The earliest known video game competition took place on 19 October 1972 at Stanford University for the game Spacewar. Stanford students were invited to an “Intergalactic spacewar olympics” whose grand prize was a year’s subscription for Rolling Stone, with Bruce Baumgart winning the five-man-free-for-all tournament and Tovar and Robert E. Maas winning the Team Competition. The Space Invaders Championship held by Atari in 1980 was the earliest large scale video game competition, attracting more than 10,000 participants across the United States, establishing competitive gaming as a mainstream hobby.
Fast forward to our times, eSports betting has been born and some affiliates are already taking advantage and ripping the rewards from it. This is the story of eSports Affiliate, Luke Cotton, founder of CSGOBetting.com
GAV: First, we would like to thank you for the opportunity to interview such a highly appreciated professional of the industry. We look forward to this interview and are sure that all our readers also are going to read this with huge interest.
- Name: Luke Cotton
- Age: 25
- Hometown: Haslemere, UK
- Living in: Birmingham, UK
- Favorite Food: Seafood Paella
- Must Read Book: Moneyball – Michael Lewis
GAV: Tell us a bit about yourself, we want to know who Luke really is, founder of CSGObetting.com. Where were you born? What was the key idea of developing this great website?
Skipping the boring, early days, and moving on to how CSGOBetting.com (and our other sites, like LeagueofLegendsBetting.com and Dota2Betting.com) were born, I started playing video games competitively in a team with some friends in early 2004. A couple of summers of not seeing a lot of sunlight later, I started playing at the high end of the competitive esports scene for Battlefield 2, winning a number of events and was fortunate enough to be paid to play throughout college. From then onwards I’ve been involved in esports, running professional teams, leagues and events. Like most Brits, I’ve always had an interest in betting, and was convinced that esports betting could become the next big thing. Back in 2011, I attended LAC and tried to pitch the idea to anyone who would listen, and I ended up working with Paddy Power to test some markets. Whilst initial results were promising, it was something that we couldn’t scale at the time. A couple of years later, we snapped up a lot of esports betting related domains, and now the betting market has matured somewhat, we’ve started launching our network of sites.
GAV: Are you doing this full time? Was there a moment when you have switched from your daily job to being a full time affiliate?
No – currently it’s an evenings and weekends project; currently we are running at a loss as we look to build up our search engine rankings and dominate the space. We’re sure that there will be a point at which esports betting takes off, however currently most is undertaken through black-market skin (virtual item) tote pools, which we have decided to steer clear from, as we only wish to promote legal betting websites.
I am involved in the industry full-time though, I work as Head of Affiliates at Digital Fuel, a marketing agency, running our affiliate network – just on the other side of the table or as an intermediary.
GAV: What are the key markets you are targeting?
We’re English language, as we are native speakers, with a particular focus on the UK & Australia. We intend to remain in regulated markets only, which limits us much further than that. There are a few other countries in mind for the future, at the point that we’re able to hire people who know the languages.
GAV: Since there are thousands of sports betting review websites out there, and the especially the free bets market is quite ruff, where do you think CSGObetting.com?
We’re the first affiliate site focused solely on betting on the video game CounterStrike, which is a market that has only really developed in the past couple of years. I don’t think many professional affiliates understand esports, particularly the intricacies of each game, which means that we have an air of authenticity that is difficult to replicate.
GAV: What are the strong points of the website and what makes it stand out from the niche websites? We can certainly say it jumps out of the routine websites since it employs certain news for this popular Counter Strike games.
The knowledge that we have of CounterStrike means that we can write interesting, unique features ourselves, and hire writers who we believe are interesting for our readers, rather than those that churn out pretty generic content. The CSGOBetting.com domain also shows readers that we have been around the industry for a long time.
GAV: What were the bumps on your road when you got started and how did you overcome them?
We’ve sat on our domain portfolio for some time and did not have the skills to really develop websites. We took some investment from our employer, Digital Fuel, whereby they are building out our network of sites and providing knowledge in other areas, such as SEO, where personally we have a reasonable knowledge but aren’t experts.
GAV: We have browsed your website and found some high quality content. Are you writing it by yourself or you have a team of people writing your editorials?
It’s a combination of the two. It’s a market that we are very knowledgeable about, so we do write some articles ourselves, but it also helps in finding writers that can create the quality of content that we think our readers will expect. With all the tasks related to running a network of sites, we like to use writers for the day to day content, but will write key articles ourselves where necessary or when we personally have something to say. It’s an industry we are passionate about.
