News & Views

Articles by Calvin
<< Back to Announcements

Calvin Ayre opens ‘most impressive building on the island’ deemed a modern green facility

The impressive five-story, Canada Place located in St. John’s, Antigua, is not only home to the Ayre Group’s various pioneering technological companies but serves as a beacon of inspiration for its employees and Antigua on a whole. Dubbed “The Greenest Multi-complex in the Caribbean,” Canada Place is a highly sought-after office facility, capable of housing several companies and up to 600 persons. As the Ayre Group navigates this COVID-19 new normal, with gradual resumption of work from office, building occupants found it easy to return to this environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art facility. This article serves as a fitting throwback to the building’s official opening in 2019. The article was written by Latrishka Thomas and published in the Antiguan Observer on November 25, 2019.

“This is now easily the most impressive building on the island, hands down. There is no other office complex on the island that could actually challenge Canada Place,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said Friday of the newly opened Canada Place.

Business mogul Calvin Ayre on Friday, opened his global headquarters, which he said “shall be home for various pioneering technologies that, it is hoped, will make a significant impact on the economy of Antigua & Barbuda.

“In this regard, we have been steadily increasing our employment of Antiguan and Barbudan nationals and expect that our employment levels should approach 600 during 2020.”

The five-storey building, which is located close to Woods Malls, is a modern green facility.

Local media relations representative for the Calvin Ayre Group, Anika Potter, described one of the major features in Canada Place as being “our solar farm which is actually our car-park for our employees so they have covered parking and that I believe, transmits over 500 kilowatts of energy, so technically our building should be able to function solely on the solar farm, on solar energy”.

She said another key feature is “the fifth floor which is our employee lounge. It houses our indoor cafeteria, our outside eating area, a games room, our library for our staff to just be able to relax and just unwind.”

The media representative also revealed that there are many other amenities within the complex that promote energy efficiency.

“The building in and of itself is massive and when I say massive, I don’t necessarily just mean in size. I mean in all of the amenities, all of our kitchenettes are equipped with coffee machines and bottle less water coolers. 

“So, what we’ve done, instead of just using the regular water cooler with a bottle we do filtered water through a UV system and that is what our employees use to drink so we don’t deal with water bottles. We are trying to have the building be able to operate on its own as well as minimizing our carbon footprint,” she continued.

And, according to Ayre, “greater reliance on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, will redound to the benefit of humanity. I, therefore, fully endorse the government’s policy of seeking to transition from the use of fossil fuels to green energy. This magnificent complex is a symbol of this commitment to a pollution-free Antigua.”

In addition, the building, a “US $40 million investment into the Antiguan economy,” is equipped with a day care and gym which Ayre said is meant to ensure that all of the employees feel appreciated.

“We tried to create an environment where basically the employees feel valued. And I think in the presentation I made earlier (Friday evening) one of the statements that I made was about the fact that, unlike just about every other building I’ve seen in my life, the executive suites aren’t on the top floor.”

Prime Minister Browne, in addressing attendees during Friday’s opening ceremony, praised Ayre saying that “unlike other exploiters we have a true partner in Calvin Ayre who is conjointly with the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda to ensure the advancement of this beautiful twin island state”.

Calvin Ayre is a Canadian entrepreneur based in Antigua and Barbuda who founded the Ayre Group and Bodog entertainment brand and also manages other business entities on the island.

In 2000, Ayre launched online gambling company, Bodog, the success of which made him a billionaire and in Ayre’s speech on Friday he credited the success to “small but solid steps” saying that “the initial step taken by me in 2006 when I started business operations in Antigua has had several giant steps added to bring us to where we are today”.

<< Back to Announcements

News & Views

Articles by Calvin
<< Back to Announcements

Ayre Group pioneers ‘social distancing’ policy to combat COVID-19

There is no doubt that the onslaught of the novel Coronavirus pandemic gravely disrupted how businesses operate. In this article, we take a look at how the Ayre Group implemented their Work-From-Home policy, as a solution to the high level of lay-offs that some companies faced. Orville Williams of the Antigua Observer tells the story originally published on March 18, 2020.

