Today we bring you a truly exclusive interview with a veteran/master of the iGaming industry! Dave Sawyer has a 16 year old background in the online gambling industry, including 3 years at Ladbrokes International as head of the IT Department. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it!?!
Without any further side details, we give you the interview with Dave Sawyer.
GAV: Dave, we would like to thank you for the opportunity to interview such a highly appreciated professional of the industry. Could you fill out the short form below so our readers can imagine your profile?
Name: Dave Sawyer
Living in: Trowbridge
Favorite Food: Italian
Profession/Job title: Company Director
GAV: Hello Dave, first of all tell us and our readers a little bit about yourself. How did your career start in the online gambling industry? What was the key idea of developing this great online gambling casino guide/community ?
DS: My career in the iGaming Industry started way back at the beginning of October 2000, when I started work for Ladbrokes out in Gibraltar. The week of my start date with Ladbrokes also coincided with the launch of their Online Casino product. Back then the Ladbrokes International Offices were responsible for their telephone betting call centre, online sports book, online casino and then hosted other iGaming products such as Poker, Games etc over the forthcoming years.
During the 2001 Budget, UK betting shop tax duty was scrapped in a deal with the major UK bookmakers who had facilities offshore. Hence as part of the deal we went from a staff of over 200 in Gibraltar to less than 20, once the Call Centre and support staff were relocated to the UK. As I was part of the IT Team, I was kept on, as the casino and subsequently online poker sites were still to be hosted on the Rock.
Soon afterwards both my Managing Director (Ed Ware now CEO of 32Red) at Ladbrokes and the IT Controller (Graham Campbell – Founding Director of 32Red) left. I was then subsequently appointed the IT Services Manager for the Ladbrokes Gibraltar IT Department. It was Graham’s idea for me to enter the affiliate sector in 2003, as at the time he and Ed along with a few others had set up 32Red.com in April 2002. I had been running a pretty active political forum, which was receiving good exposure in the search engines, in particular Google. So eventually after much persuasion from Graham I bit the bullet and in August 2004 I registered the domain name OnlineCasinoReviewer.com. It took about 9 months before the site started to generate revenue or receive exposure in Google search – this was during the time when new sites would be placed in the dreaded ‘Sandbox’. But by June 2005, I decided to take the plunge and work on the site full time, handing in my resignation in June 2005. Leaving Ladbrokes at the end of August 2005, after serving a 3 month notice period and after working for them for nearly 5 years.
As a player as well as an affiliate, I offer our visitors the information that I as player need, to make an informed decision as to where to play at online. Having had nearly 5 years experience working for an iGaming Operator in the form of Ladbrokes, I am also able to offer my own views, opinions and advice from my own unique perspective. Online Casino Reviewer is not a directory, meaning it does not list every single site available to play at online. Indeed, currently there are only 29 recommended casinos on the site. With each one I have personally played at and experienced.
In short, OCR is a resource for players written by players.
GAV: Since there are thousands and thousands of websites in your niche out there, where do you think Onlinecasinoreviewer.com stands now?
DS: Unlike the majority of ‘affiliate’ sites targeting the online casino space, OCR as mentioned above is a resource for players, written by players. Instead of the general reviews of casinos and games found on the majority of sites, which sugar coat everything, the real pitfalls of any of the properties featured on OCR are spelled out. This in addition to our helpful guides such as on Reverse Withdrawals, Casino Bonuses, Fast Paying Casinos to name but three articles, allow players to make an informed choice before opening an account at online casino.
GAV: How do you see the online casino market/industry at this moment?
DS: This industry never ceases to amaze me and is still growing at a fast pace. The operators working in this space are some of the most innovative that you can find online. The potential for growth is still very real and this has seen an influx of ‘Super Affiliates’ enter the space and compete for a slice of the revenue available.
GAV: How did you start and most of all what bumps did you have to overcome at the beginning?