GAV: How do you keep the content fresh and devoid of clutter when a lot of fluff and nonsense appear on the Internet on a daily basis?
Our content strategy is threefold: tips, where the intention is to be able to create regular content specific to upcoming matches, which our readers are likely to be wanting to bet on; features, which are completely new rather than rehashed from other websites, and informational, where we try to assist with queries like how to bet. It is pretty simple in terms of a strategy, but having people who can write in an interesting way is key.
GAV: We are sure that you receive daily messages from Affiliate Managers showcasing their products. You of course select them by the brands they work with; but what are your thoughts on how Affiliate Manager-Affiliate relationships should be built?
As I still work as an Affiliate Manager during the day, it’s a difficult question to answer! Personally, I like things to be clear, simple, and with no bullshit. I think affiliates are some of the savviest people in the industry so trying to pull the wool over their eyes is a waste of time, and it annoys me when affiliate managers try and cover up key points that affect my decision to work with them.
GAV: How do you see the future of the gambling industry? For instance, will it become a truly global phenomenon in the near future?
I can only see growth. Many African countries support online betting, though growth there will be dictated by growth in GDP. In my opinion the USA will regulate at some point in the next five years, as the tax benefits are too great not to. In Asia, it may be further away due to more cultural influences on regulators, and remain grey or black in most key territories for some time.
GAV: Can you name one change that you want to see in the betting and casino affiliate ecosystem?
I would like affiliates to be given more access to data around their players’ betting activity. There’s no logical commercial reason not to give affiliates such data; it’s just a question of both the affiliate software providers and operators making technical changes to be able to do so.
GAV: What advise you would like to offer to the new affiliates who are looking to venture into this great industry?
Find a niche you understand well, and specialize where you can. Outsource the non-essential parts of your business. Do your research into which operators are reputable and make sure you work with those which are trustworthy.
GAV: What about SEO, are the ongoing Google algorithm updates influencing your ranking? If so, is it a positive or negative way?
Given that our website is reasonably new, it’s not something that we’ve closely monitored. We haven’t undertaken any SEO strategies previously that might be affected, and our content is good, so we’re hopeful of winning in the long-term.
GAV: Who is your favorite celebrity?
Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, not for his ski jumping, but thanks to his glorious performance winning awful reality TV series Splash having being punted in from 40/1.
GAV: If you would just open your YouTube search bar, what would you search for?
I’m a big fan of Hereford Football Club, so it’d be their YouTube channel (youtube.com/channel/UCEiCmSxoZFgiP_XO987CWLg) which has a ridiculous amount of highlights for a club at such a low level. Either that, or this video that I like to refer to as “heaven on earth”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgIz1Add98s
GAV: Back to work. Do you attend any iGaming conferences? If so, which one is your favorite and what is your most fun experience?
I go to LAC each year, and try to make at least one of the other affiliate conferences. It’s always good to catch up and have a beer with people I am working with or friends in the industry. As the events are about the attendees, LAC is the best, as it has the most attendees and is the conference everyone sees as “the one to be at”.
GAV: What is your opinion overall about affiliate conferences such as SiGMA?
Conferences in general are essential: in such a fragmented, yet people focused industry, they provide a chance to get everyone in a room together which doesn’t happen frequently away from the conferences. I wasn’t able to attend SiGMA last year, but from all accounts it was a good event in a good location.
GAV: How do you rate the chances of Eastern Europe becoming potential gaming hotspot of the future? Where do you think the region must improve upon?
It’s not a region that I’m overly familiar with. Culturally, I think there’s a good fit; at least, Poland is one of the more popular countries for CSGO betting. Mostly, I think it will depend on how the region develops economically. I think it has a good chance of developing into an area that operators and affiliates do well in, due to lower costs and skilled employees in internet and development related areas.
GAV: Alright, here comes the fun part…., where would you like to travel in Eastern Europe, some part of the region maybe that you haven’t visited yet and favorite destination around the world.
I’m not particularly well travelled, but think the most important part is who you are travelling with. I had a great time in South Korea a couple of years ago, which is the most interesting place I’ve visited. There’s nowhere in particular in Eastern Europe on my list, so I’m open to recommendations! If you offered me a free holiday tomorrow in the region, I’d probably go for Croatia.
GAV: Where you wouldn’t want to travel in Eastern Europe?
I’d rather keep to the safer countries, but wouldn’t rule anything out permanently.
GAV: What is your opinion about GAV (Gambling Affiliate Voice – gamblingaffiliatevoice.com)?
It’s always interesting hearing other affiliates’ views, and Gambling Affiliate Voice provides a great platform for that with your interviews.
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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