Please meet Lee James Gwilliam, of OnlinceCasinoVegas and Commercial Manager at Blexr Ltd!
Name: Lee James Gwilliam
Hometown: Middlewich, Cheshire, UK
Living in: Sliema, Malta
Favorite Food: Steak
Must Read Book: East of Eden, John Steinbeck
Profession/Job title: Commercial Manager
GAV: Hello Lee, first of all, tell us and our readers as well a little bit about yourself. How did your career start in the industry?
Lee: I ended up in gambling quite by accident! Despite being a keen poker player, I had no ambitions to work in the industry. I’d been involved in online marketing and affiliation in other sectors for many years and semi-retired with my own retail operation to Malta in 2011. A few years ago, I found myself needing to get a ‘proper’ job again and being in Malta, iGaming seemed a good fit with my e-commerce and content background.
GAV: We know little about Blexr other than it is an international performance marketing company, tell us all about it?
Lee: We’ve always preferred to be a private company, small but with a big footprint. We’ve various product verticals across casino, sportsbook, poker, bingo and financial services. I’ve actually just got back from the EGR Power Affiliate event at Goodwood where we are now ranked in the top 50 affiliates worldwide, in fact, top 10 in some of our niches.
The website you contacted us about, OnlineCasinosVegas, or OCV as we call it in-house, was an acquisition made by us rather than an in-house product. It’s one of our smaller properties but not to be underestimated. We bought it last year as part of a wider network from a very well-known UK affiliate and seasoned gambler.
GAV: Since there are thousands and thousands of websites in this niche out there, where do you think OnlineCasinosVegas.com stands now?
Lee: What makes OCV stand out, is the very thing that made it attractive as an acquisition. So many modern affiliate sites offer just basic cookie cutter content, OCV was written by a professional gambler and although the design might be a little antiquated to modern eyes, it’s incredibly knowledge driven throughout. This shows through in the quality of the site’s audience and we think this will become even more important in the future. Serious gamblers want serious content.
GAV: How do you see the online slots market/industry at this moment?
Lee: More competitive than ever. Just a few years ago a few some companies, such as NetEnt, were miles ahead of the other developers. Now, you have a whole host of bespoke operations offering great game content and with VR and skill based games on the way these are very exciting times for both the industry and players alike. Sports betting too, with expansion into E-Sports and other niche areas is far more diverse than ever before.
GAV: How did you start and most of all what bumps did you have to overcome at the beginning?
Lee: Once, Blexr was a small affiliate like thousands of others, with a simple poker rake back site. This was successful and led to further acquisitions. The founders have been very careful to re-invest in both the company and its employees which has allowed us to grow to where we are today. Outside of the challenges faced when any affiliate business becomes ‘a real company’ rather than a small team, the biggest roadblocks were managing our migration into a full performance marketing operation instead of ‘just’ an affiliate.
Before several of the modern ‘super affiliates’ landed, affiliate operations simply didn’t have such a wide remit and there was no model to copy for structure. Building such a structure from scratch is a challenge that many have failed, fortunately, we didn’t. As a result, we now offer consulting in CRM, market research, marketing, affiliation and brand launch in addition to the direct acquisition that a stock affiliate provides.
GAV: We have analyzed OCV 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 slots are there on your website? How about the your news section?
Lee: The nature of my current role sadly prevents me from contributing as much to content as I once did though I still mentor one of our writers and do a little key content to keep my hand in and stay match fit. We’ve a writing team of more than 40 people across the network and they are looking to add more slots to OCV in the coming months in addition to the several hundred already on the site. We’ve also been expanding the detail in some of the older articles and written some in depth guides for skill based games. The news section has fallen a little by the wayside in recent times but we hope to turn that back into an active blog in the future once we’ve dealt with all the existing articles.
GAV: How do you manage to keep the content always fresh and relevant on your website, when a lot of fluffy and nonsense appear on the Internet on a daily basis?
