April 22 2014, by Alexandre Dreyfus

10 years in the Gambling Industry and the “Positive Economy”

(sorry for my frenglish – and I’m not sure the first part was necessary – I let you judge if you manage to read till the end)

Today is a special day, beside my name’s day, I celebrate my 10th year in the Gambling industry. What a journey. I never been a gambler myself, except in Business. Actually 10 years ago I never bet online or even play real poker. But the 22nd april 2004, few days before Malta was going to enter in the EU, I got seduced by the opportunity of building something new that was not common. The genesis of my jump into the Gambling industry was actually a need of going abroad and learns English.

Genesis

I’ve been an entrepreneur in France for 8 years at that time, I had 100+ employees, been famous and on most of the French TV as a young net-entrepreneur but I also learn the downside: I went bankrupt (and all the nice related things attached including many years of debts), all the press/articles that were telling nice things about me, were telling bad things. I always remember the best example of the French mentality. I was in my hometown, driving my kind of a small sportscar at that time (Audi S3), I was 24 I think. I went to buy my French baguette (obviously). There is guy, that I don’t know, stopping me in the middle of the street and telling me: “I see that Webcity pays well”, with his sarcastic smile. This random guy (45yo), not knowing my personal situation, not knowing that my car was like anybody else – bought with a bank loan – was just judging me because he saw me in every single local newspapers, radios and TV and I was an easy target. I was fuming, but I learnt a lesson that day. Everybody can’t like you. Some people will understand what you do, some people will not. I’m a charmer, I like to seduce, and I always like to try to convince people of the good that I’m trying to do. So, yes I felt hurt when this kind of ‘aggressions” happened and I still do. I’m sure that eventually, I can look sometimes like a spoilt brat, very arrogant (French genes) that wants to promote/show its business whatever is the cost. I’m probably not always understood, likely because my English is far from being perfect, and because I’m still in a learning process on how to communicate with the world.  Could I me more humble? Probably. Could I be more discreet? Definitively.

Transparency

I’ll not talk about Winamax that I co-created 10 years ago, with my 2 friends, today; I’ll jump directly to Chilipoker in 2006. At that time, after 2 years in the online gaming industry, I realize that what I wanted to bring. I wanted to show transparency, to show that Online poker is not just about computers, offshore companies, undisclosed owners, etc … My marketing angle, was to actually promote it like any other company, with a not-so young entrepreneur at the head and that tells what he want to do, why and how. I believed that, at that time, the gaming industry was too much shady and the best way to develop it, is to expose it.  As an entrepreneur, I know as well, that whatever you plan, it will never exactly happen as you want, but the vision always stays. The destination is always the same, just the path change. I learnt as well, that beside transparency and communication, the key is the innovation. At the years of Chilipoker, we launched many promotions that were a first at that time, we launched the DeepStackOpen.com (still running after 5 seasons), we launched Chiliconnect that was a great idea – with a wrong execution :) (my fault). We’ve been voted by our peers, few years in a row in the top 50 companies that count in the gaming industry, etc … Blablabla. Long story short, after 6 years and more than 70 different people working for me;  I ended up selling my company to the 2nd largest gaming provider in the world – Bally Technologies in Las Vegas. I was proud, me the little French who moved to Malta, that made a deal with a leading American gambling company. Yeah, that’s an achievement, not only for me, but for the people I was working with. But what will stay, at the end? What will people remember? Does it matter ?

Positive or Negative ?

Few weeks ago, I was talking to a very good friend of mine, who is a former manager of my company. We were talking about our future and what we want to do, as a person. At that time, after 8 years in the gambling world, I could have ‘escape’ this decry industry. I could have actually take few years off and just enjoying life. Didn’t really happen like that for me, for personal reasons I decided to stay in the poker world, which was a choice; Do I regret it after 2 years, definitively not, I should have done it differently yes, but well, you never know when you start a new venture or adventure. My friend, he is still in the gaming industry too, but he told me that he wanted to move to the “positive economy”.

Positive Economy, means something that will eventually affect positively the world (green energy, create services that will revolution the world, etc …). He reminded me, that I’m working in the gambling industry, and that’s somehow its not really positive. At the end of the day, the goal of gaming companies is actually to take money from their players. Fair enough, fair point. I’ll argue that actually it’s the case of all business, to provide a service to a customer, and the customer pay a service for that. Gaming is entertainment, like the movie industry. It sells dreams and thrills. Should I be ashamed to work in this world? I don’t think so. I could argue that my focus always has been poker and not casino, meaning that the profit of my past business were not actually generated by the losses of my players (like casinos), but a small commission of the money that is played BETWEEN players. Does it make me a better man? Definitively not.

Even though, I agree with my friend (he can be grumpy) about working in the green energy or trying to build a service that will improve life of others, I wish I could do that, yes, I don’t think being an entrepreneur in the gaming industry is a bad thing. I actually don’t think being a stakeholder in the gaming industry – especially poker;) – is a bad thing. Should we blame poker dealers, bloggers, developers, designers, customer care, etc … that are related to our industry, because we all, collectively promote gambling? I don’t think so. Does it mean we have a responsibility to make it, collectively, better: Yes.

As an entrepreneur, today, its my 10th anniversary of having decided to work, invest and dedicated my time to the gambling industry. It changed all my life, in many ways, professionally and personally. As an entrepreneur, I have been lucky and successful till now, but I know that anytime I can fail. And what if? What if I fail? Will it be negative economy? No, it would have been positive: for 10 years, I have spent my energy to dedicate my resources to develop things I believe in, to bring onboard people I like to  work with and to eventually be part of an ecosystem that is bigger than me. I have created direct jobs for hundreds of people, supported initiatives that could have never existed, being the sparkle and the genesis of many projects (even if they are not mine). It did affect the economy, positively. Like the food chain, it is not about if you are going to eat someone or being eaten, it’s about serving a purpose in a global picture. As long as you believe in that, as long as you know who you are and what you serve, then you will bring a positive legacy.

But from now on, I’ll promise to my friend, that when I bet on the Roulette, I’ll never do it on Red or Black, but always on Green.

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About the author

Alexandre is the founder and CEO of Zokay Entertainment, a company dedicated to manage different projects, including the Global Poker Index, a ranking system for live poker players. the GPI recently lauched the Fantasy Poker Manager, a Facebook application where the users can draft a team of poker pros and compete against their friends during a major event. Alexandre Dreyfus is the founder and CEO of Chiligaming, amongst other projects, whose technology was recently sold to Bally Technologies. email: Alex@zokay.com twitter: @Alex_Dreyfus