DS: As stated above, I was working at Ladbrokes in Gibraltar when I launched OCR. Thus had the luxury of a regular salary coming in before I started to earn revenue from the site. The main issue at the time was dealing with the dreaded ‘Google Sandbox’.
GAV: We have analyzed Onlinecasinoreviewer.com and found some great quality content. Are you writing it by yourself or do you have a team of people writing for you? How many reviews are there on your website? How about the news and the software categories, tell us a bit more about it?
DS: The vast majority of the content is written by myself. However, I have outsourced some of the slot game reviews to players who I know through my participation on the Casinomeister Forum.
GAV: How do you manage to keep the content fresh and relevant on your website, when a lot of fluffy and nonsense appear on the Internet on a daily basis?
DS: The key is to provide information that you as a player would want to read. Sugar coated reviews do not hold the visitors interest and as such visitors are more inclined to hit the back button on their browser.
GAV: Another thing that we like is your YouTube Channel, please be so kind and tell us more about it!
DS: When I redesigned OCR at the beginning of 2016, I realized video content is becoming more and more important. Hence our YouTube Channel was born. The purpose of the channel is to complement the site and also act as an independent resource in it’s own right. As well as videos of slot games in play, I also provide reviews of the casinos and cover various topics which I feel are important for players. Such as the dreaded ‘Reverse Withdrawals’ which many online casinos employ. After watching our Reverse Withdrawal Video, you will realize I am not a fan! In addition I also provide videos relating to my experiences as a webmaster, a fairly popular set of videos was when I detailed what happened to OCR after I implemented SSL on the site and the brief drop in rankings in google that occurred as a result.
GAV: We are pretty sure that you receive messages from Affiliate Managers on a daily basis showcasing their best products. You of course select them by the brands they work with; but what are your thoughts on how a real Affiliate Manager-Affiliate relationship should be built?
DS: The good relationships in my view are those which leave you to get on with your day to day job running your sites, rather than being badgered and pestered for what seems like every five minutes. I am lucky to have built up a good relationship with all the affiliate managers representing the online casinos we work with.
GAV: How do you see the future of the online casino/gambling industry? For instance, will it become a truly global phenomenon?
DS: I believe it already is. Obviously there are barriers such as individual countries regulation. There are also areas such as Asia and South America which has vast potential. The key is resolving issues with payment processors, so players in those territories are able to fund and withdraw from their accounts without any big issues.
GAV: Tell us one change that you want to see in the online casino affiliate ecosystem?!
DS: More transparency. Although how that is achieved is the big issue. As affiliates we are blind with regards the stats generated by the players we refer. Ideally it would be good to have an independent body that can go in and audit the affiliate programs. As it stands there are only a couple of programs I can trust 100% and one of them was set up by a very good friend of mine, with the CEO being my former MD ( 32Red ). I hate to even begin to think how much has been ‘shaved’ off our earnings over the past 13 years.
GAV: Do you have any advise you would like to offer and share with the newbies who are looking to venture into this great industry!?
DS: This is not a get rich quick scheme. Particularly so now, with many venture capitalists joining the affiliate space. If you provide good content and are passionate about playing at casinos online, you should have a chance of making a success of your site. You also need to see what players want. Join a players forum such as Casinomeister and also if you can, attend one of the many affiliate conferences which are held throughout the year. Networking with your peers is crucial as you can then build great relationships with other webmasters. In turn helping each other out. Whether it be advise, or exchanging links.
GAV: Do you attend any iGaming/online casino conferences? If so, which one is your favorite and what is your most fun experience?
DS: My favourite of all time used to be the Casino Affiliate Convention held in Amsterdam. I got engaged to my wife during the 2006 conference and I also spoke on the end of session Beer Forum Panel in 2007. Plus the small memory of escaping the Ash Cloud affected conference of 2011. That was fun. Getting a train with Alex Pratt of iGaming Business, from Amsterdam to Dunkirk. Then the ferry back to Dover courtesy of Wael – An affiliate manager from the casino Box24.
