About Rebecca Liggero, Lead On-site Reporter for CalvinAyre.com
Interview with Rebecca Liggero.

I stumbled across the online gambling industry in early 2005 when responding to an ad in the Boston Globe for an “account manager position”…several interviews later, I found myself working for Casino City, one of the most established publishers and affiliates in the business.

Throughout my five years in this role, I worked with just about every iGaming affiliate program in existence and traveled the world attending iGaming conferences as I continue to do today.

While I was with Casino City I met Calvin Ayre at ICE 2006 and we became friends right from the start. In 2009 he called me about an idea, CalvinAyre.com, and asked if I would consider serving as the Lead On-Site Reporter. I officially came on board August 2009 and CalvinAyre.com was launched later that year with the official launch party in Prague, May 2010.

Accepting my role with CalvinAyre.com has changed my life. Since 2009 I have been blessed with a dream job, a life with travel, a move to London, exposure to influencers, the opportunity to develop a completely new skill set and doing what I do best-working with people.

Tell us a bit more about CalvinAyre.com and its role in the industry? Calvin Ayre is one of the most flamboyant casino entrepreneurs to ever grace the industry. Have you learnt a lot from him so far (assuming you’ve met him), what makes him tick?

CalvinAyre.com is the iGaming industry’s number one source for global news, opinions, entertainment and information. We provide daily news stories, video coverage of all the major conferences, industry events and poker tournaments around the world and release dozens of high level on-camera interviews throughout the year. We are pro-industry and like to have some fun while we’re at it.

Calvin Ayre the person is universally known as one of the iGaming industry’s pioneers and is one of the true influencers in our space. Calvin has taught me so much over the nine years that I’ve known him, some through direct guidance, some through observation and I’ve learned a lot just listening to him talk about his projects and industry issues. Just being around him has made me smarter.

The vibe in the CalvinAyre.com office is a good old-fashioned Calvin Ayre “work hard, play hard” style. You never know what your day is going to be like in the media world, so you have to wake up every morning with an open mind and flexible schedule. We follow in the footsteps of our leader and do whatever it takes to get the job done well, but when its done, we properly celebrate.

The online gambling industry is vibrant and entertaining yet it is often described as the ”Wild West”. One can visit prominent casino affiliate forums like GPWA, CAP or AGD and you’ll see that player complaints pop up now and again. How do you see it?

Yes, I am quite familiar with these “industry watchdogs” as I was working for Casino City when the CEO, Michael Corfman, decided to acquire the GPWA. I witnessed first hand the good work Michael did for the GPWA and the greater iGaming community whenever a complaint came up. He would act as a mediator and after obtaining all the facts, if an affiliate program or an affiliate was acting poorly, the appropriate actions would be taken to educate the masses.

I think this type of self-regulation within iGaming has been working well for over ten years and the good folks behind GPWA, APWC, AGD, CAP, CasinoMeister, etc, do a fantastic job. I don’t know (and wouldn’t want to know!) where the industry would be today without them.

Do you think operators licensed in white-listed jurisdictions (Alderney, Isle of Man, Gibraltar, and Malta) have a positive effect on the economy?

I think jurisdictions such as Alderney, Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Malta, Antigua, etc, play an incredibly important role in keeping our industry in order. These regulators are involved – they come to speak at conferences, they take booths, they are accessible- and they work hard to both police and provide support to their licensees without putting up barriers to innovation.

The tax generated in these jurisdictions is a huge part of their economy, but don’t forget there are also jobs created for the locals and significant money spent by expats who move into the area- all of these things positively impact each jurisdiction’s economy.

Some US states (Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada) have regulated Internet gambling. In your expert opinion has regulation been a success so far and would other US states soon follow suit?

I wouldn’t say its been a “success” if you consider the pitiful revenues that have been generated so far (and one site already closing its doors), but it is a step in the right direction. Its hard work to put legislation together and although the requirements are extraordinarily stringent, I’m positive anyone with a license to operate in America is fully legit, so regulation has been a success on that front.

I salute Nevada, Delaware and especially New Jersey for paving the way towards regulated online gambling in America, although I don’t think we’ll be seeing any movement from other US states anytime soon. There is just too much red tape, too many stakeholders and not enough revenue generated from the “big three” to inspire other states to get a move-on.

Pertaining to the above. Is there a distinct difference between your European/UK and US punter in terms of the amounts of cash they wager and overall gambling psychology?

I’ve never worked for an operator, so I cannot speak to specific amounts wagered, but if I had to guess, I would assume Americans wager more as we tend to do things in excess (I’m American so I think its OK to say that).

