Dot-com firm moves bingo out of the hall

If you’ve ever wondered what an ex-lawyer does, look no further than Scott White, who abandoned a ten-year law practice to join forces with two old friends to launch one of the most successful online bingo sites in Canada, What began in a basement has flourished while most companies were experiencing the dot-com bomb.

Married and a father of three children, he calls Oakville, Ont., home to both family and business life. White attended Etobicoke Collegiate high school where he enjoyed playing both hockey and golf, and moved on to the University of Toronto where he studied political science and economics. White said the game of golf, his preferred sporting activity, helped prepare him for the business world.

“I learned a lot about risk reward in golf. I worked very hard at the game and became a fairly good player. The same sort of individual things you learn in golf carry over into business quite nicely. You learn about the amount of time that is required in your business activity.”

After graduating from U of T, he went on to study law at the University of Windsor. He practised for ten years and created a law firm circa 1990 called Bush Frankel White in Toronto. The firm was a corporate immigration practise that assisted companies in relocating their resources and people either into or outside of Canada. When White spoke of his time as a lawyer, he said the objective was never to actually practise.

“The plan was to really not become a lawyer but I really needed to understand what a business associate would ask of his lawyer while sitting at the negotiating table.” Unlike most articling lawyers, he didn’t go to a law firm but rather opted for a corporation, preferring the business environment. He said he sort of got distracted for 10 years, but doesn’t miss practising and doesn’t envision ever doing so again.

He credits his father, George White – who sits on the board of directors – as being the guiding spirit from an entrepreneurial standpoint. “My father was the most influential person in terms of my business development. He has guided me in all the right ways; he’s taught me to bounce back quickly and that’s something you face in business every week.” He called his family a very entrepreneurial clan and said he inherited the business itch from his father.

And so around 1995 two friends, Perry Malone, now the company’s CTO and Ted Colivas, director of operations approached White with the idea of an Internet bingo Web site. “We agreed that if they could develop the software then I would create the business side of it. It took a year or so to create the bingo game.” In December 1997, the company entered into its first licensing agreement. Initially, the software, developed in-house, was created for the not-for-profit space to help change how charities generated revenues. In May of the following year, dceg launched its first pay-for-play client. Looking back, White said he was skeptical that concept would even take off.

“It was launched on the Internet, really operating from one computer in Ted’s basement – and to our amazement, people came and played”.

He calls bingo the most socially acceptable form of wagering in the world, but stressed that the company strongly favours regulations in the gaming industry. The industry, he said has gone from virtually zero sites five years ago to more than1,500 today.

“[It’s] still very much is the wild west out there (and) we believe there are checks and balances that exist so that it can be done in a responsible way.”

With the business growing at a steady rate, White lamented only the fact that because of business obligations, he no longer has the time to play golf, but said he is very content with the steady progress of his company’s rise.