Lee: Hire experienced, well-trained and knowledgeable writers and then pay them well. Really, it’s not that hard when you break it down. A number of slots sites are just concerned about being first to market, they don’t even play the games they are reviewing, they write a preview based on a few screenshots available before launch. Whenever we advertise for a new writer we are inundated by ‘content-writer’ CV’s who’ve been working in the industry for years just on the basis they were native speakers. That isn’t enough if you want deep value content. It’s like auditioning for the national football team because you own a pair of boots and can kick a ball. Writing is a profession like any other and you want the best professionals who have put years into their trade.
GAV: With all the Google updates that we’ve all witnessed how do you guys approach SEO, content and of course generating good traffic?
Lee: Google is being very helpful to us just lately with its move towards prioritising ‘value’ based content. Fluff is yesterday’s content, just being first to write on a subject is barely enough to get you there and certainly isn’t enough to keep you there. The same applies to SEO, spam is dying, both content and SEO must be top notch for you to rank for good keywords and bring in good traffic long term. Things are biasing more and more to user value and this can only help people who are trying to do the job right. I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of tips and tricks or shortcuts still out there, but, the fundamentals are becoming ever more important.
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?
Lee: Literally hundreds, by 9 AM any given day my skype looks like a Christmas tree! A good AM(affiliate manager) will earn their employer a fortune, a bad one will cost them the same. It would terrify some operators to know how much an AM has potentially cost them at one point or another because a relationship went sour. That said, affiliates have a responsibility to try and help bridge the communication gap too and help AM’s gain experience.
I’ve accepted a speaking position at a conference later in the year on managing affiliate relationships from our point of view and am starting a LinkedIn series next week called ‘Friday frustrations’ to try and get some things out there from the affiliate standpoint. It isn’t fair that affiliates complain about the ways AM’s approach them and deal with them when they aren’t making any attempt to feed back the data – we want to do our part in correcting this and contributing to the industry.
GAV: Which markets do you target at this moment and are you planning to break in into emerging markets?
Lee: We are already a global network, with our reach approaching triple digits in terms of the countries we target for. That being said, we think emerging markets and newly regulated markets should be the big focus for affiliates and operators alike.
GAV: How do you see the future of the online casino/gambling industry? For instance, will it become a truly global phenomenon?
Lee: I think my point above indicates that to be so! Yes, some countries are way behind and others have stumbled due to regulatory processes but this will be and, in many ways already is, a global business.
GAV: Tell us one change that you want to see in the casino affiliate ecosystem?!
Lee: Proper affiliate software between the affiliate and the operator. Transparency is the first step to rebuilding trust on both sides of the gambling industry and neither party can optimise their business with each other properly without full accurate data sets.
GAV: How about the UK market, is there still place to grow, what is your position?
Lee: The UK is one of the hardest markets out there right now amongst the premium countries. The existing, and future regulations facing both operators and affiliates only adds to the difficulty. However, this also creates opportunities for those companies which can navigate this and create stable, sustainable business models. It will be a tough market with lots of opportunity for the right businesses.
GAV: Do you have any advise you would like to offer to newbies who are looking to venture into this great industry!?
Lee: Have a niche and master it. There is a new casino every other day, white labels which are all but identical bar their branding. The brave and creative businesses which do something different are the ones we will be talking about as the next success stories in 5 years time.
GAV: Do you attend any iGaming/online casino conferences? If so, which one is your favorite and what is your most fun experience?
Lee: I seem to spend as much time at networking events and conferences as I do at home these days. I’m a big fan of the IGB events and the EGR event recently at Goodwood was an exclusive treat. SiGMA, as our local conference, is very important and we will exhibit there this year. Their local networking events are impressive too and so is the new Affiliate Grand Slam concept.
GAV: Tell us about your experince at the Affiliate Grand Slam in Tallinn?
Lee: An excellent new take on the traditional affiliate conference, the second one coming up in Bucharest is only going to build on the first one. To have a small number of operators and a larger number of key affiliates improves the opportunity to take time over business discussions and keeps networking at maximum value.
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?
Lee: If you look at places like Malta and Gibraltar a key ingredient for success in a gaming hot spot is the support of a local regulatory body. Eastern European destinations have masses of opportunity for all areas of the industry both as operating spaces and markets but, the regulatory infrastructure needs work.
GAV: Where would you like to travel in Eastern Europe?
