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MEISTER MAIL - 7 October 2008

Special Edition
European Interactive Gaming Congress and Expo
Casino Affiliates Programs Conference

Dear Reader,

It's been a wild week in Spain. If reading about the tripiness of Barcelona, aggressive prostitutes, bitchin' restaurants, and online gaming is your thing, then read on...

Humbly yours,


Photograhic proof of the events here.

EIG 2008 - Barcelona

Barcelona again...

The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain...or Barcelona. That's how it was last week. Barcelona - the capital of Catalonia, the second largest city in Spain - home to Antoni Gaudí, inspirations to Dali, Tapas, red wine, and aggressive pickpockets. It's also the home to the annual EIG and CAP Euro's fall exhibition. I was there for my sixth EIG, and it was the second time that I was checking out what CAP had to offer.

Getting there was quick and easy. Barely a two hour flight from Frankfurt, I cashed in some of my miles and flew business. Lufthansa's "Miles and More" has the nasty habit of removing one's miles if you don't use them up. They screwed me out of 11,000 miles in July - I wasn't going to let them do it again. So here I was in "Business" trying not to look too important to the other passengers getting on the plane. Overhearing "ooh, business," I had to smirk. Commoners.

I stayed at the same hotel as I did last year - the Olivia Plaza Hotel in Cataluña Square. It's relatively nice with very friendly service. It's also far enough away from the convention hotels to have some peace, and it's right there within walking distance of most of the parties. And there were more than enough parties to deal with on this trip.

And it was rainy. Luckily it held off while Grandmaster, Greedygirl and I roved around eating good Spanish food and grabbing some beers.

Funny thing about Greedygirl; she's always losing stuff or having rotten luck at airports. Here we were, Grandmaster and I, drinking a couple of beers in a pub off of Las Ramblas, when Greedygirl showed up - her face ashen. "I left my cell phone in the cab!" She said it as if she couldn't believe it herself. We were a bit astonished and we felt her pain, since being here on business requires a cellphone destined to ring every couple of minutes or so. "Bloody hell!" I said, "That sucks!". We checked out her cab receipt, and yes, there was a telephone number on it - but it had an automated message saying that their office was open 9-5 blah blah blah. (We recruited Grandmaster to translate since he speaks Spanish).

Seemed like all hope was lost until we used my cellphone and tried calling Greedygirl's phone hoping for an answer, and someone did. It was her cab driver and we handed the phone to the bouncer, (Grandmaster was in the loo), who explained everything and the cab driver, who agreed to come back and drop off the phone. Amazing.

Another thing that is amazing is how aggressive the prostitutes are on Las Ramblas. Here I was walking back to my hotel - half-lit and half-assed lost - I was accosted by some African hookers grabbing onto my arm and groping at my you-know-what. It was rather alarming and it totally creeped me out. They kept repeating vulgar references in a sort of desperate mantra. It was if I was in some bad movie. I actually had to flag down a cab to drive me three blocks just to get away from this bunch.

Morning came early, but I was prepped and ready to go. One thing I've always appreciated about Clarion events. They alway begin right after lunch. But I was there late morning to register and to meet up with Ben - the casino manager for Betfred - and yes, we discussed future freeroles that we're scheduling for Casinomeister members. It should be a lot of fun.

We had lunch (fish) and meandered back to the conference center. I was hanging out in the lobby meeting old acquaintances and a few good friends. One dear friend of mine came up to me and started chit chatting about this and that, and he mentioned that there was another American in the building that he wanted me to meet - he said we had a lot in common - we both like poker, and we were both in the service for a relatively long time. "He's quite famous in the States - maybe you've heard of him: Montel Williams." I thought I wasn't hearing right. "You mean the Montel Williams? From the Montel Williams show?" I asked.

"Absolutely. He was here just a minute ago. He went up to his room for a nap. Y'know, jet lag and such." I was still stunned. My buddy continued, "Perhaps we can have some coffee, say threeish? I think he'd really like to meet you."

"Yeah, sure." I was floored. "Sure, I'll meet...Montel." I ensured he wasn't kidding - and he wasn't.

