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Boots on the ground: What it’s like being an affiliate in the US sports betting market

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Boots on the ground: What it’s like being an affiliate in the US sports betting market
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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.

Opportunities

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.

Affiliate Success

Three-peat for the King Billy Affiliate Program at the SBC Awards!

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Three-peat for the King Billy Affiliate Program at the SBC Awards!

 

We should know by now that King Billy Casino was bound to be in the limelight for one more time. True to the words of the great Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho “Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.”, King Billy does it for the third time in a row.

So, after being shortlisted at the prestigious iGB Awards (and from there, winning it all), being shortlisted again at the prestigious EGR Awards, the King Billy Affiliate Program has now also been shortlisted at the prestigious SBC Awards (event to be held on December 3). Moreover, the operator is also on the SBC Awards short list for Casino Rising Star.

We asked the mastermind behind this tremendous streak, Ruslan Legenzov, King Billy Head of Affiliates to share his feelings with us and a few words about this new distinction. He was, understandably, in a state of euphoria:

“This is beyond our wildest dreams! To complete the “Big 3” of the industry’s annual biggest awards shows, by being short-listed in each and every one of them fills us all with immense pride. At King Billy Casino, we set out with a single goal in mind: to move beyond the commission and offer to our affiliates a program never seen before. We are happy that our effort is recognized by both judges and Affiliates!”

The SBC Awards, now in its 6th year, recognize the achievements of operators, affiliates and suppliers from across all major disciplines including payments, marketing, platform providers and data. The Awards will be held at Battersea Evolution, in the heart of London, bringing together 700 gaming industry delegates.

King Billy Casino is a new generation online casino, available in 5 languages (English, German, Russian, Finnish and Norwegian and soon Japanese) with an impressive record in awards and an amazing variety of games providers and features. King Billy has built on creating a superb user experience focusing on the myth of King Billy and his Kingdom and treats all players with the specialness they deserve.

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First Georgia iGaming Affiliate Conference: What Was Discussed at the Event?

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First Georgia iGaming Affiliate Conference: What Was Discussed at the Event?

 

On October 18, Smile-Expo held the first Georgia iGaming Affiliate Conference in Tbilisi. The event was dedicated to the specific nature of online and offline gambling business operations, Georgian gambling market prospects, and casino promotion using affiliate marketing.

The conference brought together casino managers, affiliate network representatives, government officials, webmasters, arbitrage experts, SEO specialists, as well as gambling regulation and taxation professionals.

Speakers’ presentations

Sviatoslav Slaboshpitskiy, Head of SEO at Digital Choo (DC), spoke on the topic: The Art of War in SEO: How to Win the iGaming Niche. The speaker stressed that one should develop niche websites to achieve efficient results. At the same time, it is significant to analyze the response and to evolve resources showing the best performance. Sviatoslav also talked about the rules of SEO team building. The expert recommended entrusting the content creation to single-discipline specialists as well as developing checklists and tutorials for newcomers.

Dmitriy Makarov, CEO at Zlodei Advertising Agency, and Gleb Sanzharevsky, CMO at Zlodei, made a collaborative presentation dedicated to ad placement on YouTube and Twitch. They explained that promotion via influencers could increase conversion better than direct advertising. The experts stressed that user stories and popular memes made ads more fruitful.

Nikola Minkov, CEO at Serpact, examined the application of the so-called Featured Snippets, zero blocks in the search results. According to the speaker, Google provides users with such snippets in 40% of the queries. They allow online resources to generate organic traffic and enhance the click-through rate.

The audience was intrigued by Ketevan Bitskinashvili, Chief Financial Officer at the Ministry of Finance of Georgia. The speaker told them about the special features of the Georgian gambling market regulation. She mentioned that the cost of gambling permissions depended on a venue type, a target region, and a number of installed gambling machines. The same parameters affect tax rates.

Ms. Ketevan stated that Georgia had already issued 214 gambling licenses. 20 casinos are operating in the country now. 10 of them are located in Batumi and its suburbs, 6 in Tbilisi, and one each in Gudauri, Tskhaltubo, Kazbegi, and Sighnaghi.

Giorgi Gvenetadze from Adjarabet raised an issue of online casino customer acquisition. The speaker believes that the core feature of advertising banners used by Georgian casinos is the availability of luxury car images. Besides, promotion messages mostly appeal to senses of beauty, control, and simplicity.