More than 100 employees of the Ayre Group have been told to work from home as the company – headed by the Canadian billionaire Calvin Ayre – implements strategies to fend off the coronavirus.

The firm – headquartered at Canada Place in Woods – is taking the lead in the private sector, by enforcing a group-wide social-distancing, work-from-home policy, amid COVID-19’s global spread.

The coronavirus had had a significant socio-economic impact worldwide since its inception and has escalated drastically, affecting both the public and private sector. In severe cases across the world, employees have been placed on unpaid, leave had their contracts suspended and even been laid off, as businesses struggle to cope with the impact of the virus.

The Ayre Group, however, is striving to both adhere to international health regulations and support its staff during the crisis. In a media release yesterday, the group explained that the policy will allow employees to work remotely – given their duties enable them to do so – in “protecting the health and well-being of the employees operating in the building”.

The company’s media relations specialist, Jamilla Kirwan, explained how the decision was made.

“We have the capabilities, within our group, to work from home. I know that not many companies have that kind of option and so, I’m sure that many people are trying to figure out how they’re going to manage staffing, children being home and that sort of thing.

“A lot of our work, obviously, is electronic. You know, we’re on emails (and) if we need a meeting, we do video-conferencing and so, we’re basically just encouraging anyone who has that kind of capability to do the same,” she explained.

Kirwan said the company had had a “coronavirus-free” bill of health among the employees and was actively practicing social distancing to keep it that way.”

“We have not had any cases of anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, however, we feel that one of the ways we could help to mitigate the spread of the virus is to teach people how to do social distancing.”

“With our over-100 employees, we thought this would be the best way to assist with the social side of things – having our people stay home, stay with their families and limit the amount of people coming into their homes,” she said.

Additionally, the group announced that one of its subsidiaries – the Bodog Beach Club – will be temporarily closed until further notice, also to regulate the spread of the virus.

This temporary closure will not affect staff financially, however, as “all employees within the Ayre Group, including: Bodog Beach Club, Calvin Air Helicopters and the Calvin Ayre Foundation, will continue to be paid during the period of social-distancing.”

<< Back to Announcements

News & Views

Articles by Calvin
<< Back to Announcements

Calvin Ayre feels insulted by All Inclusive Resorts

In the following article, Special Economic Envoy to Antigua and Barbuda, Ambassador Calvin Ayre discusses plans for his upcoming wellness resort retreat and the exceptional experience it will offer. This article, that appeared on the Antigua Newsroom online portal, was published on June 15, 2020.

Billionaire Antiguan businessman Calvin Ayre says he is opposed to the “all inclusive” model of tourism in Antigua & Barbuda.

Ayre was at the time speaking about his US$ 100 million investment in a wellness resort retreat at Valley Church Beach which he says will not be all inclusive because he disagrees with that model.

“It will have everything and more but it absolutely won’t be all inclusive,” Ayre told a radio interview alongside Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Saturday.

“I am fundamentally against all inclusives at every level, I think they are horrible experiences and I think they are bad for Antigua,” Ayre said.

He added, “I find them insulting as an Antiguan when I try to go use one of them and they say no to me.”

Speaking of his own resort the businessman said, “what I would like to do there is create a wellness community…the idea would be to bring people in here and introduce them to Antigua and have a fully functioning wellness retreat resort.”

He said once completed it will be the best in the Caribbean.

“The way I am anticipating doing it is going to be much more extreme on the medical wellness side of it more than anything that’s in the region. It will be unique in the whole region,” Ayre the Chairman of the Ayre Group said.

Apart from the resort the billionaire says he wants to bring other investments into Antigua & Barbuda in the future.

“Unfortunately, some of my plans are immature so I can’t get into them right now but I do want to be part of creating some of the solutions to make the problems from the pandemic,” he said.

Ayre said COVID-19 has given Antigua & Barbuda and opportunity to diversify the economy.

“I think on the tourism side the low-end tourism is not going to come back all that quickly and this is an opportunity to reset Antigua with no risk because the risk is upon us already by the pandemic.”

Prime Minister Gaston Browne says he accepts the recommendation to diversify not only tourism but other sectors.

“And that is something our government is actively pursuing.”

