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David Hershman Interview, Founder of Virtual Vegas

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Introduction

This is an interview with David Hershman, the founder of Virtual Vegas. What's the story behind Virtual Vegas's tremendous success in the online gambling industry? According to David, Virtual Vegas started out as a CD-ROM company. They made a line of successful CD games (starting back in 1994), and sold them through major retail channels here in the States, like Compusa Software, etc. There was a German translation of two of their discs, are still be available in Germany.

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What is your background before Virtual Vegas?

Before Virtual Vegas (VV), I was the founder of a CD-ROM and web developer called Electromedia Productions. Before that, I had just graduated university, so I spent a good few years goofing off; climbing mountains in the Himalayas. We have 10 full-time people and a number of part-time people. That is plenty big enough for us. In third quarter '98, we averaged about 265,500 unique visitors per month, and generated over 150,000 clicks alone to online casino sites. Our goal is to top 1 million unique visitors per month by next summer. We're on target for that.

Which factors do you think are most crucial to succeed in this business?

I think, more than ever, that a strong brand name and consumer goodwill is going to be a key differentiating factor. And of course, lots and lots of marketing.

How do you turn a profit?

Good question. It actually took us almost 2 years to turn a profit in this business, since we couldn't take bets on our site (being in the US). We only profit from advertising. It took us a while to reach the critical mass and to prove to our sponsors that our site was a great deal. Our primary revenue is from advertising and from booking travel reservations to Las Vegas on our site.

"I absolutely believe it will be legalized and regulated." I absolutely believe it will be legalized and regulated. However, I see a few years more of this "gray area" where it will be highly fought about. Eventually the US will come around. In our opinion, the longer there is this gray area, the better it is for the existing players in the business, who are mostly smaller, entrepreneurial companies like CasinoWire and Virtual Vegas. Once it is legal everywhere, then Yahoo, America Online, and Microsoft will be very tough competitors indeed. Not to mention Mirage Resorts, Harrah's, and those guys.

If online gambling is not legalized, what do you think that the future holds for the online gambling industry?

Even without gambling legal in the US, it is clearly going to be legal in places throughout the world. There is a big world out there, with lots of people who love to place wagers.

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