Panel discussion

The conference featured a panel discussion titled ‘Offline and online casinos. Review of tools for the competition for user attention’. It involved:

Shota Amiranashvili, President of the Association of casinos in Adjara;

Levan Kavtaradze, Director of Gaming department at Pokermatch;

Giorgi Gvenetadze, Head of Product Marketing Department at Adjarabet;

Lavrentiy Gubin from Shangri La Casino, an invited guest.

Experts said that primary advantages of land-based casinos included reach experience of the gaming process, expensive surroundings, and staff attentiveness. Virtual gambling platforms are lack of these aspects. Therefore, discussion participants think that offline gambling venues will never shift to the online space.

Speaking about the most in-demand gambling entertainments, specialists highlighted simple and user-friendly games like roulettes. Moreover, they noted that poker was becoming less popular because of the high buy-in. Currently, we can see a crypto casino trend, as such platforms ensure anonymity.

Participants also focused on the state regulation of the gambling market. According to them, countries failing to regulate the gambling business lose money that could go to the government budget as taxes. One more fact specified: gambling advertising bans give an impetus to look for new audience engagement channels.

Afterparty

The conference ended with a party. Guests, speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors were able to enjoy live music, Georgian sweets, beverages, and snacks. The afterparty allowed participants to communicate in a relaxed atmosphere and establish useful business contacts.

We express our gratitude to the Afterparty Sponsor, NOFLEAD gambling resource, helping to carry out the afterparty in an extremely comfortable environment.

Sponsors, exhibitors, and participants

Companies offering various iGaming goods and services introduced their solutions and services in the exhibition area. Event sponsors were exhibitors as well.

Badge and Bag Sponsor: Digital Choo, an international marketing agency with deep expertise in gaming.

Exhibition Area Sponsor: SoftGamings, a provider of advanced В2В solutions for online casinos.

Afterparty Sponsor: NOFLEAD, an online gambling resource aimed at both beginners and experienced gamblers.

Lanyard Sponsor: ZLODEI, an advertising agency with deep expertise in native advertising.

By the way, attendees were able to examine a stand by IBCCS TAX, an international company providing a wide range of fiduciary services.

Another event participant was Partners.io, an affiliate network for cryptocurrency gambling programs.

The Smile-Expo team expresses its gratitude to sponsors, speakers, and exhibitors for participation in the conference. We look forward to seeing you at the next events dedicated to gambling and affiliate marketing.

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What does “beyond the commission” mean for King Billy? A short list (at least) at the EGR Awards!

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What does “beyond the commission” mean for King Billy? A short list (at least) at the EGR Awards!

 

King Billy Casino has been making quite some noise with its Affiliate Program this year. The program has gained momentum and achieved wide recognition from Affiliates, both established and upcoming, which is something not to be taken lightly, given the, ahem, unpredictable mentality and demands of the Affiliate world.

According to King Billy, this is a program that promises to take the casino – affiliates relationship to a new, mythical level “beyond the commission”. You may wonder (as we did) what lands lie beyond the commission. Is the first stop Valhalla? El Dorado? Shangri La? Camelot? Mount Olympus?

Much closer actually: It is the luxurious Grosvenor House on London’s Park Lane, home of the 2019 EGR Awards. The King Billy Affiliates Program has been short-listed in the Affiliate Program Category and we asked Ruslan Legenzov, Head of Affiliates at King Billy Casino, to share his feelings with us.

The excitement never gets old! Congratulations to the whole department at King Billy, our “King’s Servants” who make this possible. Also, a big thanks to our Marketing and Creative Department for helping us move beyond the commission exactly the way our affiliates want.

Following our biggest distinction to date, the award at the 2019 iGB Awards, this is one more proof that we are doing something extremely well at King Billy Casino. Obviously, after being short-listed, we‘d like to go all the way, but we are well aware of the top level and the quality of all the nominees. So, see you at Grosvenor House and may the best operator win!”

The reputable EGR Operator Awards reward B2C operators for setting the standard in egaming excellence, with categories ranging from customer service to social responsibility, and recognizing achievements across all verticals. The 2019 Awards will take place on the evening of Thursday 24 October at Grosvenor House, London.

King Billy Casino is a new generation online casino, available in several languages (English, German, Russian, Finnish, Norwegian and soon Japanese) with an impressive record in awards and distinctions. The King Billy Affiliates Program has already won the 2019 iGB Awards Affiliate Program of the Year award.

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