<< Back to Announcements

News & Views

Announcements
<< Back to Articles by Calvin

To boost brand value, choose branded content, not internet ads

Calvin Ayre talks about building brand value through quality, branded content instead of online advertising. Bodog and its associated brands, BodogFight, BodogMusic, Calvin Ayre WildCard Poker are testaments to the effectiveness of branded content. This article was originally published on CalvinAyre.com on December 11, 2010.

According to a new survey conducted by Adweek Media and Harris Interactive, almost two-thirds (63%) of Americans claim to ignore internet advertising. In terms of the type of internet ads that garner the most scorn (and the least amount of eyeballs), banner ads were routinely ignored by 43% of responders, while 20% said they pay the least amount of attention to search engine advertising.

Those figures look even worse when compared with other forms of media advertising, such as television ads (ignored by 14%), radio (7%) and newspapers (6%). The 9% who claim that they don’t ignore any of these forms of advertising presumably (a) have way too much free time on their hands, or (b) have their eyelids forcibly held open like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.

The data in this survey highlights the folly of any company attempting to build brand value predominantly via online advertising. Seriously, the only people getting rich off this arrangement are the companies who get paid to host the ads. Not for nothing do people say ‘content is king’. The branded content I’ve created over the years for the Bodog Brand and its associated entertainment properties – BodogFight, BodogMusic, Calvin Ayre WildCard Poker — not only made a significantly greater impression on viewers than a plain old banner or pop-up ad, it continues to resonate years after its initial release, and will continue to do so for however long digital media exists.

Quality editorial content is another high-value method of building your brand. My appearances on VH1’s Fabulous Life and MTV Cribs got loads of play upon their initial release, and continue to get the brand message across every time someone bangs my name into a search engine. Of course, it helps that the Bodog Brand’s message is universal, eternal and not subject to the whims of marketing gurus.

On that note, be sure to catch my upcoming appearance in the January issue of Playboy magazine, (available late December 2010 — just ahead of the NFL playoffs). Score!

 

<< Back to Articles by Calvin

News & Views

Announcements
<< Back to Articles by Calvin

The Bombay Manifesto – Redux

Calvin Ayre looks back at his 1997 Bombay Manifesto, where he talks about the foundational principles that lead the Bodog Group of Companies to success. This article was originally published on CalvinAyre.com on November 17, 2009.

During an email conversation a couple of weeks ago one of our senior staff members had asked me if I had a copy of “The Bombay Manifesto” kicking around. It took some serious digging on my part but I did eventually find it. Anyway, I thought it might be kind of fun to share that document with you now, on my blog. Keep in mind that this article was written back in a time when the Internet was still young, the World Wide Web was still very new…and I had recently switched from Tanqueray to Bombay Sapphire gin.

But I digress.

I started what became the Bodog Group of Companies in the early 1990s. At this time the world was just feeling its way through the thorny issue of what a website really is. Hyperlinks were a fringe concept restricted to a few abstract thinkers and sci-fi writers. I, however, was convinced that the Internet and more specifically the Web in the case of this article would be significant forces in a global societal change that was already under way. The Bodog Group was no exception.

We were so much ahead of the curve that we had no online references to go by. Everything we did we had to invent from scratch using real world examples. At this time the technical guys were making all the decisions, but I thought this was backwards. I remember thinking that the end users would be average Joes, so it was really they that should be driving the design of the user interfaces, not highly skilled, and in many cases, highly intelligent technology professionals.

I did not really qualify for the “average Joe” title, but I did have a background that I thought would make me more qualified to design user interfaces than many others in the industry. While I was going to University, instead of getting a summer job I bought an old 5-ton truck with an insulated box and a refrigeration unit. I fixed this truck up, took it over to the local fruit orchards, loaded it full of whatever was in season and headed out on a 20-hour drive to the prairies to sell fruit on the side of the road in small towns. This was my first business.

In the countless hours I spent selling fruit for a number of summers while going to university, I got an opportunity to really get inside the consumers head by selling products as basic as peaches and cherries. The reality is that all purchase decisions are basically handled the same. These same lessons, ingrained in my brain so many years ago, were pulled back out in designing our websites. I believe that the basic principles of design that we pioneered are a big reason for the success of the BoDog.com group today. Our websites are designed from start to finish with the end user experience in mind, and we have easy, and prompted (we ask for it), feedback systems in place to let the end users have direct input into the evolution of our web site.

