Boots on the ground: What it’s like being an affiliate in the US sports betting market
Mike Murphy, founder of BettingUSA.com, talks about the challenges and opportunities that await those getting in on the action in the US sports betting affiliate sector
The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May 2018 has unleashed a sea change in the regulated US sports betting market.
What was once illegal and the realm of shadowy offshore sportsbooks has now come into the mainstream with legal in-person and online sportsbooks slowly but surely funneling gamblers back onto regulated platforms headquartered in the United States.
Change can be uncomfortable, but it also provides opportunity. Many affiliates made a lot of money and got comfortable during the unregulated offshore days, but those days are dwindling and a new order is rising.
The question for sports betting affiliates is whether or not they will adapt to the changing environment and capitalize on the new opportunities before them. We suggest taking full advantage while the getting is good but acknowledge we will all face challenges moving forwards.
Let’s consider what we face and what we stand to gain.
Challenges Facing Affiliates in the Legal US Sports Betting Market
The greatest opportunities in life always come with challenges, and the newly-regulated sports betting market in the United States is no exception.
The good news is these challenges will sharpen and diversify your skills. Overcoming these challenges will make you a better, smarter and more well-rounded affiliate.
You will also find these challenges act as a sort of filter such that when you emerge on the other side, your competition will be reduced in number. The competitors who remain will be skilled affiliates like yourself, but there will be fewer of you competing for a piece of the action.
Higher Quality Competition
The regulated online gambling and sports betting market in the US has already attracted the attention of big players with deep pockets. The quality of websites that appear in search results is a night-and-day difference compared to just a few years ago when the only real opportunities to make money as a US-focused gambling affiliate were either questionably legal or outright illegal.
Legalization and regulation have resulted in major media companies finally entering the US market now that they can do so in a fully legal and transparent manner. These companies have big budgets, hire the best writers and churn out high quality websites in bulk.
Competing against these types of affiliates is challenging, and there are no indications things are going to get any easier. If you’re an independent affiliate with a website, you have your work cut out for you. The bigger companies can outspend you and likely have better connections.
That doesn’t mean there is no room left for independent affiliates like some of the doomsayers have taken to claiming of late. It just means you’ll need to be agile, pick your target markets carefully and cultivate a real relationship with your viewers.
New Licensing and Compliance Hurdles
One of the most challenging and frustrating hurdles we see in the US market today is the introduction of regulations that impact affiliates. States such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania require all affiliates to acquire a license in order to make money promoting licensed sites to players in those states.
The magnitude of this challenge remains to be seen as additional states pass legalization laws. New Jersey’s affiliate licensing process really isn’t all that difficult. Getting licensed in Pennsylvania has proven to be fairly complicated. Meanwhile, we have seen no indications affiliates need to be licensed in West Virginia.
The types of laws passed in the future will determine the true startup costs associated with licensing. Our best advice to smaller affiliates here is to target states in which the licensing hurdles are minimal or nonexistent and build out from there.
Additional compliance hurdles are likely to materialize at some point as well. We can look to recent developments in the UK online sports betting industry for a preview of what may come in the future.
Advertisers in the UK are subject to an increasingly complicated set of rules regarding how to promote gambling responsibly, for example. The US has not gotten to this point yet, but it is worth keeping in mind additional regulatory hurdles remain a distinct possibility.
A Fractured Market
Online sports betting and gambling are regulated at the state level, which means the rules vary from state to state. You may need an affiliate license in one state but not another. A particular betting site may be available in one state, but not in the next one over.
This means you’ll need to take a state-by-state approach to your affiliate business by promoting particular sites to visitors from particular states. Some operators have opened shop in multiple states, but you’ll need to stay on top of which sportsbooks are available where so you can direct your visitors to the proper websites.
The upside to this challenge is it too provides opportunity. As legal sports betting spreads across the US, people are going to have many questions regarding the law, where they can bet online legally, where to find licensed mobile betting apps and much more. Affiliates are well-suited to educate consumers and earn some money at the same time.
Now that we have the biggest challenges out of the way, we can move on to the fun stuff: the opportunities that await affiliates who are able to deal with the aforementioned obstacles. The United States presents some very big opportunities for those intrepid affiliates who dare tackle this market.
There is A Lot of Money to be Made
The US online sports betting market has enormous potential for simple reasons. The US has a large population, it has a pro-sports culture and the people have high levels of disposable income.
We also have a strong pro-gambling culture with hundreds of casinos spread across the US and widespread familiarity with sports betting even if it was limited (officially anyways) to Nevada for several decades.
Consider this: The American Gaming Association (AGA) has estimated that one quarter of the US population participated in a sports pool in 2017. The AGA has also estimated Americans already wager upwards of $150 billion per year on sports through illegal channels. That is a lot of pent up demand.
This isn’t just us talking up the industry – major industry players have been staking their claims in anticipation of widespread legalization. Caesars Entertainment, FOX Sports and even Buffalo Wild Wings have all made moves to position themselves for a piece of the pie.
