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GamblingFiles’ Jon Bruford: “We’ll Talk to Anyone With a Story To Tell”

Jon confuses Logan Paul with Jake Paul – but who cares!

The Gambling Files

If you’re interested in all things gambling, surely you’ve come across the Gambling Files podcast. If not, check it out. There, Jon Bruford and Fintan Costello discuss the gambling industry, with guests that include business owners, board members, and others that all have a POV to share. Refreshingly, Jon and Fintan don’t take themselves too seriously; I love the podcast and I think you will too.

To get the latest episode, head over to their website or, if you’re on Spotify like me, you’ll find them here.

Jon is a busy man but after 10-15 messages or so he caved in and put some time aside to ask my questions about him and the podcast. Enjoy!

Let’s start with the podcast. What prompted you to start the Gambling Files, and what has been the response since your fist episode back in Sep, 2021?

Bruford. I had a podcast before this one, called The Bruford Files. I started that one up because I kept meeting people with amazing stories that were unrelated to the gambling industry, and I wanted to share them. I had on people with gold or platinum records, a world record holder for rowing the Atlantic, a gentleman who was working for the state regulator when the mob was in Vegas, it was amazing. I wound that one down when it started becoming harder to find people because you need a certain confidence and openness to talk about yourself like that.

Anyway, I’d had Fintan Costello on that podcast as he runs ultramarathons for fun. You won’t get him talking about it normally, he doesn’t like to mention it. But he came on and we talked ultras, luckily it’s a topic I know something about and we got on great. I did some work with him (which was largely a disaster on my part, but he’s quite brilliant) and when we wound that up, I had the idea for a different kind of podcast.

Now, Fintan is the kind of person that likes to prepare for things fully, to walk into a room knowing he knows the lay of the land. Me, not so much. He went out and listened to every industry podcast he could find. I didn’t listen to any. And I mean any podcasts of any kind – I listened to my first podcast this past December (2022), actually. I wanted to do things in my own authentic way, so that’s how I approached it.

The gap we identified was one of personality – there was nothing out there with people showing who they were, on either side. And frankly, that can get pretty boring. So we went the other way entirely, and while we do talk about business on there a lot, we are holding a real conversation. I have had people ask me if it’s scripted but surely nobody that’s actually listened can think we script that…

The response has been excellent, honestly. We warn people that are coming on to always listen to an episode or two beforehand so they’re not taken by surprise when they’re asked about Cobra Kai, their favorite cake, or whatever. And for whatever reason, our listeners and followers are largely senior management in the industry – I’d say it’s 75-80% board level, directors, managers, owners, partners. We don’t hold back, we can be wrong, but we are always speaking frankly. Why do they like it? I don’t know. Maybe they’re all big Cobra Kai fans.

You recently joined forces with +more Media. What does this partnership mean for the Gambling Files and what can we expect to hear in the future on the podcast?

Bruford. Well, it won’t be changing at all. They’re not asking for any editorial input, they’re not looking to make us more corporate – they recognized we do something unique and they thought they could help us find a wider audience. So we said, fuck yeah.

Also, I don’t know if you know their products but they’re genuinely excellent at what they do. A series of newsletters with a unique tone and great insight, basically – and they have personality. Whoever chooses their photos for the newsletters is also a genius, I love their work. I’ve worked photodesk and production on lots of magazines, and finding the right tone in images is a wonderful and very difficult thing to do.

Are you making any chancing in direction or topics covered on the podcast?

Bruford. Hell no. We don’t plan far in advance, we look at what’s going on and what we want to know more about and that’s where we look for the next guests. Who can we learn from? is our starting point.

You also run, where you write industry commentary and news. What plans do you have for the site in 2023?

I don’t anymore. We parted ways in December 2022 following a difference of opinion after 17 years. It’s actually a print and digital magazine, plus website. It was my baby for a long time but is now in the hands of the lovely Matt Broughton and he’s doing a great job.

If you want to know what the difference of opinion was, they wanted me to work for free and I didn’t want to.

What industry or country are you the most interested in covering on the podcast?

Bruford. Wherever interesting things are happening, frankly. I think over the next year North America will remain interesting, but South America could go really nuts. G3 are covering what’s happening in Brazil really well, so keeping an eye on that. India is also really interesting, the potential for legal online sports betting is so huge it could become the world’s number one market overnight. But of course, nothing is so binary. We are a long way away from that happening.