This process is also driven by a philosophy that every person in our organization, and every point of contact (web, etc), are all inextricably part of the customer service we offer. By the end of the 1990’s we had a very good website design and were responsible for many of the innovations that are considered mainstays for any company in our industry. While sitting in my office one evening in Costa Rica I got to thinking about all we had learned over the years. I thought I would codify some of this knowledge to use as a training tool for our team.

Since I was sipping on an ice cold Bombay Gin Martini at the time, the document was somewhat imperially titled “The Bombay Manifesto”. This email was then forwarded to the entire company at the time. I got on with my affairs and forgot entirely about even doing this until talking to some of the developers at our spring Bodog bonus party and one of them mentioned The Bombay Manifesto. I got a bit of a laugh out of this since I clearly remember writing it. I asked if anyone had a copy of it and sure enough they all said they still did and still referred to it once in awhile.

The next day I got it forwarded to me in its original form with the date and time still attached. Though our thinking has certainly evolved since I did this up but here’s a copy of the original “Bombay Manifesto” as it appeared on our website, over 4 years after I originally wrote it. It’s in its original form, with all of the spelling and grammar mistakes included.

Here’s a copy of the original “Bombay Manifesto” as it appeared on our website, over 4 years after I originally wrote it.

The Bombay Manifesto

Saturday, December 23, 1997 7:08 PM

I am sitting here in the back of the call center, admiring how well things are running these days compared to the past… quietly sipping on an ice-cold Bombay martini (I cleaned out the one store that carries my favorite brand of gin a few days ago) and started thinking of our websites. I have been dumping a lot of advice over the last little bit due to changes in webdev and customer service and recently have been thinking of putting some basic principles down that are working well for us that everyone can take advantage of. Anyways…here is my opinion on why our website is so good in general principles (note this is customized for our industry and not in order cause I am too lazy now that I have most of my first drink polished off):

  1. End user psychological profiling drives everything. We need to be in their heads so we can simultaneously give them what they want while getting them to do what we want.
  2. Speed is always important.
  3. The less clicks the better…any way you can remove steps – do it. Lowest possible barrier to entry always.
  4. Never let the users be more than one click away from customer service. We have a customer service email link on every page in the same spot.
  5. Use graphics to excite the players to get them to do things we want, but once they start doing what we want… keep the process the definitive utilitarian maximization…clean and fast. When you do use graphics…use the right amount (see 2. above!).
  6. Do not make anyone think if you can design it so they do not have to…keep it simple.
  7. Outsource the management of any content you can since this is not our core business. Our embedded research links gives us the best info available to our players at almost no management cost to us.
  8. Use pop-ups properly…they can be a huge advantage for sophisticated users or a huge pain in the ass if not done properly. Avoid multiple replication of the same pages in different windows and make sure the pop-ups are named properly so users can manage them.
  9. Make sure the repeat users do not have to suffer through something just cause the newbies will like it.
  10. Do not collect useless information…just to “let” someone do business with us. Again…lowest possible barrier to entry.
  11. Put the “meat” of the site out front…let them drill for the insignificant stuff.
  12. No dead-ends…if there’s nothing there, don’t let them in.
  13. If you have a link on the site…make sure it works.
  14. If you change the site…make sure the site copy (the information) is still accurate.
  15. The first level of customer service is the web site (actually being able to easily and simply use the product is the ultimate customer service) itself… the users will only call in because the system or site design is not good enough. Improve the site using customer “advice”.

I gotta go refill my glass, so anyone else that can think of anything I didn’t touch on can add to this and someone can actually do up a more formal web site manifesto from this that can be used as a training aid for the entire team. Anyway…gotta go fill my glass. 🙂

<< Back to Articles by Calvin

News & Views

Announcements
<< Back to Articles by Calvin

Educate kids about gambling and they won’t lose their marbles

Keeping kids ignorant is not the way to keep them safe. Calvin Ayre praises a YMCA-sponsored program in Ontario that educates 10 to 14-year old children about the dynamics of gambling, risks included. This article was originally published on CalvinAyre.com on September 1, 2010.