One point I would like to make is that gambling is much more “accepted” here in the UK, especially from a sports betting perspective. When I first moved to London I could not believe there were actual betting shops all over the place, the online gambling advertisements on TV, the ads on the taxi cabs- it was shocking! In America, the only gambling you talk about openly involves Las Vegas, Atlantic City or other established brick and mortar casinos. Gambling on sports (unless you’re in Vegas) is frowned upon in America, even though so many people do it regularly.

You’ve rubbed shoulders with the rich and the famous. Which celebrity/ies has made a lasting impression on you and why? If I may ask do you gamble, do you place the odd bet now and again and what is your favourite game?

I sure have! Throughout my time with CalvinAyre.com I have interviewed celebs such as David Hasselhoff, Hulk Hogan, Phil Taylor, Harry Redknapp, Max Keiser, John Barnes, Eric Bischoff, Montel Williams, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, a number of famous poker pros and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.

Out of all these celebs, I would have to say my interviews with David Hasselhoff have had the greatest impact on my life. The first time I met The Hoff, G2E 2012 I think it was, I had a whole 30 minutes with him and it was something, I tell you. He was dressed for the part and as pleasant and charming as ever- I was laughing the whole time. I interviewed him again at LAC 2013 and I don’t think he remembered me, but it was an awesome experience once again. To this day I keep a picture of The Hoff and I as my “cover photo” for Facebook and Twitter and people still comment on my interview(s) with him all the time.

I also loved my experience with Max Keiser of The Keiser Report. He is so intelligent, has such a colorful personality and was an absolute delight to chat with.

You would think working in the iGaming industry for ten years means I’m a gambler, but I rarely indulge in gambling. If someone hands me some free chips I’ll hit the blackjack table for a few rounds, but I would not spend my own money.

Conferences are part and parcel of the industry (Amsterdam, BAC and London just to name but a few), some gals and blokes get up to all kinds of antics whilst attending them. Which conferences are your favourite and what pressing issues are discussed?

Oh wow, this is a tough one. I have several favorites and for different reasons. I love iGaming Business’s affiliate conferences (LAC, AAC & BAC) because I have so many friends in the affiliate industry and because these conferences are light hearted, casual and fun.

The expo floor is like one big party- I would attend these conferences even if I wasn’t required to attend for work- they are that fun. I also love G2E because a)its in Las Vegas and everything is fun in Las Vegas and b)there are always high profile attendees at this event, whether it be distinguished speakers such as Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson or celebs on the show floor such as, you guessed it, David Hasselhoff

In terms of pressing issues, it really depends on the nature of the conference, but in general there are a lot of conversations and sessions surrounding the rise of mobile gambling, the regulated US market, the importance of data, growth opportunities in Asia and Latin America, in-play betting, the impact of POCT, “gamification” and innovation.

More and more people are beginning to gamble from their smart phones. Do you think that mobile gambling is here to stay and how do you see it in years to come?

Absolutely! There are plenty of people who even say “desktop is dead” and operators (and affiliates) should turn their focus to mobile and tablet ASAP. I think in the years to come, especially with the rise of 4G and the rate of smartphone growth in developing countries, mobile gambling will take over.

I also think crypto-currency technology such as Bitcoin will add to the growth of mobile as payments can sometimes be a challenge when using the more traditional methods. Without a doubt, mobile is the future of iGaming.

The UK imposed a 15% tax hike on gambling operators as such many operators exited the UK market. Did it have a significant impact on the British online gambling industry to date and will it have a positive or negative effect in the long run?

It's too soon to tell how significant the impact of POCT will be on the UK iGaming industry. I think its safe to say smaller operators will have a hard time with the new tax and my guess is we’ll start seeing some M&A in the near future. The larger companies are not as vulnerable, but they will all have to tighten up their marketing campaigns, beef up their retention strategies and generally trim the fat so every penny goes further- not necessarily a bad thing.

The UK iGaming market was extremely saturated before this tax, so if some operators leave the market, I don’t think the overall impact will be negative. Perhaps its time to start looking beyond the UK and into other markets- there are plenty of fish in the sea.

During your employment in the industry what’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you?

I would have to say the funniest thing that has happened to me so far was when the Iceland volcano erupted while I was attending CAC Amsterdam (RIP) in April 2010. At the time I was working for CalvinAyre.com but based in Boston, so I was meant to fly back across the Atlantic after CAC finished. Of course the volcano eruption disrupted air travel and I was literally “stuck” in Amsterdam with a number of CAC attendees, which turned into one big party, as I’m sure you can imagine.

As soon as the air cleared up, planes started flying again but they were booked solid for days- some people took trains, some people took boats, some people rented cars and I took an overnight bus back to London with Simmo and worked from the London office until I was able to fly back to Boston.