Early on in the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s Betfred-devoted meeting Wednesday, board member Philip Katsaros gazed out at co-founder Fred Done and his contingent of employees and said, “I can feel your desire to comply.”
This feeling, and perhaps the desire itself, took longer to develop than anticipated. For nearly two years, Betfred’s sportsbook at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Las Vegas’ Virgin Hotel (site of the old Hard Rock a few blocks off the Strip) sat vacant as it awaited licensing.
But on Thursday, the wait ended. After the gaming board unanimously voted to approve Betfred’s sportsbook license on Wednesday, the state’s gaming commission did the same the next morning. Now that all is said and done, Betfred is confident it will accept its first wager sometime before the Feb. 12 Super Bowl.
“I’m pleased that you’ll finally be getting licensed in the state of Nevada,” Commissioner Ogonna Brown said in voicing her support on Thursday.
“I’m lost for words with you. Thank you,” replied Done, who identified himself as “the Fred in Betfred.”
An admitted cut-and-paste job
Done is also the Fred in TradeFred, a financial services company that’s currently in hot legal water in Australia for overly aggressive sales tactics — or, as the Australian Securities & Investments Commission put it, “unconscionable conduct towards its clients.”
Done told the gaming board he was “in the process of selling that subsidiary,” adding “We messed up” in failing to disclose the item in its Nevada license application.
“It was an oversight,” he said. “It was cut-and-paste from the Pennsylvania application we made.”
That “cut-and-paste” admission seemed to slightly annoy the various board members and commissioners. But all in all, Done and Betfred CEO Joanne Whittaker came off as calm, cool, and collected when detailing Done’s prodigious business empire, which includes stakes in companies across a diverse economic spectrum.
When you have the extensive holdings of a 79-year-old billionaire, as Done is, some of these enterprises can encounter problems no matter how well they’re run. To this end, he patiently discussed the settlement of a lawsuit involving an insurance company in which he has a major stake. Whittaker also explained a $3.25 million fine levied in the UK against Betfred’s parent company, Petfre, which involved what the government considered improper safeguards against potential money laundering.
“It’s a difficult climate, but we accept the findings,” said Whittaker. “We had policies in place, but they weren’t effective and staff wasn’t properly trained. There were no criminal cases or money laundering.”
As for a report that a new Betfred bettor lost $70,000 within 10 hours of opening a sports wagering account, Whittaker said, “We’ve always had measures in place to prevent that behavior, but now we have a hard stop if a customer loses £15,000 pounds in a 365-day period.”
‘Family business’ now in 10 states
The story of Betfred’s origins, which Done shared at the gaming board meeting (viewed in full by the commission as well), is rather charming. Done and his brother, Peter, left school in England at the age of 15, with Fred subsequently becoming “the worst craftsman ever put on Earth.” Having worked for his father’s bookmaking operation as a boy, he soon took up sports betting as more than just a hobby because, he said, “I needed a job.”
“Without being too modest, I was good.”
So good, in fact that the Done brothers were able to launch their own legal sportsbook after Fred hit big on a bet at odds of 8/1 on England to win the 1966 World Cup. With more than a thousand locations now in operation around the globe, Betfred has grown into one of the world’s largest sports betting operations.
“Your genesis story is just beautiful,” Brown gushed in her closing remarks. “I love that you bet on the World Cup and put it all in. Look at you now. It feels like a real family business and your accomplishments are something you should be proud of.”
Nevada is the 10th state in which Betfred is licensed to accept wagers, following Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. While Betfred has no concrete plans to open additional Silver State locations, Betfred USA’s chief operating officer, Bryan Bennett, told Sports Handle that the operator is “interested in a larger presence in Nevada.”