I was quite impressed when I came across the story of a YMCA-sponsored program in Ontario designed to explain the dynamics of gambling (including the element of risk) to 10-14 year old kids. Personally, I think gambling education is the equivalent of sex education. Both are aspects of real world, grown-up life that kids will eventually encounter, and the better educated they are on either subject, the better prepared they’ll be to cope with the risks involved.

Naturally, there will be those who seek to eliminate such programs, just as there are those who pull their kids out of school rather than letting little Janie or Johnny’s delicate ears hear the word ‘condom’. My own belief is that keeping kids ignorant is not the way to keep them safe. Studies have shown that abstinence-only education programs do little to cut down teen pregnancies or rates of STD transmission – if anything, it increases the likelihood of both, because kids aren’t taught to ‘wrap that rascal’ before they (inevitably) abstain from their abstinence.

Apart from the invaluable knowledge transfer, I appreciate the hysteria-free manner in which this program is being conducted, i.e. no religious-inspired harrangues using apocalyptic “gambling = certain death” memes. Perhaps responsible authorities are finally starting to realize that when you demonize a product or activity, people will only want it more. If you doubt me, check out this 2008 World Health Organization study which showed that 20.2% of American kids had tried marijuana before the age of 15, whereas only 7% of teens in Holland (where pot laws and attitudes are infinitely more liberal) could say the same.

It’s common knowledge that it was the early 1990’s when I launched the tech companies that eventually grew into the Bodog juggernaut, but in truth, my first foray into running a casino came when I was just 12 years old. It was an impressive operation, consisting entirely of a piece of plywood, a few nails and some elastic bands. During lunch and/or recess of my Grade Six year, I’d prop this homemade ‘marble board’ up against the school’s brick wall and loudly proclaim that I was open for business.

This may be hard for younger generations to grasp, but back in my day, marbles were a kind of kid currency. Your parents would buy you a bag of the things down at the local department store, and with that stake, you could then engage in the endless rounds of head-to-head games with other kids at school or in your neighborhood. These games were played ‘for keeps’, and so was mine.

My marble board worked thusly: a kid would take one of his own marbles, place it at the top of my board, and let ‘er rip. As the marble rolled down the board, it would rebound off the stretched elastic bands much like a pinball off a bumper, and would ultimately come to rest in one of several ‘pockets’ at the bottom. Each of these pockets would be inscribed with a certain predetermined ‘payout’, and depending on where your marble landed, you could walk away several marbles richer, or the marble might end up in my own bag.

I was a pretty solid maths student growing up, and I spent HOURS calculating the specific odds of these payouts. My goal was to ensure that the players won enough that they’d continue to play, but let’s face it, every casino has a built-in house edge. My ‘house’ might have lacked three other walls, a roof and a door, but it still had an ‘edge’. In fact, by the end of ‘marble season’ I was the undisputed marble monarch. You know that scene in Scarface where Tony sees the Goodyear blimp go by with “the world is yours” message on the side?

My cornering of the marble market gave me the wherewithal to purchase treats from other kids’ lunch boxes every single day. Seriously, if you replace the yéyo piled up on Tony Montana’s desk with the sugar-powder from packages of Pixy Stix, that’s pretty much how I remember my elementary school days. (Perhaps that’s how I ended up playing a character in the Scarface video game.) Of even greater importance to a kid on the cusp of puberty, I also discovered that you could trade one marble for one kiss from a pretty girl. Trust me, if anything impressed upon me the potential rewards of business success, this was it.

None of the kids who lost their marbles to my board were ever given any formal education about the myths and realities of gambling. If they had, they might have chosen to avoid my board entirely, choosing instead to risk their marbles in the one-on-one pure skill games which all the kids played in our schoolyard. But despite the teachers being fully aware of my little entrepreneurial exercise, they never said anything, and so the kids never learned anything. Had the teachers said something, I might have ended up punching a time clock at a marble factory, instead of launching one of the sexiest gaming entertainment brands on the planet. But if there’s a moral to this story, it’s that it’s never too early to start teaching kids that life is a game that’s played for all the marbles.

<< Back to Articles by Calvin