O. Group, S.A. provides including call center access, client services and technical support.

Vegas Offshore: Is the PPH product only based on sports wagering?
Wagner: Very good question. The answer is no. We actually have the ability to offer clients two (2) casino products including blackjack, baccarat, slots, 3 card poker, roulette, etc. And, clients may also bet on horses at over 350 tracks worldwide.

Vegas Offshore: Wow! That truly is incredible. So, a bookie that has one client can compete with the likes of on equal footing?
Wagner: Exactly correct. But, there are two keys to the success of the product launch. The first is being able to compete head to head with the biggest sportsbooks in the world. But, arguably the most important factor is that since the onshore bookie no longer has to answer phones or track plays, he can spend all of his time picking up new clients, NOT writing bets.

Vegas Offshore: I remember that in a prior interview you had stated that the key is not winning, but finding more losers.
Wagner: An embarrassing quote, but true. Amateur bookmakers think that the key is to beat the clients you have. That is a huge mistake. The key to getting rich as a bookmaker is finding a new client every single day of the year. The numbers take care of themselves, the key is to get more and more people playing. That is the TRUE BEAUTY of the PPH software and agency relationship.

Vegas Offshore: Do you have any success stories to tell?
Wagner: I have many, but will tell you one that emphasizes what the PPH program can do. I have a bookmaker that has been working out of San Antonio, Texas for 10 years. The guy has historically made $200,000 a year from his 25 or 30 players. He was introduced to our product in July 2004, and today he is writing over 185 clients. The ability to outsource answering calls and writing tickets to us has allowed him to grow his business 600% and his revenue over 1000%.

Vegas Offshore: Why did his revenue grow more than his business? Is it because your lines are sharper than his?
Wagner: There you go again. That is the obvious mistake that everyone makes. Again, don’t worry about beating the clients. Worry about getting more clients to play. But, to answer your question directly, the ability for his clients to play in the casino, play 24 hours a day, play games/halves/quarters, props, etc. is where the extra revenue comes from. Our lines might be sharper, but the advantage is more clients betting more often.

Vegas Offshore: How many bookmakers do you currently work with?
Wagner: We are writing business for over 250 bookmakers now. Some represent groups as small as 2 or 3; and others represent groups as large as 500. Again, remember the key is finding as many clients as possible. If you get to where you are writing 15 clients or more, it is almost impossible to lose for an extended period of time.

Vegas Offshore: So how does a bookmaker learn more about this?
Wagner: Simply go to any of the V.O. Group, S.A. sites to learn more. I suggest starting at or calling 1-877-512-1001 or emailing to get more information.

State of the Offshore Gaming Industry

Q & A with
Dalton Wagner, Founder V.O. Group, S.A.

As Founder and Proprietor of V.O. Group, S.A., Dalton Wagner has the reputation of making one-dollar work like three in online marketing. With formidable competition, Mr. Wagner founded V.O. Group, S.A. in 1998 and has quickly risen to be one of the largest offshore operators in the world with over 50,000 active clients. We had an opportunity to catch up with Dalton Wagner on his last visit to Antigua.

Vegas Offshore: This year has been interesting for V.O. Group, S.A. and the offshore industry as a whole (advertising changes, etc.). How do you feel about the industry at the current time?
Wagner: I feel the industry is as strong as it has ever been. We are still finding that our advertising is bringing us new clients at an ever-growing rate. Some competitors are complaining that the crimp on advertising is affecting the industry, but we are not seeing this trend. Consolidation within the industry has begun, and I am sure you will continue to see smaller competitors gobbled up, and medium to larger companies merging. The weaker will go by the wayside.

Vegas Offshore: What about the rumors of V.O. Group, S.A. being bought?
Wagner: I am glad you used the term 'rumors'. The fact is that in July 2004 three suitors approached V.O. Group, S.A. because of our record-breaking profit year. In two of the cases we did see 'value' in a merger/relationship. However, at the end of the day, we could not come to terms that were agreeable on both sides. At this time V.O. Group, S.A. stands independent. And, we are happy being independent, profitable and growing.

Vegas Offshore: It is rumored that Bet On Sports (PLC; BSS.L) was one of the suitors. Is that true?
Wagner: There were three suitors that approached V.O. Group, S.A. And, in all cases confidentiality agreements were signed. For this reason, I cannot confirm or deny who any of the potential suitors were. What I can tell you is that one was a major sportsbook player, one was a major casino player and two were PLCs. I doubt that helps.

Vegas Offshore: Well, if Bet On Sports was involved, I bet you are happy you weren't involved in their November 24, 2004 stock debacle.
Wagner: The Bet On Sports stock debacle was an over-reaction by the market in my opinion. In one day you saw their stock drop 50% in value. And, the reason was poor performance in a very short period. If you looked at the other publicly held offshore gaming companies, you saw the same thing, just not as drastic as with BSS.L. Simply put, I know the founder of Bet On Sports, I know the management of Bet On Sports, I know the staff at Bet On Sports and I would not hesitate to invest in Bet On Sports. They were, and still are, undervalued in my opinion. They are a great competitor and a great company. I wish I had some of their stock at the new adjusted price. I just don't see how you can lose.