I’ve also spoken at LAC back in 2011, where I was on panel with Michael Corfman from CasinoCity and JTodd of the APCW. I would consider going to a Vegas conference, but I am worried I would literally lose my shirt! So as of yet I still am to make the trip there.
GAV: How did you see this year’s edition of ICE compared to previous years? Did you attend LAC (London Affiliate Conference) as well?
DS: I only attended the ICE and also the annual Casinomeister Meet. I have produced a couple of videos covering both. 2 nights in London is enough for me. The ICE just continues to get bigger every year. Back in 2006 which was the first ICE I attended, iGaming was only afforded a small area of space at Earls Court. Now the stands for iGaming rival the space afforded to their land based cousin.
GAV: What do you think the chances are for Eastern Europe to become a potential gaming hotspot in the future? Where do you think the region must improve upon?
DS: Again, I believe this is another lucrative market and whilst in the past there have been issues with fraudulent player activity, it does seem to be an area for potential growth.
GAV: Where would you like to travel in Eastern Europe?
DS: Funnily enough I have always wanted to go to Russia. But, I won’t be going there for the World Cup in 2018!
GAV: Where you wouldn’t want to travel in Eastern Europe?
DS: I like travelling, so I’m quite adventurous. There is honestly no where I wouldn’t go if provided the opportunity.
GAV: How about a favorite celebrity, do you have one?
DS: To be honest, no I don’t.
GAV: Do you have a favorite quoute?
DS: It is what it is.
GAV: Tell us your opinion about the Gambling Affiliate Voice?
DS: A good resource for webmasters in the industry. Well worth bookmarking.
If you would like to suggest subjects for future interviews, be sure to send your suggestions to: [email protected] .
Ad Fraud and Affiliate Marketing Strategies: How Online Gaming Companies Can Transform Their ROI
By: Richard Metcalf, Global VP, Sports Betting & Online Gaming, TrafficGuard
Betting companies can adopt cutting-edge technology and offer the very best odds, but amplifying your brand is still difficult in a saturated industry. As a result of relaxing regulations, international players can break into an increasing number of new markets but reaching local target audiences can be a challenge. For these businesses, affiliate marketing is a vital channel in driving new user acquisition and some of the largest sportsbooks like Paddy Power and DraftKings are among those utilising the strategy.
With competition fierce, businesses are in a constant battle to keep costs low. Cost-per-thousand (CPT) payment models for traditional TV advertisements are progress towards paying for performance, but vendors still cannot guarantee that exposure will translate to depositing customers. Affiliate marketing provides a cost-efficient, low-risk alternative because businesses pay for conversions only.
But with money to be made, affiliate advertising fraud is rife and affiliate partners are likely delivering invalid engagement. If betting companies are looking to expand their user base and market amongst big players, they must improve their visibility over affiliate partners’ traffic.
Tracking Affiliate Activity
From smaller players to large conglomerates, there’s an exciting opportunity for betting companies to establish their presence across global markets. In the US especially, rapid legalisation across multiple states has turned betting into a million-dollar industry and created a profitable opportunity for overseas operators to move into the new market.
However, marketing globally can be expensive and driving brand awareness in a new location is often time-consuming and resource-heavy. With affiliate marketing, betting companies can create a network of partners from across the globe and easily access international audiences. This strategy is also much more efficient and expansive than physical marketing methods as it removes the difficulties that are tied to building a target audience from scratch.
Although affiliate marketing is a valuable marketing tool for increasing brand awareness and authenticity, affiliate management platforms aren’t prioritising fraud. The measures they put in place themselves are often basic and easy to get around and fraudsters can easily fly under the radar by taking advantage of the lack of protection. The nature of affiliate marketing means there is a disconnect between the promotion, analytics and payment, preventing companies from getting a holistic view of the fraud impacting them in addition to paying out for valueless traffic.