For those that know me, I've been working from home for years. When I lived in San Diego, I was teaching at night and doing web stuff during the day. I was a stay at home dad, taking care of my youngest daughter, and daytime TV was something I indulged in while either grading papers, feeding the kid, or developing sites like Casinomeister. Out of all the daytime talk show hosts, Montel Williams was the talk show host I respected the most. I watched his show at every chance I could get. His guests were interesting, his topics were meaningful, and he had all the attributes of an ex-Marine. And up to this day, I really didn't know that he had served in the Marines. Since I left the States nine years ago, his show was one of the shows I have missed most.

When the EIG kicked off, the mood was affected by the disbelief and frustration on what the State of Kentucky was up to: the attempt to confiscate 140 domains that are associated with "illegal" gambling. The timing was perfect, just like when congress passed the UIGEA, it's during the EIG when all the I-gaming representatives are away from the office and attending a conference in Barcelona. And as it turns out, the Kentucky ruse is nothing but a protectionist move to protect its horse racing monopoly. All of you who bet on horses please raise your hands. Yep, just what I suspected - most of you couldn't care less about those animals.

Sue Schneider, who not only considers herself a consultant but an instigator, opened the EIG commenting that the gaming industry is comparable to the banking industry - it's selling a risky product. And how true this is, to bad the online gaming industry wasn't getting a $700 billion dollar bailout like its US brethren. Whether it's going "all in" or buying up 100 shares of Microsoft, we're risk takers by nature. And in doing so, we generally need some sort of regulatory authority that can ensure that there are proper checks and balances. We need to make sure that our banks don't borrow more money than they can afford to pay back; we need to know that casino operations are conducted in an ethical manner.

Bruno Giussani from "Technology Entertainment Design" gave the keynote address (Tech Trends: We Used To Call Them Users) which I found refreshing and provocative. He covered the web and its relationship with "users" (us) and how it has developed into an interactive entity. We don't merely passively watch, we participate. He stressed how businesses need to interact with their participants, and the importance of blogging. This got me to thinking; this is exactly what has been happening at Casinomeister for years. Did you know that all fully registered members of our forum have access to creating their own personal blog? You didn't? Well now you know. Side note: there are some really cool things coming our way in the forum. Stay tuned.

The next segment included a panel discussion of the CEOs of the top software providers, but it was difficult for me to focus on this because I was getting anxious on meeting Montel. I felt like I was in high school waiting to get picked up for a date, and knowing that it'd probably be a no show. It was about three already, so I snuck out and called my buddy's cell phone expecting bad news. "Yeah, sure it's going to happen. Why don't you come down to the hotel and I'll give him a call. He should be up from his nap."

Voice from the past - EIG 2007
It kicked off with the venerable Sue Schneider giving us a run-down on where this industry has been and shared with us a letter from ex-CEO BetonSports David Carruthers. He is still under house arrest (over 15 months with no trial in sight), but he is upbeat concerning the allegations of "illegal gambling". He is hanging tough and confided that although he is under house arrest, he's in the best physical shape he's ever been. Goes to show what good home cooked meals can do for you. He stated "I may be one year older, but I am ten years wiser." He described the industry stuck in a "round-about" not knowing which direction to take. "At no time in the past has this industry needed strong leadership as it needs strong leadership today." It needs a focused approach from all facets of the industry to make a positive difference. People need to come together and share resources to put this into action. He also stated that the industry needs to be focused on operating with integrity with customer service and customer protection in mind. David Carruthers is a good man. It's a shame to see him still waiting for his day in court which may not be until this upcoming Spring.
Funny how some things never change...

EIG part II
Montel, my man...
Anticipating Montel was like waiting for that crucial letter in the mail, or when you're hanging over the phone, waiting for it to ring with expectant good news - it was like waiting for something that was too good to be true. And then there he was - he strode in with an ever so light limp - his battle with MS has been well documented. We greeted one another, sat down, and my friend introduced me and what I do to Montel - and I spent the next few minutes explaining Casinomeister and its function in the online gaming community. Montel plays poker - and he was inquisitive and seemingly impressed on what Casinomeister has been doing for the past 10 years.

