Recently, Bodog officials announced the launch of the Bodog Network, which will begin accepting non-Bodog domain names next year. At its head is Patrik Selin, a former executive of the Ongame Network. Selin sat down with Poker News Daily to review the new venture.
Poker News Daily: Talk about the idea of developing the Bodog Network. How did it originate?
Selin: The three existing Bodog brand licensees have a respectable level of liquidity, but as I looked around the market, I felt that I could do something new by combining their existing liquidity and strong brands with my experience in the network space. We have a number of new approaches to database protection and rakeback that I believe can help reshape the poker network model, but attempting to launch this from scratch with no liquidity under a new brand would have been quite difficult. I don’t think Bodog was looking to do this, but I assembled a team and the business plan and made the proposal to Calvin Ayre and BodogBrand.
Once the general deal regarding licensing the brand was agreed to in principle, I needed to approach the three brand licensees to get a contractual commitment from each in order to ensure that the liquidity base would be there out of the gate. Then, I had all of the pieces I needed. The strength of the brand was obvious to me, but I felt that if I could secure the rights to use the brand, while also securing commitments from the existing brand licensees, I could take what I’ve learned in the market to turn what was, in effect, a brand-licensee-only network into something that could be made available to the global marketplace. It was a long negotiation and didn’t happen overnight, but I am extremely excited to have been able to put this together. We’re going to do something great here.
PND: Prior to the Network, were the player bases of the individual Bodog licensees separated? Or how does the Network change the status quo?
Selin: From a legal perspective, the Network changes the status quo in the sense that I have now acquired the source to the proprietary Bodog poker product. However, while all three brand licensees naturally maintain and protect their own customer databases, the liquidity has always been shared, so in that sense there is no immediate impact on the player bases. This is only the short-term situation – the enhancements to the product and non-Bodog-branded operators in 2010 will dramatically increase liquidity and we expect our unique approach to the rakeback challenge to be game-changing.
PND: What criteria will you have for future non-Bodog licensees?
Selin: Principally, we are looking for and are in discussions with medium and large poker operators who are willing to invest in marketing. We will not be focused on smaller skins that are simply looking for a liquidity base.
PND: How many licensees do you plan to bring onboard and who is charged with vetting prospective licensees?
Selin: This is not specifically constrained, as the goal is not a defined number of operators, but rather liquidity. Jonas and I will be principally responsible for vetting new licensees. Our goal is to be in the top three networks for player liquidity. However, we will be focusing on fewer, larger partners.
PND: Talk about the challenges of operating a network given the struggling worldwide economy. How do you plan to combat them?
Selin: There’s no question that the global economy is a serious consideration and, while online gaming is more resilient to economic factors than many other sectors, it’s not immune. However, our research demonstrates that the industry in general, and poker in particular, continues to grow. One metric we looked at was that online gaming currently constitutes only 8% of the total worldwide gambling marketing and, as internet penetration continues and emerging markets embrace poker as an entertainment venue, we expect this sector to maintain an upward curve. Also, naturally, when any industry is squeezed, product excellence and brand differentiation become even more important – it is here we believe we can excel.
PND: Can Bodog compete with sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt in terms of player volume?
Selin: We have enormous respect for PokerStars and Full Tilt and they the way they have developed their businesses, but our goal is to create something new. We expect the overall pie to continue to grow and our objective is to be among the top three for player liquidity. We believe we can and will bring something unique to the market, so we certainly expect to be competitive with the best of the best.
PND: We’ve seen the resurgence of Calvin Ayre despite his purportedly retiring from the company in a day-to-day management role. Will we continue to see more of the Bodog founder in the future?
Selin: Calvin’s role still seems to be largely misunderstood. His role is no longer with the operators at all – he just works with the group that licenses the brand. Alwyn, Keith, and Ian run their respective businesses and I’ll be running mine. Calvin is a larger-than-life individual who continues to be strongly associated with the brand he created, so when he creates attention for the brand, that’s typically a good thing for those of us who license the trademarks, etc. I honestly don’t know what his plans are as far as public exposure. I do know that BodogBrand.com is in the midst of other brand licensing discussions, so I would imagine that we might see more of Calvin in the future.