Talking Betting With......Alan Eskander

The Eskander family have been involved in the Australian betting industry for over 40 years. Today on the blog we continue our Talking Betting series as Stephen discusses the betting industry with Alan Eskander, co-founder of Betstar.

MelbourneRacing

How did you first get into the world of betting and gambling? 

When I was still in primary school, Dad (Michael) got his on-course bookmaking license. This was in the days before the internet, so I spent a lot of my childhood at racetracks with Dad and got a bit of a taste for it. When I was 17 I started working for Dad, and I kept doing that while I was going through University.

I fell in love with the industry and the excitement of the betting ring, and in 1997 I applied for my own licence. Interestingly, my Mum doesn’t like betting or racing, and she broke down and cried when I applied for my licence, but she has warmed to it over time. I think she also understands that I live and breathe this industry, so I would always be interested in it whether I was working in it or otherwise.

What jobs have you done in the industry on your way up? 

When I worked for Dad, I had experience with all facets of the business. I was on the computer, or I would work the bag, or I would be the runner. I spent the first two or three years that I was licensed fielding at country race tracks before I got my metropolitan license in 2000.

While I spend less time on track these days (with the growth of online business Betstar.com.au), I now have to keep an eye on every facet of the business and roll the sleeves up in any department anytime I am required. I really love being part of a team, and staying as involved as possible.

What is the biggest win and loss you have ever had as a bookmaker?

There are two racehorses in particular who have not been good for me. Makybe Diva and Black Caviar instantly spring to mind when I think of bad results for the company, but the irony is that both those horses have been so good for the industry in Australia in regards to generating additional hype about racing that it is largely a positive.

How do you deal with losing runs for the firm?

My philosophy is that punters and bookies will always have good and bad runs. Of course we all want to profit out of what we are doing, but you need to keep it all in perspective. You need to get your processes right and your member services right, and the results will take care of themselves.

You make sure you are aware of your liabilities and manage them appropriately, but you can’t get carried away with every win or loss – if you do, you’re just not cut out for this industry.

What advice would you give to any aspiring punters trying to do it professionally? 

I’m not sure if any professional punters would want advice off a bookie, but regardless I think the ones who just chip away and stick to their strategy seem to do the best. You need to be disciplined and stick to your plan.

How has the betting game in Australia changed in recent years? 

People no longer have to go to the racetrack to have a decent bet; technology has really led the charge and is a major driver for changing patterns. Our clients have become more internet savvy and want to have a great experience when betting with us over the internet or via smartphones.

We also put an absolute premium on customer service. Our members know that we are a family owned, 100% Australian business, and that we deliver the best membership services in the country.

What are the toughest things about being the man in charge? 

I have worked very hard to be the man in charge, and it is a massive responsibility. As Betstar continues to grow, I have had to be prepared to delegate greater areas of responsibility, and acknowledge that I have hired people to do a good job, something that they are all more than capable of. I have to be realistic and know that as we continue to grow (Betstar now has over 50 employees, despite being just 6 years old) it is harder and harder for me to control every element of decisions that need to be made.

Adjusting to that has been the toughest thing, but I enjoy being a leader and sharing the success of the company with all stakeholders. It is also great to be able to step back and know that Betstar is in great hands, I always say I have the best team in the business and I honestly believe it.

What mentality do you need to survive at the top of a firm?

You need to continue to strive for excellence and ensure that you have people around you that are similarly minded. Never accept the status quo, and be prepared to constantly evolve so that you stay ahead of the game. If you are not moving forwards, you’re going backwards.

How do you see the game in Australia/worldwide developing in the next ten years?

I think development will be driven by technology and regulation. There is no doubt that the smart phone has changed the way we bet so it will be interesting to see what Silicone Valley throw at us next.

In Australia it’s currently illegal to bet live online, however you can on the phone. This current restriction does not make much sense to me and a policy change is on the cards. It will be amazing to see what changes unfold when it finally gets the tick.

The increased competition to the Asian Pacific market means that punters will have a greater range of options to choose from when decided who to have a bet with. We will continue to ensure that we provide the best, most user friendly experience in the industry, and as the industry continues to grow we won’t lose sight of where we came from.

The key indicators show that less and less people are wanting to bet over the phone, but at the moment the legislation here in Australia restricts live betting on sports to phone only. While it would be great to see that legislation change, we will simply carry on as if it weren’t to. We will see sports betting taking a greater share of the overall bets placed as well.

Follow Alan on Twitter: @Alan_Eskander