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: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Digital Marketing Mixer to be hosted for second iteration of FREE business networking on 30th June
Last month saw the launch of the first Digital Marketing Mixer, a FREE business networking event created by Lee-Ann Johnstone which hosted over 150+ iGaming and Affiliate Marketing professionals in attendance.
The event which received outstanding delegate reviews, will be hosted again on Monday 30th June between 4-6pm (BST) via Zoom. The aim of the speed networking event is to bring together affiliates and digital marketers, technology providers , agencies, experts and marketing service providers together to promote their services virtually.
With limits on travel and attendance at physical events still in play opportunities to network for new business have been limited. That combined with increased remote working has had a natural impact on business development slowing in the short term.
The Digital Marketing Mixer has been created as an open platform for professional social networking to take place in a structured but relaxed virtual atmosphere. The event has been created to support new business and continued lead generation for all businesses operating in the Affiliate industry.
Lee-Ann Johnstone, the event host commented: “The Digital Marketing Mixer is a key event for digital and affiliate marketing businesses to get better connected during this uncertain time. The objective is simple, bring people together to talk, to collaborate and ensure new business and service opportunities continue to thrive. I’ve created this FREE networking event for EVERYONE to benefit from in the affiliate industry to help get new business deals done.”
The mixer remains 100% FREE for delegates to attend and is open to any vertical. Once again the event is held in collaboration with founding collaborators GPWA.org, iBet Directory, and AffiliateINSIDER collaborating to deliver this event.
“The toughest part of the conference experience to replicate online was always going to be those oh-so-important conversations in the bar. I was delighted to find myself in just such conversations at the Digital Marketing Mixer – top marks! “ said Sue Dawson from bestnewbingosites.co.uk who attended last month’s inaugural event.
The Digital Marketing Mixer will offer a host of fun networking games, speed selling challenges and enable delegates to enjoy discussing the latest industry trends whilst providing a platform to market their goods and services. The focus of this event remains on getting digital and affiliate marketing professionals quickly connected, getting new deals – done!
Lloyd Richman, founder of iBet Directory commented: “The Digital Marketing Mixer Party is a great concept and offers all delegates the option to contribute unlike other webinars and conferences. It had a good mixture of natural event speakers, experienced iGaming professionals and new people to the industry. A great event which was highly successful.“
If you are an agency, affiliate, consultant, operator, digital marketer, payment provider or saas product owner, everyone working with or in the affiliate industry is welcome to attend.
RSVP FOR FREE and join the Digital Marketing Mixer – HERE
Mr Gamble is the fast growing iGaming affiliate taking the world by storm
Player-friendly approach to casino comparisons sees audience grow to new highs
In January 2019, two iGaming enthusiasts from southern Finland, Paavo Salonen and Jonas Kyllönen, created an affiliate site which follows a different path to competitors in the sector – Mr-Gamble.com was conceived to provide a user-friendly service that details the key benefits for different online casinos.
In a little over a year, the team at Mr-Gamble (owned by CashMagnet Ltd) has grown from two to sixteen people, and their site is attracting millions of views and an audience of thousands, eager to find a more discerning comparison site for online casinos. With such impressive growth, the company is now moving to bigger offices in their adopted home town of Tallinn, Estonia.
Putting the players first has been key to this success, with the team’s focus to build a casino comparison site which highlights the various benefits from leading online casino operators. Easy-to-use filters allow players to match specific search criteria to their needs, such as high quality casino bonuses, with a brand promise to help users “find a 200% bonus in under one minute”.
Moreover, with responsible gaming high on regulators agendas for 2020, not least due to COVID-19, Mr-Gamble’s onboarding policies for new casinos include strict criteria to ensure player protection. Time-out periods, self-exclusion options, financial limits, and more are all in place to reassure players that beyond the entertainment factor, their well-being is key.
Jonas Kyllönen explains, “While our competitors focus simply on the bonus offer and a select few aspects of gaming, Mr-Gamble.com highlights things like hidden T’s & C’s and other small details that make up the overall quality of a casino’s service and the bonuses they offer. We even include a section purely for casinos that offer free spins, allowing players to find free spin offers without deposits. This sets us apart from old school affiliates and builds trust with our audience, resulting in a high proportion of returning visitors.”
Kyllönen, who leads on all aspects of marketing for Mr-Gamble, also realises that staying plugged in to media platforms such as Twitch and Instagram enable the company to attract some of their users from the elusive millennial market.
“In just six months”, says Kyllönen, “we became the most watched slots channel on Twitch in Finland, and alongside our Instagram following, this allows us to stay in touch with our audience across multiple touch points – it’s been key to our growth. We still see SEO and PPC as the main pillars of the casino affiliates sector, but complimentary channels like Twitch are both entertaining and good for business.”
This well-rounded approach to the casino comparison sector is both innovative and forward-thinking, standing the company in good stead for the coming decade, during which adapting to change and staying on top of market trends will separate the men from the boys.
Mr Gamble’s affiliate offering is already well-established in Finland, and in April 2020 Mr-Gamble expanded operations to more English-speaking markets including the UK and Canada. The company also plans to target the US market, with licensing currently underway, and is looking at opportunities in Asia.
Alongside Finnish casino enquiries, the company invites English language operators from international markets, particularly in the UK and Canada, to contact email@example.com for more information on deals and listings.
Exclusive Q&A with Marinos Shiapanis, CEO at Campeón Gaming Partners
We shall begin with the iGB award. How do you feel after winning this award? Had you expected this award?
