Simon Noble – CEO of the First Online Sportsbook

Simon Noble is long time gambling executive who co-founded the internet’s first online sportsbook, www.intertops.com. He’s best known for his marketing genius which includes an uncanny ability to attract free press from major media sources. After leaving Intertops in 2002, Noble served as the CEO of World Wide Tele-Sports (WWTS). His most recent gig was working as the marketing director for Pinnacle Sports where he authored the popular weekly internet column “The Pinnacle Pulse” which covered vast amounts of football betting strategy. In this article we’ll cover Simon Noble’s remarkable story; an 18-year kid working part time as a sports ticket writer in 1989, to the biggest name in sports betting less than a decade later.

Simon Noble Early Years

Simon Noble was a university student studying banking and internal finance at Manchester University when in 1989 he took a part-time job in the Intertops London office as a sports ticket writer. 18-years old at the time, the lure of sports betting would see him delay his studies and take a full time job, eventually investing in the company becoming a shareholder. In 1992 he followed the Intertops to Austria and within two years was promoted to operations manager.

Intertops.com is Born – Noble as CEO

As the operations manager with Intertops, Simon Noble’s goal was to have Intertops become the first online sportsbook. The development of their software started in late 1994, and history was made on 17 January 1996 when a Finish gambler named of Jukka Honkavaara made the first internet wager in sports betting history at intertops.com. Simon Noble was named CEO by Intertops owner, Detlef Train around this time and his unique marketing approach helped take the company to the top. By January 2002 Intertops had 500,000 player accounts spanning 180 countries and had already processed 20 million sports wagers.

Unique Market Approach

Simon Noble was working the internet sector before this communication network was known to most the general public. Most people didn’t own computers and AOL and MSN dial-up service was yet to be invented. Even so, he was a man built for the internet, using a marketing tactic SEOs now refer to as link bait before such a term was invented. How this basically worked: Intertops, and later WWTS and Pinnacle Sports (which he later worked for) would create betting lines and content that was interesting to the general public, and get major media to cover it. Let’s take a look at some of his unique marketing schemes.

Political Wagering

In the year 2000, the idea of betting on a presidential election was unheard of. Intertops.com broke the mold by offering odds on who AL Gore would select as his running mate. This worked out massively to their advantage; soon there were dozens of articles on major media sites claiming John Kerry was the most likely running mate, based on odds set by Intertops.com. This led to many political sites asking Intertops for interviews and quotes to which Simon Noble gladly obliged. Before long Intertops was getting free marketing at the likes of CNN and major American newspapers which included their URL and mention of Simon Noble – Intertops CEO.

Entertainment Wagering

A huge hit for Intertops was entertainment wagering. For example, they offered odds in 2000 on which castaway would win the original Survivor. This idea brought them a plethora of press over the years and Simon Noble later took the press with him to his new position at BetWWTS. He became known as a reality TV wiz of sorts; all the internet gossip sites wanted to know who he had as the favorite to win each show. Later major newspapers would cover spoilers as Intertops leaked which participant they were taking the most bets on.

Publicity Stunts

Simon Noble was also known to get outright silly. On 6 December 2001 he announced the launch of Intertops newest website Moolette.com. During scheduled times, this website would broadcast a field which had a giant 65-foot roulette wheel painted on it and four cow dealers. Bets were made via the parent site Intertops.com on which number chosen cows would plop on next. This wasn’t a short lived stunt either, it caught media attention including an article in Maxim magazine and was discussed on every major sports betting forum online. In addition to Moolette.com, another stunt came after an industry supplier agreed to pay the travel expenses for Intertops’ presenters to attend a conference. The Intertops staff rented a limo, toured England, and presented the sponsor with the $7,500 bill. These are just a couple examples of the length Simon Noble ran companies would go to gain attention and valuable press.

A Fixture on Hotmail.com and Yahoo!

It would take a book to explain all the innovative marketing that took place, but to state it simply: Simon Noble ran sportsbooks were regular fixtures on the Hotmail.com home page, and was regularly featured at yahoo.com. An example, in 2005 Simon Noble set odds for a prop bet on fuel prices, this was covered by the Wall Street Journal (see here) and also was covered on the Yahoo! Home page. Simon had an act for getting major media to help brand both himself and the companies he worked for, it was purely genius; link bait before such a term was known. Although we only provided a few examples here you can find hundreds of others by doing a Google search.