Affiliate fraud in the betting industry includes any deceitful action taken by a third party to exploit marketing techniques. This can include click fraud, where fake clicks are generated on ads to earn commission payments; or cookie stuffing, where fake cookies are placed on computers to hijack affiliate sales. Malicious affiliate ad programs do this so they can earn money from false clicks or sales and target high-investment marketing campaigns.
Research by Forrester revealed that 81% of advertisers include affiliate marketing as part of their marketing strategy. The growth of the market, paired with the increase in competition, is why many are turning to affiliate marketing. However, by being cost-effective through performance-based pay, there is an increased attraction from fraudsters. Sports betting companies are not well-equipped to address the problems they face with ad fraud.
Statista predicts affiliate marketing spending in the US alone will reach $8.2 billion by the end of 2022. With the vast amount of money involved, sports betting companies are a target for fraudsters.
Getting Instant Access
In order to prevent fraudulent traffic, betting companies must increase the visibility they have over affiliates. By keeping track of partners’ activity, including reviewing their demographics, reputation and quality of traffic, they can increase the quality of their affiliate partners.
Betting companies can do this using third-party technology that can indicate that affiliate scams are taking place in real-time to deliver the most reliable fraud protection. Intelligent software that uses behaviour analysis, such as machine learning, can track the volume of data required to deliver an accurate, instant analysis of which traffic is valid, invalid and fraudulent. Machine learning can identify granular details such as an unusually high number of clicks on an ad, or a high number of sales from a single IP address to confidently assess and deal with invalid traffic so the betting company doesn’t have to pay out.
With this data, operators gain the confidence to cross reference the engagement affiliates charge them for, prevent any partners from trying to outmanoeuvre them and safeguard their business against malicious activity. With more protection over advertising campaigns and a larger proportion of clicks coming from conversion-ready leads, companies can build cleaner audience groups from high-value affiliate partners.
Better Visibility, Better ROI
Reaching a market size of $231 billion in 2022, the sports betting industry is becoming increasingly attractive to international operators and fraudsters alike. If you’re running an affiliate marketing program, there’s a high chance you’re paying out for partners’ invalid traffic.
Only using the data your affiliate program partners declare means you’re at risk of being misled. Affiliate programs need to be monitored to avoid scams and program fraud. By understanding which affiliate partners are directing invalid traffic to their websites and charging a premium price for it, sportsbooks can optimise their pay-outs and exceed competitors’ efforts.
Vita Media Group wins Casino Affiliate of the Year Award at the EGR Operator Awards 2022
Vita Media Group, a Danish iGaming company, won the Casino Affiliate of the year award at the 2022 edition of the EGR Operator Awards held in London.
The Casino Affiliate of the Year Award is the first major award that Vita Media Group has won.
Vita Media Group’s CEO Jimmi Meilstrup believes this award comes as an appreciation from the iGaming world to all the employees in the company who are delivering extraordinary results every day.
“On behalf of everyone in our company, I am deeply grateful for this award which is the first large-scale award that we have won as a company. From day 1, we promised the iGaming world we are going to build this company on the principles of loyalty and trust. Through hard work, a lot of research, and indeed a great amount of quality traffic generated and delivered, we have excelled in casino affiliation. To everyone who chose Vita Media Group as a partner, thank you, and be sure to expect even better results from us in the future” commented Jimmi Meilstrup.
During the award night held in London on October 27 th , 2022, Vita Media Group was shortlisted 4 times in different categories:
• Affiliate of the year (Headline category)
• Casino Affiliate of the year
• In-house product for the in-house developed iGaming loyalty and reward platform Ekstrapoint.com
• Affiliate Program for the fast-growing developed affiliate program OMG Affiliates
In the Casino Affiliate of the year category, the judges from the EGR Operator Award were reviewing applications based on significant traffic, player numbers, ROI for operators, ability to build strong partner relationships, brand innovation and marketing, and player retention strategies.