We really didn’t. This was our very first time being nominated at the iGB Affiliate Awards and, given the fact that the competition was really high, we were not expecting to hear our name. Needless to say, we were – and we still are – overwhelmed and very excited. It was a team effort, and this is why we celebrated as a team after receiving the award in London.
This is the first time Campeon has been nominated for iGB Awards. And you hit the bull’s eye in the first instance itself. How do you see this honour: as a reward of your hard work or as a stepping stone for future innovation?
I think it is a little bit of both: it is definitely a reward and a recognition of the whole Campeón Gaming Partners team’s hard work and effort, but, at the same time, this is a stepping stone for us to do more, invest more in innovation, expand and further develop across all sectors. The whole team, and especially the Affiliate & Partnerships team, really devoted themselves to the company and they are the reason we have managed to win this award. Such an award is extremely important for us, as it shows how far we have gone in such a short period of time; we have managed to slowly establish ourselves in the iGaming industry, become a familiar face for affiliates in the market, expand our network and grow as a team and a brand. However, winning this award doesn’t mean we stop here; this is not just a motivation for us, but an obligation as well to work harder, focus more and deliver even better results. I think you will hear more of us the coming months.
The award recognises how Campeon stood out in terms of “transparency, inclusiveness and continuous support”. What are the things unique to the affiliate program of Campeon Gaming Partners?
Since the beginning, our vision was to create an affiliate program that would not only attract affiliates, but it would also keep them engaged. We started off with a small network and as we were building it up, we were also improving our program. Today, our network is comprised of over 1,000 affiliates and our affiliate team has managed to establish personal relationship with each and every one of them. To us, it’s crucial to put a face to the name; it’s not just about numbers, it’s about having a person who you know will listen to you and deal with your issues no matter how big or small. This is our way of thinking: we treat each affiliate’s request as equal, and I believe that our affiliates appreciate this.
In early 2019, our team dedicated themselves into redesigning the program’s strategy, aiming at building stronger, more interpersonal relationships with our partners, and providing them with better models in order to maximize their profits. At the same time, we optimized the affiliate experience, from the registration of the player, all the way to the affiliate statics’ analysis we have successfully merged, integrated, and incorporated all of the Campeón Gaming Partners’ brands into new platforms, ensuring that no affiliate activity was ever disrupted.
The award also mentions how Campeon offered tailor-made program to the affiliates. Could you shed more light into the deeply customizable affiliate programs of Campeon Gaming Partners?
Each affiliate has his or her own needs that looks into serving through a program. At Campeón Gaming Partners, we understand that, and every time we onboard an affiliate, we go into deep discussions with him or her to understand what they are looking for in our program. I think the most important fact for our affiliates is that we assign them their very personal point of contact, who is there for them whenever they are in need. So, when we onboard a new affiliate, we first assign him or her their point of contact, who makes sure to talk to him or her, understand his or her needs and goals and together they create a program tailor-made to the affiliate’s needs.
What are the qualities that you look forward to in an affiliate? Not all affiliates are likely to become successful, right? Based on your experience, what separates the successful affiliates from the rest?
We want our affiliates to treat us the same way we treat them: with respect and transparency. We always do our best to accommodate our affiliates’ needs, so we are looking into building partnerships based on trust. I think this is the most important part for us.
Regarding the second part of your question, I believe that definitely industry knowledge and audience play a significant part in separating successful affiliates from the rest. But besides these, I think that players are looking for affiliates who will be honest with them, affiliates they can trust; I believe it is the only way to build up a players’ audience.
New new social media platforms are increasingly micro-targetting the end customers and automated CRM tools are getting more and more advanced. In this scenario, how do see the future of affiliate marketing evolving?
I believe that affiliate marketing is already changing and with these new tools it will change even more in the future. We are now entering a new era: the digital and customized era. Customers are increasingly becoming more and more demanding; they now know they don’t have to compromise anymore with mass solutions, so they are asking for customized ones. They demonstrate their needs and preferences and demand for an experience tailor-made to them. I believe this is where affiliate marketing will focus in the future, and all the new or upcoming tools available, will give us the advantage of analysing the customers’ behaviours and providing the best solutions to them. Affiliate marketing of the future will evolve around customized player’s experience, in my opinion.
Finally, tell us about any big announcement in the near future. Expanding to more countries? Launching or integrating new products? Or a new marketing campaign? Our readers will be eager to read something first here.
A couple of weeks ago, we launched our first Pay N Play platform for the Scandinavian market, SvenPlay. In a few days, we will be launching our brand new, themed platform, Sons of Slots. This is a challenge for us, as it will be the first time we are introducing such a themed platform to our players. The Sons of Slots story goes back to the motor gangs of the US and it all evolves around that; rough street battles, leather jackets and ripped jeans, long hair, and endless road trips on their Harleys. This is what inspired us and we wanted to bring something very exciting to our players. Entering the Sons of Slots platform, our players will be transferred to a new world, the world of American motor gangs; they will play their favorite games in a new, adventurous environment, with exciting features, which will take their gaming experience to a whole new level. To bring this project to life, we have invested heavily in technology and this is why we partnered with a major agency, MaxCreate, specialized in bespoke front-end design, in order to be able to offer more flexible and versatile platforms to our players and to our affiliates.
I think 2020 is our year, and people will hear more of us: exhibitions, PR, awards… We will make it happen.
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