Simon Noble as CEO of WWTS

In early 2002, Simon Noble was heavily courted by the “godfather of sports betting”, Billy Scott. The two had started in offshore betting around the same time and while competitors they were friends. Scott had built his brand World Wide Tele-Sports into the largest American facing phone in shop in the business, and had followed a lot of Simon Noble’s ideas building the online division of WWTS in much the same manner Noble had built Intertops. After some hesitation, finally an offer was made he couldn’t refuse and on 24 April 2002 Simon Noble publicly announced his intent to step down as the CEO of Intertops in order to pursue other interests. His resignation went into effect 1 June 2002, and two weeks later he was named WWTS CEO.

During his early months as WWTS CEO, Simon Noble was instrumental in a reverse takeover of the publicly traded company Betcorp (then called Consolidated Gaming Corp). Betcorp was not much more than an empty shell at the time of the reverse takeover. This takeover gave them an immediate public stock listing on the Australian Stock Exchange in March 2003.

Unfortunately for Simon Noble, the first year running a now public company didn’t go so well. WWTS had decided to enter the Asian market aggressively and also attempted to attract sharp action away from BetCRIS (now Bookmaker.eu); neither moved worked and each proved costly. WWTS decided to back off the sharp action and began to focus mostly on action from casual U.S. bettors with a secondary focus on European players. Betcorp made a shocking move on 6 August 2004 replacing top management in move described as a “strategic decision”, this included Simon Noble, CEO, and Jessica Davis, Vice President. Betcorp was near bankrupt 27-months later and players might have been stiffed had Bodog not bailed them out.

Brief VP Roll at English Harbour

In December 2004 Simon Noble joined English Harbour. He was named Executive Vice President of Business Development. English Harbour was the flagship brand of Odds On Software. Other brands included Silver Dollar, Caribbean Gold, Super Slots, All Poker and Millionaire Casino. Noble’s time at English Harbour was short. In April 2005 he left English Harbour to join Pinnacle Sports.

Marketing Manager of Pinnacle Sports

Pinnacle Sports was a perfect fit for Simon Noble. He was the father of online sports betting and Pinnacle was (and still is) the king of sportsbooks. Noble was one of the most well-known names in the industry. He became the marketing director and the face of Pinnacle Sports. He came out with a weekly column called the “Pinnacle Pulse” where Noble gave his insight into the sports gambling industry.

In August 2005 Pinnacle announced that they would lower their juice on football point spreads even more on NFL games down to an unprecedented -104. Noble said at the time “While other companies have tried to replicate our success by offering a lower pricing model on certain days, we remain the only sportsbook that offers reduced juice wagering all day every day. We’ve earned an industry-leading reputation for offering the bettors the best value while taking all players and bets – we never deal dual lines, ban winners, or post lines only a few hours before games start and never will.”

In January 2007 Pinnacle decided to leave the U.S. market. It was estimated at the time U.S. players were 50-60% of the Pinnacle player pool. At the time Pinnacle pulled out of the U.S. market there was a large bust in New York of agents that were allegedly tied to Pinnacle; whether or not it was related was merely forum speculation. The last time Simon Noble was heard from as an employee of Pinnacle Sports was October 2009. Pinnacle is now much quieter no longer seeking media attention, and is also known as a low turnover sportsbook which includes considerable agreements not to compete in their employment contracts. While this is speculative, one might assume if Simon Noble is no longer with Pinnacle Sports we might see him resurface in 2012 or 2013 after his non-compete expires.

Simon Noble Legacy

Simon Noble started in the bookmaking business in 1989, age 18 at the time. It took him less than seven years to become the CEO of the internet’s first, and for many years most popular, online sportsbook. As CEO he also oversaw Intertops develop the first ever mobile gambling software in 2000. Noble is best known for his marketing genius and uncanny ability to attract free press via major US media sources. He’s served as the CEO of two of the largest players in the industry and then acted as the director of marketing for the world’s largest sports betting site www.pinnaclesports.com. If history is any indication of the future, bettors would be wise to consider any betting site Simon Noble puts his name to a serious choice. Not too many gambling executives can say this, but after a 22-year career in the industry Mr. Noble has never worked for a brand that stiffed a single player. In fact, he’s been known to insist all companies he works for are audited by KPMG to ensure all players’ funds are safe.

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