Vegas Offshore: It is rare to hear the 'competition' speaking so highly of a major competitor. Why would you do so?
Wagner: Simple. Bet On Sports is a great company. And, I am sure they would tell you the same about V.O. Group, S.A. The fact is, that there are companies out there that make our industry stronger. And, ones that make it weaker. Bet On Sports and V.O.Group, S.A. strive to make our industry stronger and more legitimate on a daily basis (as do;; etc.). What kind of ambassador for the industry would I be if I downplayed a 'good' competitor like Bet On Sports for my own benefit?

Vegas Offshore: If Bet On Sports did approach you, would you consider a merger?
Wagner: I like being independent. But, simply put, NEVER say NEVER.

Vegas Offshore: What of the rumors that you are looking at Panama as a potential relocation site?
Wagner: Our operation currently has offices in Costa Rica, Antigua and Belize. In Costa Rica we currently have over 400 employees. With employment costs in Costa Rica on the rise, the burden of Caja and the ever-changing political climate, we have looked at several alternative locations. One of the most desirable is/was Panama. However, due to the massive failure of and the political debacle involving their past gaming commission, we have decided to stay put for the current time. I think it is very safe to say that our primary location will be Costa Rica for the next 5 years. Pending any crazy licensing or governmental changes.

Vegas Offshore: I have visited your office in Antigua, however had no idea that you employed 400 individuals in Costa Rica. Why do you need such a large staff?
Wagner: Our industry has a reputation for being lazy and getting by on a shoestring budget. Most sportsbooks, casinos, racebooks and poker rooms answer phones when it is convenient and buy computers when the ones they are operating blow-up. Most are simply embarrassing to the legitimate operators. To run an operation like ours, servicing 50,000 bettors, you need lots of space, a 1st rate phone system, fiber and satellite phone and Internet backups, IT professionals, accounting professionals, etc. V.O. Group, S.A. is currently located in 35,000 square feet of space, operating 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, and we are busting at the seems. At the current time, we are negotiating to buy the building next to us for future expansion. I think we will employ 600 people come this same time next year.

Vegas Offshore: I have noticed that you are still branching into other products. How has this strategy worked for V.O. Group, S.A.?
Wagner: In 1998 we started with our sports product. We then branched into the casino product. In 2001 and 2002 we opened several major race books and poker rooms. The fact is that we are profitable in all products. However, our core product, and hub for our advertising, is focused on the sports product. The strategy has worked, but we will not desert our core product. You can look for our re-launch of interactive betting in early 2005 and bingo in mid 2005.

Vegas Offshore: What other changes do you see in 2005 for V.O. Group, S.A.
Wagner: I think you will see V.O. Group, S.A. work more on our Internet interface to make it more gamer-friendly; you will see our company move into land-based gaming; and you will see us acquire two or three smaller competitors. Rather, you will see what you have always seen, expansion.

Vegas Offshore: What other changes do you see in 2005 for the industry as a whole?
Wagner: The strong will get stronger. The weak will get weaker. And, the acquisition race will be on.

The Problem With Sportsbook Betting

Gambling becomes pathological if it interferes with your financial stability, family life or work, or if it causes significant distress, says Virginia Hofmann, M.D., a psychiatrist specializing in addictions at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) classifies compulsive gambling as an impulse control disorder. To meet the APA's diagnostic criteria for compulsive gambling, you must show persistent gambling behavior. Such behaviors include:

Being preoccupied with gambling

Needing to wager ever larger amounts of money to achieve excitement

Lying to conceal gambling

Committing crimes to cover debts

Jeopardizing relationships or career

"The hallmark of an impulse control disorder is an increase in tension until the person gives in to that impulse, and then he has kind of an instant relief," Dr. Hofmann explains. "He feels good for a little while, then typically has a lot of remorse and regret and shame."

The Super Bowl is especially alluring for people with gambling problems. "I think people get caught up in the excitement of the game," Dr. Hofmann says. "Cues may be advertisements for the Super Bowl, clips on TV or on the radio, the noise of the game, the roar of the crowd, or the commentators talking about the different teams, particularly a favorite team."

The Super Bowl is both a blessing and a curse for gamblers, says Ed Looney, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey Inc. Although it can fuel problem gambling, it can also inspire some gamblers to finally seek professional help. "There is no other sporting event in this nation that seems to cause people to finally call us for help," Looney says.

