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Poker News: July 27, 2007

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Copyright © 2007 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

HEADLINE: Bodog to hit Europe with online poker,martial arts

Costa Rica's, one of the world's biggest online gaming firms, is to start targeting Europe with its mix of gambling, brutal martial arts, rap music and TV content, its billionaire founder said on Thursday.

“We are going to have our full Bodog offering – our gaming, our TV shows, our music and MMA (mixed martial arts) events,” Calvin Ayre told Reuters by phone.

“The poker part is pretty much good to go as it is ... We should have everything rolled out in Europe by the end of this year.”
Bodog has continued taking bets from U.S. gamblers despite a clampdown there last October and has been rapidly diversifying into television, music and extreme martial arts fights, which they stage and broadcast across the Web and on TV.

BodogFight features international competitors clashing in the no-holds-barred mixed martial arts arena, while its BodogMusic record label promotes rappers including the Wu-Tang Clan.

Ayre said Europe was still a growing market for online gaming and would help Bodog further diversify its business and protect its revenue streams.

“We are going to start with English language and then plan to have the Nordic countries, the German speaking countries, the Spanish speaking countries and the Benelux countries.”

“To get critical mass in Europe we figure it's going to cost us about $30 million... We want to feel like we are local in every country we go into,” he added.

Bodog was founded in 1995, focusing on Internet sports betting, casino and poker and currently takes more than $6 billion of wagers a year.

It already has offices in England in London and Manchester and in Berlin in Germany and has a data centre in the Channel Islands.

Billionaire Ayre, whose first job was selling apples across Canada from the back of a five-ton truck, said Bodog was also looking to push into the fast-growing Asian market.

“We've got our eyes on Asia as well. We are at least a year away but that's still on the radar for us ... We would initially target the Chinese language customers.”

Ayre said that Bodog would use its own technology for its English and Spanish language Web sites but would look to license other language games from software specialists to save on expensive development costs.

“We are in negotiations with some companies that have platforms that may appeal more to the local market in Europe... especially on the casino side.”

Online rivals such as have said they are looking to emulate Bodog's mix of gambling and online TV and music content but Bodog's entry into Europe will add another big fish into an already well stocked pond.

“It's quite likely we will get our initial traction from the younger, predominately male audience,” said Ayre.

“We see ourselves as change agents, we come in to a market and force people out of their comfort zones and they have to react and follow us,” he added.

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