The thing about the US is, it’s essentially 50 different countries that agree on next to nothing. That’s what’s so interesting about it, and with sports betting and online casino, we are seeing the first few steps. I do believe though that in their approach to responsible gambling, they’re actually looking pretty good. They have people like Judge Cheryl Moss (we are big fans on the podcast) creating brand new pathways for people suffering harm, and it’s potentially world-changing.

Tell me about the Casino Awards. What’s the driving force behind that and what are some cool/interesting new products you’ve seen on the market – whether it’s gaming, betting, bingo, etc – in the last year?

Bruford. Sadly I had to leave them behind with the publishers of Casino International. I came up with the idea of The British Casino Awards several years ago, and it came together really well. It became something pretty special, and has now evolved into The European Casino Awards (which was always part of my plan, to be honest). But like I say, they kept it, so that’s that. Unlucky, Bruford.

So what are you doing now, if you’re not working on Casino International and the Casino Awards?

Bruford. That’s a great question, Trent. I’ve been working on a startup called The Gaming Boardroom, which is a one-stop knowledge shop for the industry, both online and land-based. It’s a multi-faceted, membership-based website which comprises peer networking, broader business knowledge, learning and development tools, newsletters, and live online events.

Peer networking is in online communities within the site – for example, if you register for our Responsible Gambling event, there will be a ring-fenced community for everyone that signs up to discuss, meet, exchange details et cetera. If a company signs up because the L&D is what appeals to their teams, they can have their own community. It’s quite customizable in this way.

By broader business knowledge I mean information from outside the gambling industry. Sure, we have that too, but it’s the oblique stuff that’s really interesting and how it can be applied to our industry.

The L&D tools are really interesting; it allows companies to come to us and say, we want to develop our teams, we want people to learn about, say, diversity and inclusion – we can help with that with a measurable path for their teams to learn and develop within their roles. This is priceless when it comes to retaining staff, for example.

The feedback on the newsletters has been wonderful. There is one daily, and one weekly at the moment. The daily one is an aggregation of most of the major gambling industry resources, with 20 stories from around the world and commentary from me on anything that seems interesting. The weekly one pulls an article from each of the site’s broader business knowledge sections for a share: Workplace, Intel, Governance, Horizon Scanning, Leaderboard, Risk Management, and TGB Insights.

The live online events are quite awesome, the RG one is early May, and we have a tobacco and cannabis one later in the month. I’m taking quite a granular view because the industry has so many specialisms, or areas where there is commonality with others, but with unique aspects. Take the cannabis one for example; we will look at what it means to be operating in an area where the drug is decriminalized, or legalized, and what that means in a heavily-licensed industry like ours for both employees and customers.

We are also doing live in-person events – my partners in the project are Kate Chambers, former MD of Clarion, and Greg Saint, former event director of ICE. They know their stuff, it’s been quite an education.

Aside from that, doing the podcast and some writing and bits and bobs to pay the rent.

Thinking about the US markets, what do you think is missing (if at all) in terms of content and products in the iGaming space in general?

Bruford. I don’t think anything is missing in those terms. The one thing that might help if it’s done properly would be an overarching federal framework so states have a minimum blueprint to work to, in the same way laws work across the European Union. That would make it easier for states to get started if they wanted to legalize different types of gambling and give them a baseline to work to. Of course, if they got it wrong it could just fuck everything up and there is way greater than a 50/50 chance of that. So maybe it’s best left alone.

I have a feeling BETR might do well. People always say to me that Logan Paul* (I think that’s his name; can you really trust someone whose name is backward though??) has lots of teenage followers who are not relevant to the gambling landscape – but I say A) they’re getting older every day and B) he gets free column space every damn time he opens his mouth so their marketing spend is likely to be considerably lower than others which makes their path to profit shorter. *Note from the editor: his name is Jake Paul – close enough!

I think microbetting could be huge, especially when you consider the granular data that comprises two of the biggest sports in North America: baseball and ‘football’. Yeah, I’m English, I can’t write that without the inverted commas.

Finally, if you could pick anyone, who would you have on the Gambling Files podcast and why?

Bruford. Honestly, I don’t know. We’ve had most of the people we have asked, not many people have said no. The top lady from Entain, Jette Nygaard-Andersen would be good, I think. But we’re not snobby, we’ll talk to anyone with a story to tell.

Manuel Martinez

Manuel Martinez

Manuel is an iGaming veteran who is interested in knowing all there is to know about the gambling industry. What? Why? How?