Some affiliates have already made a fortune even though the industry is just now gearing up. We have seen multiple eight-figure sales of sports-oriented affiliate websites in recent times for monthly multiples that would have been unthinkable during the turbulent, uncertain offshore sports betting days.
Case in point: The Better Collective Group recently purchased 60% of the RotoGrinders network for $21 million up front, plus a plan to purchase the remaining 40% “at a valuation based upon an EBITDA multiple between 5x and 10x.”
We also saw Catena Media purchase BonusSeeker last March for $6.5 million with a potential additional payout of $9.5 million based on performance after two years. Mind you, this was before the Supreme Court decision. BonusSeeker was restricted to legal online casinos in New Jersey at the time, and still it sold for that much.
The financial potential for affiliates is almost overwhelming to consider, and yet the industry is still just getting started. Many more states have yet to pass legislation to legalize online sports betting and gambling.
Industry is Ripe for Innovation and New Ideas
This is an exciting time to be an affiliate with operators and traditional media companies alike exploring the possibilities of legal sports betting. We’ve seen the likes of PointsBet hit the market with innovative new ways to bet on games while other operators have greatly expanded their in-play wagering capabilities.
The United States, home to Silicon Valley, has a strong culture of innovation. Even though the European markets have had a lengthy head start when it comes to legal sports betting, nobody can innovate like motivated US companies.
Not only does this make it more exciting and interesting to be an affiliate, but it gives affiliates even more opportunities to show value by answering questions and sharing interesting updates with viewers.
It is Still Early in the Game
The US online gambling industry is still in its infancy. Yes, some of the bigger affiliate networks have already paid millions for well-established websites, but we haven’t even come close to reaching peak saturation.
Consider the acquisitions discussed above: BonusSeeker being purchased for $6.5 million up front with a final sale price of up to $9.5 million after two years; 60% of the RotoGrinders network being purchased for $21 million up front with a very real chance of the final deal being realized for $50 million or more a few years from now.
Consider that these purchases happened when the majority of states still haven’t legalized online sports betting or gambling. Major affiliate companies are not paying that much money for digital assets just for fun. They see the market potential. They know the US market is just barely getting started.
Now, imagine the types of buyouts that will be possible after 20, 30 or 40 states have legalized online sports betting – or if Congress steps in and passes nationwide legislation.
We see the occasional discussion among smaller affiliates bemoaning the “corporatization” of the affiliate business.
Some will tell you it’s too late to get in the game now with the likes of Catena Media and Better Collective out there spending millions on marketing, acquisitions and staff.
It’s true the level of competition has increased and affiliates do have to jump through new hoops with licensing requirements in some states, but the market is still just barely getting started. Those challenges can be overcome, and the rewards will be very much worth the trouble.
There are plenty of opportunities even for the lonely one-man operation. Those who work hard and provide informative or entertaining content have a world of opportunity open to them with the US market just now getting off the ground.
Fiat & Crypto: King Billy players get the best of both worlds
See how the casino players can deposit in crypto and play in fiat.
Since the dawn of e-gaming robust payment systems have been crucial for the success of any online casino, as they are a key factor in creating a positive and satisfying gaming experience. Moreover, the availability of different payment options allows players to choose the method that works best for them, whether it be classical fiat money or cryptocurrency.
But is it possible for an operator to give its players the best of both worlds, fiat and crypto at once? Yes, it is, with the King Billy feature “deposit in crypto, play in fiat”. The concept is simple. A casino player deposits in crypto (choosing among 4 cryptocurrencies King Billy supports). Then, the system automatically shows them their balance in the currency of their choice (among the 14 currencies King Billy supports, used by more than 3 billion people worldwide). When the players withdraw, their transaction takes place back in crypto.
What are the advantages of this system? Ruslan Legenzov, King Billy Casino Head of Affiliates (or “Lord of Affiliates” as the internal etiquette demands) has the answers: “Good things come in threes, and there are certainly 3 very good things about our “deposit in crypto, play in fiat” feature.
First of all, depositing in crypto means less hassle and paperwork for the player and elimination of the dreaded “transaction not coming through” issue. This has been a problem and actually a torment for many of our players in remote areas of the world. As a global casino, we are happy to act in ways that give peace of mind to our players.
Secondly, this system offers a greater player experience to the King Billy Citizens and Nobles, as they can now take advantage of our numerous promotions and offers in fiat. For example, players who deposit in crypto can now participate in our extremely popular fiat-only “Slot of the Month” offer, that’s been a staple of our casino since our launch.
Finally, with “deposit in crypto, play in fiat” our players, especially the not so cryptocurrency-savvy have a much clearer understanding of their wins or losses. I am sure that a player, let’s say from Vietnam, prefers to see, in real time, how much his slot win is worth in the Vietnamese Dong than running in parallel a crypto converter tool to do the math!”
Well said and well done your Majesty.