Lee: I’d really love to spend some time in Russia and Kiev is on my hit list too. I spent a lot of time in Romania last year and it’s my favourite country in the world right now. I wintered in Transylvania which was amazing and Bucharest is an incredible city. Will be heading back there this year for the next AGS event and probably again in winter for some much needed down time.
GAV: Where you wouldn’t want to travel in Eastern Europe?
Lee: Never really been attracted to Bulgaria, though, I’d be happy for someone to change my mind.
GAV: How about a favorite celebrity, or a mentor do you have one?
Lee: I’ve had several good business mentors including our current founders. Celebrity wise I’d have to admit a liking for Kate Beckinsale and Robert Downey Jr is a modern icon.
GAV: Tell us your opinion about the Gambling Affiliate Voice?
Lee: It’s incredibly important for affiliates to have a voice in the industry and the GAV gives us exactly that! I think for new/smaller affiliates which are just starting out or attempting to grow resources like this cannot be underestimated.
GAV: Thank you for the interview Lee, enjoy the summer and perhaps we’ll meet at AGS Bucharest!
If you would like to suggest subjects for future affiliate interviews, be sure to send your suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Exclusive Q&A with Jeton Kodia Co-Founder at Oddspedia
Let’s start with a few words about yourself. Our readers love top executives talking about themselves.
My name is Jeton Kodia and I have been in the gambling business since 2009. I became an iGaming affiliate when I turned my hobby into my profession. Gambling is part of my life – I love betting, casino games, and poker. Additionally, with my first name Jeton, it was somehow destiny that I had to step into this industry. I am addicted to football, and I had to lose quite some bets on my favorite team until I learned that when you want to take betting seriously, you need to refrain from your emotional attachment to a particular team and turn your attention more to comparing the odds. Besides football and pro sports in general, I bet on pretty much anything with my friends. This ranges from prop bets about winning at Playstation games to whether my first child will be a boy or girl. There is always something going on in my life which we can bet on.
Now on to Oddspedia. What led to the founding of Oddspedia?
As I already hinted at before, I wanted to focus more on the odds at sports betting. Therefore, I teamed up with Jan, whom I know since we were 18 years old, and who is equally passionate for sports in general and football in particular. Together, we co-founded our company and website Oddspedia. The main goal of our company is to provide valuable, competitive and user-friendly services for sports betting fans, players and publishers. Since its inception and over the course of several years, Oddspedia established itself as one of the biggest international affiliates in the sports betting world.
Could you elaborate on the cutting edge that Oddspedia possesses? There are other companies that offer similar services. What makes Oddspedia “the number one sports companion” of punters?
The website aims to provide as much value to the user as possible, and the information is conveyed in a manner to ensure a great user experience. It starts with guaranteeing a reliable odds comparison – odds on Oddspedia are being scanned in real-time across more than eighty bookmakers to ensure that only the most up-to-date data is displayed. This is complemented by features not commonly found in competing websites, such as geolocation to show only relevant betting sites for the user, direct links to bookmakers’ betslips, full odds movement history and various betting tools. This is part of what makes Oddspedia one of the best sites for odds comparison. But as a matter of fact Oddspedia offers much more than that. The website has amazing sports coverage as well, providing livescore information on more than 30 different sports. Users can also explore sports statistics, bonuses and promotions, or read the latest news on their favourite leagues, teams and matches. All of this wrapped in an app-like web experience, with quick performance and a state-of-art modern design makes it easy for Oddspedia to stand out from its competitors.
You recently overhauled the Oddspedia website. What are the new features that have become user favorites?
In August Oddspedia had the biggest makeover yet with its relaunch. The new version was in development for more than a year, and enabled the development team to apply new tools and technical innovations that were simply not possible on the old site. Major front-end and back-end changes were done to improve the user experience, and the new UI provides much more natural and polished user flow. To ensure seamless operation, updates regarding back-end software, systems, processing odds nodes, and new integrations are introduced almost on a day-to-day basis.
You have also launched widgets for webmasters and digital publishers which help them monetize their website through affiliate marketing? Tell us more about the widgets and process of monetizing.