We went upstairs to the bar, sat, and had coffee. We talked a bit about poker - and how it's really an exciting game that has not lived up to its fullest potential. I know he's close to Silvia Brown, and I mentioned that that's one person I wouldn't want to play poker with. He smiled - said that she's not very good at poker, but it's Scrabble that she seems to be clued into what your next move is. She'll mess you up at Scrabble.

I finally mentioned (gushed) to him how I used to watch his show (big fan) - and that it was the only daytime talk show that I really subscribed to. I always could tell that he was sincere in wanting to "give back" - using his popularity for the common good, whether it's to raise funds to fight and cure MS, to supporting Paralyzed Veterans of America, or to provide schools with healthy food programs. He is a genuine soul, and he thanked me.

I spoke about how Casinomeister had raised $111,000 for tsunami relief when the big tsunami hit a few years ago - about how there are many in the casino industry that have big hearts. And it's a matter of tapping into these hearts to make good things happen. (Some of the charities that Casinomeister supports are located here).

From this point we started talking about our military experiences; him - Marines/Navy, me - US Paratroopers and mechanized Combat Engineers. Turns out we were in the same theater of intensity in the mid-eighties (Central America - Reagan years). So we traded our stories - his from a boat, mine - from a jungle, and even though we were in different abodes - it was the same experience.

After a couple of hours, we finally bid adieu, and I couldn't help but slip him one of my invitations to my birthday bash in London come November - fingers crossed that he'll show. This was truly a meaningful meeting; not only because I met the man Montel, but because it inspired a number of projects that are formulating in the back of my mind.

These conferences are not merely a place to hob nob, party, and to partake in jovial jocularities, it's where one melds inspirations.

Me and Montel here.

Voice from the past - EIG 2003
The first day of the conference kicked off without any observable hitch. It was well attended and many familiar faces were present. One of the more interesting conversations that I had that day was with Michael Smeaton from Gamcare who discussed Gamcare's philosophy a bit. And their relationship to the industry. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Gamcare, this is an organization that assist players via counseling, they have a helpline, and they provide educational services for gamblers who are having problems with gambling. They are also focused on youth gambling problems and provide a number of publications that address this growing concern. Unbeknownst to some, they are NOT there to help you recover gambling losses.

Had a pleasant dinner at Taller de Tapas with my webmaster buddy (and forum moderator Simmo!. Great food and fine company. And afterwards I mosied down to the Club Catwalk where the evening party was being held.

The venue was good - but too loud to chit chat - so a few of us took off and called it an early night.

So - amazingly so, I was fine and dandy the following morning, made it to the conference, and met with the operator for and the English Harbor group. We discussed the old issue of the English Harbour software glitch fiasco some years ago, and spoke about the "Bungling Blunders" section at Casinomeister and how things have been operating smoothly for the past two-and-a-half years, and that they have full checks and balances implemented since - it was agreed to that it was time to move on.

The Expo floor was well populated my the usual suspects. One thing that was noticeable was the absence of Neteller which last year was a major focal point with its Martini stand. There was no hide or hair of RTGers. What was also noticeable was the refreshment bar located in the middle of the expo hall. It was "sponsored" by Playtech but you still had to pay for coffee and drinks! What's up with that?

I stopped by the Microgaming booth to pass on the complaints from players that the software seems much tighter since the UIGEA - this they said they'd look into. There is also something up with Mega Moolah - the available jackpots seem to be tweaked out some. They were going to check into this and get back to me.

There was also buzz about the Meister Slots that will be launched at Intercasino at the end of this month. Previews here.

Had lunch with the guys from Crazy Vegas - and yes, we're going to plan a poker tourney for Casinomeister members real soon-like.

Checked out WagerWork's new MultiWay® Triple Fortune Dragon, which can be found at Virgin Casino at the moment - a very cool slot for you slot junkies.