For those interested in the “deposit in crypto, play in fiat” feature, King Billy Casino accepts the following currencies: Euro (€), US Dollar ($), Canadian Dollar (C$), Australian Dollar (A$), New Zealand Dollar (NZ$), Norwegian Krone (kr), Indian Rupee (₹), South African Rand (R), Vietnamese dong (₫), Indonesian rupiah (Rp), Malaysian ringgit (RM), Thai baht (฿) and the Philippine peso (₱). King Billy also accepts the following cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC) and Tether (USDT).
King Billy Casino is a new-generation online casino, launched on St. Patrick’s Day in 2017. It is available in 4 languages (English, German, French and Finnish) and it has an impressive record in awards with 25 wins, shortlists and other distinctions, and an amazing variety of features and games. King Billy has prioritized the creation of a superb user experience, focusing on the myth of King Billy and his Kingdom and treats all players with the specialness they deserve.
Rightlander wins “Best Tech for Affiliate Programmes” at IGB Affiliate Awards 2023
Following the launch of their innovative Smart Workbench, Rightlander, the advertising and affiliate compliance monitoring specialist, have won the award for ‘Best Technology for Affiliate Programmes’ at this year’s IGB awards ceremony in London. The annual award, dubbed the Oscars of the iGaming affiliate market, recognises the most successful businesses in the gambling industry.
Rightlander is a state-of-the-art advertising and affiliate compliance platform that allows advertisers and networks to identify potentially non-compliant content across different territories. It does this by scanning affiliate content from within the target market, looking for events or conditions defined by clients and regulators, and sending alerts when it finds content that meets those conditions.
According to the judges, who praised the submission’s clear evidence and figures showing customer adoption and cost savings, Rightlander’s offering is “a very strong piece of technology which leads the industry in protecting affiliates, operators and ultimately players and ultimately makes the industry better for being in it.”
Ian Sims, Founder of Rightlander said “We are extremely happy to have won the Best Tech for Affiliate Programmes and this is a milestone moment for Rightlander. We developer/marketing folks love to throw around words like “game changing” and “AI-driven” but when you win an award for “Best Tech for Affiliate Programmes” and it’s one of the judges calling it a “game changer”, that is quite an endorsement.”
Over the past 5 years, Rightlander has scanned tens of millions of webpages to help advertisers identify non-compliant advertising by their marketing partners to protect their brand and regulatory licenses.
Casino Guru wins IGB Affiliates Safer Gambling Initiative of the Year
Casino Guru has won the IGB Affiliates recognition in the Safer Gambling Initiative of the Year category.
Casino Guru has won the IGB Affiliates Awards distinction in the Safer Gambling Initiative of the Year category, an award granted to affiliate services with an unfaltering track record in their commitment to raising player protection standards and contributing to the industry’s ability to better understand gambling-related harm.
Casino Guru underwent a thorough review, which included a look into how the company sought to educate and protect players beyond statutory requirements and the active steps taken to introduce players to a safer gambling journey in every market they engage with.
The assessment distinguished Casino Guru for its comprehensive efforts in responsible gambling and gambling harm prevention as captured by the Gamtegrity, the unifying home of all responsible gambling and consumer protection projects and initiatives launched under the Casino Guru banner and name.
Spearheaded by Šimon Vincze, Casino Guru’s Sustainable & Safer Gambling Lead, Gamtegrity reunites some of the company’s most impactful projects and initiatives geared towards raising standards for the entire industry insofar as problem gambling, player behavior, and harm protection are concerned.
Vincze hailed the IGB Affiliates distinction as a deserved and important milestone in the company’s ongoing efforts to provide the industry with guidance on how to better protect consumers and provide players with assistance on their journey to picking the best and most responsible industry operators.
“QUOTE by Šimon”
I am thrilled from this recognition as it includes most of the projects that I work on. However, this achievement is a reflection of work throughout the departments of Casino Guru and I feel honored to translate it to the rest of the industry. Safer Gambling is undersized in affiliate space, and it is great that iGB motivates companies to compete in it.
Casino Guru’s Gamtegrity project reunites the company’s Global Self-Exclusion System (GSES), an ambitious cross-border initiative designed to create a comprehensive global mechanism that enables players to exclude themselves from regulated gambling markets and focus on recovery.
Casino Guru has similarly focused on creating tools that assist and help vulnerable players to address their problem as well as find help, extensive global information and easy access to treatment options.
The company has also leveraged its industry expertise to create the Casino Guru Academy, an ambitious undertaking which understands how important it is to educate industry professionals about best practices in customer support, casino bonuses, safer gambling, and other important areas.
Not least, Casino Guru’s ample effort and experience in maintaining responsible gambling standards that go beyond national legislation have led the company to set up the Casino Guru Awards which seeks to distinguish prominent operators that share the company’s core values in providing consumers with the safest gambling possible.
The Safer Gambling Initiative of the Year distinction is evidence of the strong and meaningful impact Casino Guru has had in bettering responsible gambling standards and seeking to actively assist players who may struggle with gambling-related problems or suffer gambling-related harm.
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