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Why Take Less? Romanello Bets Big on betclever Sportsbet App
Welsh poker phenom Roberto Romanello has been betting on football matches for as long as he can remember.
But he's never liked the bookmaker's stranglehold on the prices they offer to the working class.
As a former EPT & WPT Champion Romanello's not deterred by a challenge and so he finally decided to do something about it.
After putting poker and the tournament circuit on the back burner for a couple of years the Welsh Wizard has emerged with betclever, a sports betting odds comparison app designed to give you the best price every time.
So far, interest in the app has been overwhelming with a surge of downloads in the first week. I sat down with him to find out how he managed to do it.
How did you get into gambling?
"I have always been a rogue. I am the black sheep of the family, but in a good way. I am the wild one.
"As a kid I would meet up with my mates and go to the arcades to play the fruit machines. As time moved on I felt I couldn’t win enough on fruit machines.
"I loved football. I learned that you could bet on football in the bookies and I would ask my older brother Paul to put bets on for me.”
When did the idea for betclever first start?
"I have had the idea for as long as I can remember but I started to seriously think about creating an app two years ago.
"As my interest in football betting developed I would spend ages in the bookies, leafing through the Racing Post, trying to find the best prices. Then I would jump in my car and find the bookies with the best value.
"Over time I started to do well. But it always bothered me to see the £10-£20 football coupon punters having to accept the price of their local bookmaker. It felt wrong.
"So in a way I created betclever for those people. The lads who like to make a bet on a Saturday morning on their way to a game. Two years ago my business partner, Jamie, had the idea of the odds comparison angle. I was hooked straight away."
What happened then?
"We started entering different gambling related phrases into Google in an attempt to come up with a name. It was during this process that we fell in love with betclever, but someone had bought the .co.uk and .com domain names.
"So our first job was to negotiate the domain names for a fair price. To be fair, the phone hasn't stopped ringing with people wanting the betclever domain names ever since.
"Next we needed an app developer and it was important that he or she lived in Swansea. My business partners and I wanted to take a real hands-on approach to the project and so being close to home was important.
"Taking this line made the task more difficult. Then one day I walked into this office, and I saw this lad with trousers that only went as far as his shins. I knew he was the one.
"A week hasn't passed that one of the team hasn't been in the office with him over the past two years."
Why has it taken so long?
"It's a massive project. The developer said it would be finished in 4-6 months and I knew his forecast was way off. It didn't help matters that the lad didn't know the difference between the Scottish and the English Premier League.
"This is why I have been missing from the poker tournament scene for the past two years. You know me, I'm a grinder, but I had to spend a lot of time travelling around Europe meeting bookmakers at sports betting conventions."
How did that go?
"It was tough in the beginning if I am honest. It felt like I was going cap in hand. Sometimes I felt like they were looking down on us - these giants having to deal with the minnows from South Wales.
"Then over time we were able to take snapshots of the app and then a beta version that they could play with. As soon as they saw the app in action, the tables were turned.
"Suddenly, they were lining up to get involved in the project. It was a great feeling."
Why did they love it so much?
"What used to take me 30-60 minutes leafing through the Racing Post now takes between 2-5 seconds on the betclever app. You choose your bet, and the app will find you the best UK price available within seconds.
“The thing looks beautiful; it’s so crisp and fast. It’s also free to download. We will never charge betclever users a single penny for using our app.”
So how do you make a profit?
"We direct traffic to the bookmakers and they give us a cut. It's an affiliate relationship. The more traffic we send their way, the more money we make.
"What we are essentially doing is making the bookmakers work hard to provide the punters with more value. Your average £10-£20 football coupon player can save hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds using betclever."
What bookmakers do you have on board?
"We were looking for the Top 10 UK bookmakers. Once the bookies were able to use the app we were inundated with offers. We could have earned more money by going with some lesser known brands, but we knew trust was an important value for our customers.
"In the end, we went with the biggest names because of the trust factor and we are confident we will get the best price every time. So far we have deals with Betfair, Bet365, BetVictor, Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, SkyBet and Sportingbet."
What problem are you solving for your customer?
"We are maximizing punters' profits every single time. One team may be priced at 4/1 and you have taken 7/2; another is 5/1 and you have taken 4/1; then 3/1 and you have taken 2/1.
These mistakes cost hundreds or thousands in lost money. The bookies have been getting away with it for years. You go into the local bookmaker there is barely anyone in them anymore.
"They are finding value online. You have to work harder online, though, and that's why this app is a game changer."
Who is your customer demographic?
"I thought it was good for the bread and butter punters. The £10-£20 punters, this is where my target is initially.
"Hundreds or thousands of people. The people who are VIPs who want to bet bigger it's a no-brainer for them also."
What will betclever customers say to future customers when recommending the app?
"It's a no-brainer. If you like to bet on the football, once you use that app once you do not go back to walking into a bookmaker and asking for a price.
"I have shown this app to a lot of sports bettors within the poker industry who think it's brilliant. Mike Sexton was blown away when I showed him. He said it was unbelievable."
What's next for Roberto Romanello?
"I have always wanted new challenges in my life. I get fed up so easily. I love poker and the way I have played the game; this has excited me.
"It has given me time away from poker. For a long time I was living in a suitcase. I started to think about my life. I am getting older; I am getting married next year.
"I was travelling so much and forgetting what's important to me. Catrin - she has been amazing. She has been unbelievable and supported everything I have done. I want to look forward to the future: marriage and starting a family.
"When I was younger I always wanted kids, but the poker took over. Doing a project from home and being around the people I love it's been exciting and I have enjoyed every bit of it.
"Partypoker approached me in Las Vegas to do work for them. I love poker and would love to win the Triple Crown. I thought I could dedicate a month in Vegas to represent party and I was proud to do that. Then I did well and they asked to extend it for another year including another stint in Vegas.
"I told them about the project and explained everything and they said they would work around me and my project. How nice is that? What other online poker company in the world would do that?
"It's so hard to get a poker deal. There is something different and fresh about this team. They were professional but relaxed - they were normal. You can have a laugh and banter with the team.
"I explained what I was doing and Tom Waters was like 'I am fine with that.' You can pick and choose a few things you can play. I was doing something I really love and these guys were telling me that I could still play poker when it suited me including WSOP which really sold it for me.
"Then what made it special is we have tabs on the bottom of the app, and we have a poker app exclusively for partypoker, and that's exciting. They are on board with my project and their in-house people are helping me on their part of the poker tab.
"It's been an incredible project. I have been blessed the way it's run out. It's like running hot for seven days in a major tournament."
What does success look like for the end of 2017 and in five years time?
"I would like to see thousands of people using the app and gaining value. Every day I want people sending us copies of winning bet slips showing us what they have won and leaving good reviews in the app store.
"Once the app goes viral as much as it can, it will look after itself. I am confident of that. It's about getting people using it. I think it will explode.
"I have invested a lot of money in this project. I am happy and don't regret anything. I am confident and excited. I told the team that came on board that I would put all the money up.
"If it doesn't work, they don't owe me a penny. If it works, they have a piece of a company. I am going to reinvest. I don't want to plod along. I want it to explode.
"We're not cashing our chips in. I want to take it as far as I think we can take it as a team. When I get to that point I will find someone else who can take it further, then I will sell it.
"I will always keep a piece of it but I want to listen to what investors have to say to take it to the next level. We are also looking to expand globally. Currently the app is available in the UK but we have already begun working on a Spanish version."
What promises do you want to make to customers?
"All I am doing is making sure they get the right price. They are placing no bets with me. The app will direct you to the right bookmaker.
"We will guarantee you will get the best price every single time. After all, why would you take less?"