Exclusive Interview with Calvin Ayre
Our colleague, Szaló Réka caught up for an interview the one and only Calvin Ayre
Calvin Ayre is a semi-retired entrepreneur living in Saint John’s, Antigua. He is Founder and Director of the Bodog Entertainment brand, as well as online gambling industry news site CalvinAyre.com and his philanthropic Calvin Ayre Foundation (calvinayrefoundation.org).
In 1992 he laid the groundwork for the organization that eventually became online gambling company Bodog and the associated Bodog Entertainment brand. In 2000 he launched Bodog.com, the success of which made him a billionaire. Ayre’s notoriety increased in the mid-2000s as online gaming’s popularity surged, landing him on the cover of Forbes magazine’s 2006 annual Billionaires edition and Star magazine’s “Most Eligible Billionaire Bachelors” list in late 2007.
Ayre has expressed his admiration of Virgin Group founder Richard Branson’s use of his personal brand to promote his companies and the way Branson applied the Virgin brand to a range of business ventures. Using him as a model, Ayre aims to build Bodog into not only one of the largest online gambling brands but also a mainstream 21st-century digital entertainment conglomerate. As Bodog grew, Ayre launched several non-gaming properties under the Bodog brand.
In 2003, Ayre organized BodogConference.com (later renamed the Bodog.com Poker and Sports Marketing Conference) in Las Vegas for sports handicappers, at which National Football League Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana was a special guest, tossing autographed footballs to attendees. The conference became an annual event, attracting gambling industry executives and figures from the sports world.
In 2005, Ayre launched the Bodog Music record label with a roster featuring artists such as DMX and the Wu Tang Clan. This led to the Bodog Music Battle of the Bands television series on Fuse TV, in which celebrity judges including former Sex Pistols singer John Lydon traveled across America to find the country’s best unsigned bands.
Ayre also launched Calvin Ayre WildCard Poker, a televised poker series on Fox Sports Net featuring pro and celebrity players facing off against online qualifiers. In March 2006, filming of party scenes for the first season finale at Ayre’s compound outside San Jose, Costa Rica, was raided by an estimated 100 police who were under the mistaken impression gambling was taking place. Ayre, who was not charged, used the media spotlight provided by the raid to promote the series and the Bodog brand. He made light of the raid, claiming the police “ate half my buffet.”
Bodog also branched out into sports with the launch of Bodog Fight, a mixed martial arts league incorporating a television series and live pay-per-view events. The 2007 finale in St. Petersburg, Russia, was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and actor Jean-Claude Van Damme.
The biography of Ayre is really extended and you can study it in detail on Wikipedia
We are very grateful for your generosity to answer our questions. First I would like to ask you to shortly introduce yourself and tell us when and why you started working in this industry.
Ayre: It’s a well-documented tale but dates back to the early 90s.
It is known that you are involved in the Bitcoin industry, you are a big fan of Bitcoin Cash, and you have done several investments. Please tell us more about your interests within the industry. What is special about Bitcoin Cash?
Ayre: The internet has broken borders down on many levels but banking has not followed suit because the establishment wants to keep hold of power and, of course, the fees they charge. Bitcoin had started to break down these barriers but was then somewhat hijacked by that very establishment and so transaction feeds rose and rose. Bitcoin Cash has set itself up to return to the fundamentals of the Bitcoin movement and, therefore, the confidentially product will win out as the dominant blockchain-based currency.
What is your opinion about the perspectives the use of Bitcoin can mean for the industry? What advantages would this bring to the industry?
Ayre: Bitcoin Cash is the best option for both the operator and the customer as they will face very low transaction fees and is direct between the two parties. The more middlemen any product has the more the charges ramp up in any industry.
You have been recently appointed as Special Economic Envoy by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. Please tell us about your responsibilities, tasks and future plans.
Ayre: I am hoping to make Antigua a hub for start-up and scale-up Bitcoin Cash-based companies. I am currently building a state-of-the-art office block on the island to service those companies.
We know that you have several foundations and have supported several charitable causes. What projects are you working on now?
Ayre: Best just to look at the site: calvinayrefoundation.org but we are significantly involved in education and disaster relief right now.
Which were the most difficult periods in your career so far and what do you consider your biggest success?
Ayre: There is nothing more difficult than starting companies with no money…nothing is as tough as the early days were. Biggest success is yet to come….the dominance of Bitcoin BCH over all other blockchains will be my crowning moment.
If you could change anything in the world of gambling what would that be?
Ayre: Governments must see the industry as a huge employer and as a vehicle for tax revenue but mustn’t get greedy. It is a low-margin business and must remain so or it will lose appeal to the customer. If structured right it can be a big contributor to any country’s economy. Gambling is good in a lot of ways. Right now however I am focused on helping move the world towards digital currencies and this consumes all my spare brain cycles.
What is your personal opinion about gambling industry in general in Europe or in the countries you know better?
Ayre: I have long-since stopped running gaming companies on a day-to-day basis but it is great to see how it has flourished in countries where the government has got the balance right and on that level it is hard to look past the UK as the leader.
Who is your favorite actor or actress?
Ayre: I am a big fan of character actors like John C Reilly & Zach Galifianakis
Where would you travel the most in Central Europe?
Ayre: I like to travel everywhere and get to know new territories and spending a lot of time in London gives me easy access to pretty much anywhere in Europe. I personally like Romania, as well. Fun culture and good climate.