Interview with Luke Cotton, founder of CSGOBetting.com – esports betting
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.