The EGR Operator Awards, considered the Oscars in the iGaming industry, are organized by EGR Global, a leading publisher of online gaming B2B news, analyses, and research.
In 2021, Vita Media Group was shortlisted for the first time at the EGR Operator Awards in the Affiliate of the year category for affiliation services and the Rising Star category for its affiliate program OMG Affiliates.
Casino Guru establishes Awards Project to recognize greatest industry achievements
The Casino Guru Awards is the latest project by Casino Guru inspired by guiding the dialogue on consumer safety, and it reflects on the company’s ambition to acknowledge and reward achievement in the gambling industry, specifically in the sectors Casino Guru has contributed to –responsible gambling and consumer education. Casino Guru Awards is the result of this long-term commitment to making gambling safer, fairer, and more accountable for all participants.
Drawing on years of experience as the defining affiliate service in the industry, Casino Guru has transcended its core model to make global changes to the industry, including through its Global Self-Exclusion Initiative, Casino Guru Academy, Fair Gambling Codex, and other initiatives.
Now, the company is stepping up its responsibilities of a gambling industry custodian with the Casino Guru Awards which will celebrate the most committed operators in industry and the professionals who shape its future. The inaugural edition of the event is designed to raise awareness for the Awards and help the most deserving companies serve as good role models industrywide and reach a broader audience.
To participate, companies may nominate themselves through the end of November 2022. Casino Guru will also select worthwhile nominees that will be added to our list in a process that is fair, transparent, and above all else, distinguishes and focuses on merit. A shortlist will be announced in December2022with the official ceremony held online in February 2023. All decisions regarding the outcome of the event will be carried out by hand-picked judges.
Casino Guru Awards will feature judges from some of the biggest companies that are well-established names in the industry, including Kindred Group, Betsson, Gamban, Epic Risk Management, Gordon Moody, and more. The panel will include close to 15 external judges and five of Casino Guru’s own specialists.
Commenting on this project, Daniela Kianicová, PR & External relations Lead at Casino Guru, said: “Casino Guru Awards is a natural continuation of the efforts Casino Guru has put into making gambling safer, fairer, and more transparent for everyone. We worked on the Awards and the categories with the idea to emphasize on areas of the industry that are crucial to consumer safety and can always be improved on.
Our commitment to safer and responsible gambling is unflinching and I am honored to have the opportunity to work alongside the industry’s most distinct professionals to make gambling safer for players. It’s clear to me that Casino Guru Awards will be a benchmark for companies in the industry and a high accolade for any entity that wants to help write the gambling world of tomorrow.”
Casino Guru Awards will run in several categories which will focus on a mix of business achievements and consumer needs. The company feels strongly that achieving a level of excellence across these verticals will result in a better gambling industry for all. The categories include “The Fairest Bonus Policy,” which assesses the fairness of Bonus T&C’s and whether a bonus accounts for breaching applicable rules by accident, among other and equally important criteria.
“The Fairest General T&Cs” category will focus on how a casino’s T&Cs ensure that customers are protected and safeguarded and that they do not fall prey to predatory or hidden rules and details. In true Casino Guru spirit, “The Most Impactful Social Responsibility Initiative” will focus on those operators and companies who understand the importance of responsible gambling and problem gambling prevention.
There is a separate category that will independently assess “The Best Implementation of RG Tools” and “The Most Transparent Casino.” Another important category will be “The Most Effective Handling Complaints,” which is another area where the Casino Guru team feels improvements can be made, giving operators an incentive to operate in a clear and consumer-centric way. Casino Guru is experienced in this particular area having established the Casino Complaint Resolution Center which has thousands of closed cases already.
Last but not least, there is “The Voice of the People” which will be decided by the players, without any intervention. You may find out more about the Casino Guru Awards on the official page, including details about submitting a nomination, who the judges are, and what to expect in the months that lie ahead.
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