Sportsbook Scamdicappers

In this article we will try and explain what Scamdicappers are for those of you who don't know. A Scamdicapper is a term that is used to refer to a sports handicapping service that is not in the sports wagering business to help their clients, but to profit off of, and scam you out of your money. Some common practices of Scamdicappers are that they will claim outlandish winning percentages, go under multiple names, give out both sides of a game, or even call and harass you until your purchase their picks. As a lot of you may or may not know this industry is mostly made up of con men and thieves. As of the time this article is being written there are over 2800 handicapping services in the US today with only a handful of those handicapping services being hard working, sophisticated, honest handicapping services who are not out to make a quick buck off you. It seems like everyday now there is some new handicapping service that pops up on the Internet, TV, or radio with 99% of them being run by Scamdicappers.

There are many different ways that Scamdicappers operate. We do not have time to list every deceitful way these guys try to, and succeed at ripping you off but we will look at a couple of the more recognized ways they go about their business below.

Let us start with handicapping services that take out ads in the newspapers, TV, and the local sports talk radio station. These are the guys in my opinion who give this industry a black eye. I would love to give you a few examples of names but I really don’t feel like getting sued by one of these con men. If you don’t know who I am talking about, they are the clowns who maybe offer you a free pick on their 800 line. These are the guys that claim to have an inside information network of trainers, coaches, scouts, and even players. In reality it is an operation of about 6-12 salesman in a boiler room setting who have no more of a clue about who is going to win tonight than your Aunt Ruth does.

You, unaware of the consequences, call the toll free 800 number looking for your complimentary pick and a way to make yourself some extra cash this weekend. Some guy who knows nothing about sports betting and more about high pressure selling informs you that today is your lucky day. He says, “TODAY IS THE DAY THAT WE HAVE OUR 50 STAR LOCK OF THE YEAR, WITH THIS PICK YOU CAN WIN BACK ALL THE MONEY YOU HAVE LOST UP UNTIL THIS POINT”. Now lets be honest most of the people that call the 800 numbers looking for free picks must have had some sort of losing stretch and are looking to recoup their loses. I know that and so do the salesman, because if you were doing fine on your own you wouldn’t be calling these guys for picks in the first place. Most likely the salesman you’re talking to will be shouting and be very pushy. At this point they will ask you for all your credit card information and after a tiresome pitch you bite. You say to yourself, it is their lock of the year and I really would like to get out of this hole I dug myself into.

More often than not the game loses. Now, not only have you lost whatever you bet on the game but you also blew a couple hundred bucks on this worthless pick.

One of two things happen next, you call back and blow another couple hundred bucks trying to get even again or you decide that you are all together done with these guys. Well news for the people that decided on not talking to these guys ever again, they now have your phone number and will trade or sell your number to every other Scamdicapper in the book. You will be harassed night and day until you move or change your phone number. Bear in mind that a lot of these handicapping services are owned by the same person and they will just give you a different name when they call. You will say you are not interested in signing up with a handicapping service at this time because the last one you used put you in a major bind. They than ask who did you use? You reply so and so sports. The salesman on the other end goes oh, so and so sports those guys are horrible, I don’t know how many times I have bailed out clients from so and so sports. Now you’re thinking maybe that this is my lucky day again; now I can get out of this hole so and so sports put me into when in all reality it is the same company using a different salesman and company name with the same poor results. Like I said the process will go on and on with different company names and different salesman until your phone number is eventually disconnected.

Then there is the handicapping service that gives out both sides of the game. For example let’s say that 49ers and Rams are playing and the Bears and Lions are playing this week. They will give the first caller the 49ers and Bears. The next caller will get Rams and Packers. The caller after that will get the 49ers and Lions and finally the fourth caller will receive the Rams and Bears. After the games are over someone will be 2-0, someone will be 1-1, and someone will be 0-2. The set of callers that went 2-0 will be delighted about going 2-0. The callers that went 1-1 will be unmoved and will just get another call next week using the same system. For the guy that got the short end of the stick and went 0-2 the Scamdicapper will stop calling him and trade or sell his information to other Scamdicappers.

Next week the process continues and someone people will go 4-0 and many others will go 3-1. Now is the time where the false claims come in about them consistently winning 70-90% of their games. They will offer you some insanely priced package and you bite because you have either gone 4-0 or 3-1 with them and that fits right into their false winning percentage that they claim to hit at. Time goes on and the games start losing and you begin to press up on your bets thinking that if they have gone 2-6 so far that they have to win this next game so they can get back on pace of their 70-90% winning percentage. The problem with that theory is they don’t win 70% of their games! A more likely scenario is that they are picking winners around 50% of the time.

See the public seems to think that a 70% winning percentage is possible. With all the variables involved in sports and going by the law of averages a 70%winning percentage is asinine! The problem is that the public doesn’t realize that and wants to only join the services that claim to win 70% of the time when in reality those are the services that will clean him out for good. They think why would I join a service that only wins 55-58% of the time when I could join a service that wins 70% of the time?

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