One of the main issues from editors, publishers and affiliates is providing real time data to their customers. Is extremely hard to find a proper way to do it. The Oddspedia Widgets fill the gap between the sports data feeds and the operators.
For editors, the Oddspedia Widgets have been developed as a real “all-in one” solution. These tools can be implemented into any site by simply pasting their code, providing that site’s users with real time odds data. Publishers can benefit from the live information by not only providing their users an odds comparison widget for free, but they can include their affiliate link to the respective bookmaker. Clicks are simply shared on a 50/50 basis. The way the split works is that the widgets rotate with two links, one for the publisher and the other for Oddspedia which will be applied with equal chance.
Publishers will get real time sports data without any cost for them, at same time they offer that to their customers and readers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the betting and gambling companies, especially the traditional forms of betting and gambling. It is not yet done yet. How have the lock-down and social distancing measures affected your business?
In every crisis there’s an opportunity. The coronavirus outbreak has had a devastating impact all over the world and on our daily lives, with many businesses in almost every industry feeling the pinch. That’s no different with the gambling industry, as most major sports were suspended in the first lockdown during spring time.
At Oddspedia we expected that the interest in sports will even grow bigger in times of social distancing and isolation. But with the vast majority of sports canceled we had to find a way to react to the situation. We focused on increasing our sports portfolio and cover almost any event going on worldwide. As crazy as it sounds, the matches from a Table Tennis tournament in Russia were checked over a million times on Oddspedia.
There are still positives that can emerge from the pandemic, with virtual sports and esports being one of them. Virtual Sports truly boomed in interest. Esports betting is a vertical in the industry that was already rising in popularity before the outbreak. But now, it’s well on its way to establish itself as a major offering for operators and affiliates, which is set to continue even after we come out the other side of virus lockdowns.
It has been seven years since Oddspedia was launched. Most of these times, you focused mainly on Europe, especially the German-speaking countries. You are now venturing in to South America. How has the user response so far from the Latin American countries, who certainly love their football? Any plans to start operations in Asia?
Our entry into the South American market has been very successful. The audience there is extremely passionate about sports and betting, and they show a great demand for our product. Of course, we provide local users with well-targeted information from local bookies in their native language. We began with the integration of Spanish and Portuguese languages for our product, then we structured our content to be as engaging as possible for local users. It’s no secret, that for users from Brazil, as well as for other Latin American countries, football is the most popular sport. So when entering our website, we meet users with the most interesting football matches from their local leagues. These are shown first and then followed by popular worldwide championships.
This personalized approach is very successful and we have good and stable traffic coming from these countries
Several Asian countries, like Japan for example, are very interesting for oddspedia, as well. However, we deem it highly important to find the right partner when entering a country like that. It is crucial to have the right partner who is fond of the language, can translate and adapt to the correct betting terminology, and possesses local SEO knowledge. We envision to grant sublicenses for oddspedia if the right company to partner with comes knocking on our door.
The technology is moving at an unimaginably high speed. How do you think artificial intelligence and machine learning would impact the betting industry, and specifically the odds comparison
Automation based on machine learning has been key within ecommerce for years and the igaming industry should apply insights gained in other sectors. Offering a personal user experience in a responsible environment comes from understanding and catering to each individual player’s needs from an entertainment point of view. AI is a type of software or hardware that learns – and it could be programmed to learn mostly about users and their behavior and utilize those insights to drive the developments of new, hyper-personalised gaming and internet betting experiences. The technology is being applied to learn our habits, our likes, and our relationship patterns. Online gaming is an industry that runs on data, such as results, stakes, percentages, odds, stats, and so on. All of these numbers are constantly crunched, calculated and analysed behind every major gaming platform. For this reason, ML is actually playing a growing influential role in the sector, changing the game for both online gaming businesses and their players
Finally, what would be your key advises to any new entrepreneurs starting something new in the gambling industry or affiliate marketing sector?
Don’t start something just on your own if you are a newbie. First, dip your foot in the water and gain some experience in the industry. I would recommend starting with a job at a bigger affiliate company or in affiliate marketing at an operator. If you are smart, you can learn a lot quickly and avoid a bunch of costly mistakes you might have made otherwise. In the next step, you can try out your own ideas. By then, you already have a sound understanding of the industry, which allows you to make even better products right from the beginning and the timeframe until you are able to realize a return on your investment is likely to be much shorter, as well.