The GPWA was running the "Affiliate Zone" an offshoot of the EIG that catered to affiliates and aff managers. Great idea. There were a number of presentations and panel discussions that focused on affiliate issues. I moderated a panel discussion entitled "World Class Strategies: Insights from the Giants" with Bjorn Evers, CEO of Rock Intentions, Michael Corfman, CEO Casino City and Executive Director of GPWA, Ebbe Gross, CEO of BetBrain, and Jeff McBriar, managing director of

I asked a series of questions - one of which was: "Is there an opportunity you missed? Using 20/20 hindsight - is there something you would do different? The answers included - videos, more functionality, localization, poker and reacting more quickly to the US situation. Looking forward, I asked what they could envision how their companies would prepare for the future. Answer: mobile is on the way, providing service in other areas using other devices, and to hone the services that they already offer. Overall a good discussion.

Making it back to my hotel was a little tough. The streets were all blocked off for La Mercè - the end of summer fest they hold every year in Barcelona. In every main square, bands perform everything to Spanish folk songs to Green Day covers. This evening was the "Parade of the Giants." a fascinating dispay of people with giant heads. Kind of creepy if you ask me. I think I spotted the operator of Cirrus Casino here.

That evening I was invited to dine atop the Torre d'alta Mar - a 75 meter high watchtower which had been converted into a restaurant. Amazing views and a nice quiet evening with my friends from Club World Casino, and others (Simmo!, Bonustreak et al).

When it was time to leave - the EIG party was just getting ready to kick off. Unfortunately, most everyone in our entourage seemed to be partied out already - so we chose to head back to the Hotel Sophia - where CAP EURO was scheduled to kick off in a couple of days. Thinking it was to be a early night, I naively followed the crew back to the hotel bar where we stayed put until it closed.

Voice from the past - EIG 2005
The next morning, I was chipper and it was a beautiful day. And on the way to the conference - I noticed again that there was dog poop all over the side walks in some places. A dry leaf in the corner of one's eye can cause you to trip over your own two feet thinking that it's a canine surprise. And I hadn't noticed any stray dogs yet - only a lot of French people walking their dogs on leashes. So I was only guessing that letting your dog poop on the sidewalk is allowed if not encouraged.

And French people drive like madmen. Believe me, I've driven around crazy drivers. I've driven through Florence in the middle of summer. But I swear these people try to hit you when you're walking across the street on the pedestrian crossing. I crossed the street legally on a crosswalk with a little old lady and cars were flying by. It reminded me of the adage: heaven is a place where the Brits are in charge of the humor, the French in charge of the food, and the Germans in charge of the traffic. But hell is where the Germans are in charge of the humor, the Brits in charge of the food, and French in charge of the traffic.

It was good to arrive at the conference in one piece and with clean shoes.
Final day EIG Had a wonderful lunch in the expo floor. Lots of pasta salads, rice and veggies. The chicken was a little dry. All in all - good stuff. But there was quite a buzz on the floor about how many people were accosted by pick-pockets the night before. Some of whom were quite agressive. One victim explained how he chased the guy with a chair prompting him to turn and throw his wallet back at him. It was a bit much, and there was already talk of moving the conference elsewhere next year. It seems as the Barcelona police are a bit too ineffective for safety's sake.

And final comments from the "round-up" presentation of the conference: This industry does well during difficult times; the economy will be a bigger factor for the next year; vibrant and positive things in general - two years ago most everyone looked as though they were going to slit their wrists - this year the Kentucky fiasco was taken in stride. There were 300-450 companies represented here with many new ones. Young vibrant entrepreneurial business people can find opportunities here.

One area that still seems to be prominent, there is lack of organization of this industry. It's an ongoing struggle to get behind efforts that are there to create policies that help develop the gaming industry. Word of advice: talk to players. Get their feedback - it's about the player.

That evening it was tapas with my wife (who finally joined me on my Barcelona journey,) and Roxy Palace Casino - which was an very enjoyable social. Some of the people there I had been in touch with for years but rarely met face-to-face.

