This Interview with Alistair Assheton -CEO of VIP Sports- is part of the series of interviews by the SBR team. The questions are posted by SBR Will Gatten, an industry expert.
INTERVIEW, Part I
SBR Will Gatten: Hello Alistair, thank you very much for having accepted our invitation…
SBR WG: Alright Mr. Assheton, we would like to start by introducing you to the players, let them know who the man behind V.I.P. Sports Management is; could you tell us… where are you from?
Alistair: I was born in South London and we moved to the countryside of Devon in South West England when I was seven, and that’s where I grew up.
SBR WG: Where did you go to school? What did you study?
Alistair: After my regular schooling in Devon I went to university in Birmingham – England’s second city – where I got an honours degree in International Business and Modern Languages. As part of that course I was lucky enough to spend 12 months in northern France at a top-notch graduate business school in Rouen. I am still fluent in French, and dabble in German – my Spanish and Dutch are still rather embarrassing I must say!
SBR WG: How does a well-educated Englishman get involved in the offshore wagering industry of the American market?
Alistair: Well that is an interesting question, although I know of many other people with excellent educational backgrounds in our industry. I think that in order to succeed in this industry, just like any other, you need a strong element of business sense as well as experience and intuition.
We have never considered ourselves in “the American market” as such though. We are simply providing a service online from our offices in Curacao, and currently we have players from more than 80 countries regularly playing with us. We now have a full service dedicated European site up and running at beteuro.com which is receiving rave reviews to date.
I got into the online gaming industry when a good friend of mine whom I met back at school in France developed the software that enables online sports betting (we still use the modern version of this system – from IGW Software). He and I spoke back in the mid 90s, where at the time I had little idea what the Internet was, and I was working as a commodity trader in Europe. My wife and I took the decision to take on the system and operate an Internet gaming business that encompassed all forms of “recreational gaming” – we developed a casino early on, and a dedicated soccer betting site back before the big companies in the UK caught onto the medium.
SBR WG: Of all places, what brought you to Curaçao? Is it to be able to monitor everything from your laptop, while zipping on margaritas and toasting under the tropical sun?
Alistair: What a great idea that is! Seriously, and possibly ironically, the main driving factor for us was the ability to get a recognized government license to set up our business. Back in 1996 and 1997 when locations were reviewed, there were far fewer options than is the case today. At that time, we really only had a choice of 3, and for our needs – specifically capable, professional staff, and excellent Internet infrastructure (as well as the license) – Curacao came out head and shoulders above the others.
SBR WG: At that time, was Curaçao the ideal place to start building your company, is it a good place for business today?
Alistair: Curacao is the main island in the Netherlands Antilles – part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and also it is the largest of the ABC Islands, being Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. It is a very friendly island, with a skilled and motivated workforce, and great infrastructure. If anything, the business environment here has improved greatly – with the government regularly seeking the industry’s opinion through our “Curacao Internet Gaming Association”. We feel well represented, and the experience has been positive for us to date, though not without minor challenges – that could be expected anywhere. Since arriving here, my wife and I have had two lovely young children – both of whom are attending local schooling – in Dutch – so we feel very attached to the island which we now call home.
SBR WG: So you ARE a happily-married man, father of 2? That’s really interesting… How does your doing business from offshore affect the upbringing of your children? How do you feel about the potential short-comings of a place like Curaçao, when compared to London for example?
Alistair: That’s an interesting question, as my close friends will attest to the fact that London is one of my least favourite places on the planet! Of course it has much to recommend it in many ways, but I am a country/rural person at heart and the traffic, noise, and the lack of personal care I find unnerving there more than in any other big city. Curacao is without doubt a fantastic place to bring up young children – with a great climate, excellent health and education facilities and a generally “child-friendly” attitude, we’re delighted to be able to raise our children here! That said, when we travel, it is always a treat to go to a concert, or a major sporting event – sometimes if only to be in a crowd of people. For the most part, the children get everything they could possibly want on the island, and it is the parents who appreciate the opportunity to travel on occasions to other events around the world.
*You can read Part II of this interview by clicking on this link Alistair Assheton from VIP Sports, Part II.. Explanatory side notes by the SBR Team will be italized.
Read other interviews by the SBR Team, conducted by SBR Bill Dozer.
Will Gatten: SBR Senior Analyst and General Manager
Once the Marketing Director of a major sportsbook, Will now uses his knowledge of this industry and his understanding of business models to help players make an educated decision.