Bojoko crowned Casino Affiliate of the Year 2020
Online casino comparison site takes home its first EGR Operator Award off the back of a hugely successful year
The party is continuing at Bojoko after the online gambling comparison site was named Casino Affiliate of the Year at the prestigious EGR Operator Awards 2020.
Bojoko fought off stiff competition from some of the biggest names in the affiliate industry, including Gambling.com Group, Catena Media and Blexr, to take home the trophy.
EGR judges said that Bojoko had showed “very strong growth” over the past three years having been the first to use the Airbnb and Trip Advisor model in the online casino sector.
The EGR judges said: “They continue to be innovative with a number of new features which has allowed them to grow to 26,000+ registered members.
“I really like the concept, it’s a true affiliate giving customers choice who to choose, growth looks decent and operators managing the page ensures compliance and cost control.
“It is a clever idea and model and shows good growth,” the judges added.
Bojoko allows online casino operators and game developers to create their own listing and tell their story through their own words, images and videos.
Bojoko members then rate and review online casinos and games based on the experience they receive, with Bojoko’s member base now standing at 26,000+.
Joonas Karhu, Chief Business Officer at Bojoko, said: “We are thrilled to have been named Casino Affiliate 2020 at the EGR Awards and for Bojoko to be recognised as a true leader in the space.
“The Covid-19 pandemic saw operators pivot to casino as part of efforts to mitigate the impact of the global sports blackout, making the casino comparison sector even more competitive than normal.
“The Bojoko team rose to this challenge and I am so pleased that their efforts have been recognised by EGR and its panel of esteemed judges.
“Our mission from day one has been to help players find the best casinos for them while also meeting the highest possible standards when it comes to responsible gambling and safe gaming.
“We continue to innovate and introduce new tools and features to help players filter and compare the 160+ casinos and 40+ game developers listed on Bojoko.
“We have ambitious plans for the coming 12 months, including expanding into the US market, and look forward to doing this with our first EGR award in the bag.”
Karhu launches Professional Gambling Affiliates Association
Bojoko’s Chief Business Officer launches industry group with the aim of creating contractual security between affiliates and operators for the first time
Joonas Karhu, Chief Business Officer at Bojoko.com, has launched the Professional Gambling Affiliates Association (PGAA) to help improve the relationship between affiliates and operators and create contractual security for the first time.
Karhu formed the association after becoming concerned with the imbalance in the relationship between affiliates and operators. The PGAA will address this with affiliates coming together as one in order to push for contractual security and fair terms and conditions when promoting operator brands.
At present, there is no contractual security for affiliates who are forced to sign agreements that are one-sided and subject to change at any time. This can see life-time revenues slashed and fees increased with little to no notice.
This is not the case in other B2B industries and makes running an online gambling affiliate business incredibly difficult. Operating an organisation without a secured contract is unsustainable, making it impossible to invest in growth and putting jobs at risk.
The PGAA intends to create a contract that provides the security its members need to be able to promote operator brands now and moving forwards. The contract will be signed by PGAA members and their operator partners.
Bojoko will handle the initial communication between the PGAA and operators, and will also cover the legal cost associated with creating the PGAA contract. This includes any potential reviews or amendments required now and in the future.
Karhu is now calling on affiliates of all sizes to join the Professional Gambling Affiliates Association. Those interested in signing up can do so by requesting to join the dedicated Professional Gambling Affiliates LinkedIn Group here.
Joonas Karhu, Chief Business Officer at Bojoko, said: “The situation online gambling affiliates face is unprecedented when compared with other industries and sectors. Running a business without a secured contract is simply unsustainable and puts organisations and their employees at great risk.
“By creating the PGAA, I hope to be able to provide the contractual security that affiliates need to be able to promote operator brands and be confident that the players they send and the revenues they generate are secured over time.
“I am now calling on all affiliates to join the PGAA and for operators and other industry stakeholders to support the association and its mission to level the playing field for affiliates and to provide the contractual security they need and deserve.”
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