The evening was capped off (no pun intended) with the first of several CAP related parties. Like last year, CanAffco and's sponsored a packed party at the Joker Bar. The place was wall-to-wall people, but no dancing girlies in the cages like last year. It was hard to get drinks since the barmaids were incredibly slow and were unaccustomed to making anything other than a gin and tonic. We hung out on the terrace out front - semi-drinkless, but then it began to rain. Some people began to snivel and a number of others left. "Boo hoo we're getting wet." They strolled off into the distance were the muggers awaited. Social Darwinism rejuvenated the party and it kicked back into gear. The booze flowed, there was plenty of room on the dance floor, and the shuckin' and jivin' commenced until the wee hours.

Are you an affiliate?
CAP EURO was well attended. There were two levels for the exhibition halls, and it seemed to be well trafficked. One word of advice for newbie affiliate managers: don't walk the halls and approach people with "Are you an affiliate?" and then give them a hard-sell. Either buy a booth or hang a sign around your neck; being flagged down when moving from point A to point B can be quite annoying.

As soon as we arrived, we were invited for lunch by the Red Flush folks on a yacht moored in the harbor...okay I thought, what the heck. I was hungry anyway. So we sat on this yacht with a few of the usual suspects (Simmo!, et al) and chit-chatted about this and about that. It was sunny - which was not in the forecast, but not sunny enough to get sweaty all over.

My wife mentioned to Martyn Beacon (Red Flushes aff manager) that in German "Red Flush" implies a woman's menstrual period. He remained unmoved - proud of the name. And then showed us his t-shirt or which he was even prouder. Emblazoned on the front: Queer Beacon. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Back to the conference. Many of the booths were nicely laid out. Several had open bars (never a bad decision) which was a stark juxtaposition to the booths at the EIG. And there were a number of newbie booth bunnies and a few old-timers. It was the first time I had seen Slotland man a booth for several years. Good to see some old faces.

I briefly met one of the managers for Stryyke entertainment. He's a new member of our forum's I-Gaming reps, and we wanted to get together so as to initiate a business relationship. It's a group/casino to keep an eye on.

Partnerlogic is excited about the Meister Slots - due to come out 28 October (have I mentioned this already?). Sorry. But still, if you want a front row seat - join Intercasino now!

The day wore on - and dinner finally called us to the Carpe Diem Lounge Club which offered everything BUT Spanish food. My wife had sushi - me, Thai. And it was unexpectedly good. Thanks again to Club World Casino.

That evening, we ended up a disco in the crap part of town, it was too loud, dingy, and no where to chill out, so we left and made it back to the hotel without getting jumped.

Last day of the CAP - was much like the first, but I was scheduled to speak at CanAffco's Affiliate Bootcamp I gave a 45 minute presentation on how to protect yourself in this business as a webmaster, and how to promote online casinos ethically. It was a nice small group, and a very enjoyable presentation. Hope some people got something out of it. When it was over, I was briefly interviewed by a reporter from VG - Norway's largest daily newspaper - and he seemed surprised that I stressed that the industry needs regulation. He asked whether or not many others share this train of thought - and the answer is yes, of course. I really can't think of anyone (besides the Central American clip-shot joints) that don't want this industry regulated.

That evening was one of the best. My wife and I, and a small band from Virgin Casino made it down into the Gothic Quarter (actually we were all in the same hotel there) and had a fantastic meal of Tapas at El Tropezón. The atmosphere was homey and authentic; the waiter was cocky but good humored. And at the end, they started bringing us free shots of whatever. It was like they didn't want us to leave. Highly recommendable.

That evening's party was at the Mondo Club - a great venue with a nice dance area inside, and plenty of space outside to mingle and actually speak to one another. Next to the club was the moored Athena (you must check out these photos). A rather large yacht owned by the founder of Silicon Graphics and Netscape. At one time it could be leased for $500,000 USD. Amazing.

A five o'clock wake up call came way early that next morning. Before we knew it, we were heading back home - our heads spinning from a flood of contacts and experiences. Thank you Clarion Gaming for a well planned and executed event. And hats off to CAP for bringing affiliates and their programs together. Kudos to all.
Complaints? Kudos? Please let me know.

Bryan Bailey
Casinomeister and Vortran
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