With all the changes in the US facing online gambling industry since 2006, the state of the affiliate industry within this market has been- and still remains- a grey area. The big question is, can affiliates continue to run a business that solely promotes online gambling sites to the US consumer? The answer is probably yes, but the challenge is how to manage uncertainty in the market.
We know the pool of online gambling operators to choose from is much smaller than it was pre-2006 plus Google’s updates have killed off black-hat SEO, smaller affiliates and spammy sites full of links. This means the affiliate market is much more competitive than it was before.
And lets not forget the Feds who work in unpredictable ways, indicting dozens of industry related professionals, suddenly shutting down online gambling operators and payment processors.
Another point of uncertainty is that no one knows what the regulated US online gambling market will look like, so adjusting an affiliate business now in anticipation of the regulated US market could be one big waste of time. Needing a license to operate in the US as an affiliate is something that could become a reality beyond Nevada and if you ask Jon Friedberg, the only affiliate licensed to operate in the US market today, you’ll learn that obtaining a license was no easy task.
On the bright side, there are international operators licensed in legitimate jurisdictions that are happy to have US facing affiliates working with them on their sportsbook offering, just like the good old days. However, its more than likely there will be some hiccups along the way.
One month ago the DOJ unsealed indictments against 34 people and 23 companies related to the Panamanian licensed Legends Sports, resulting in Panama revoking that license. One week later, Legends customers (and affiliates) were informed that their accounts were getting transferred to WagerWeb Sportsbook and to bear with them during the process.
Marty Davis has been working in the US facing online gambling affiliate business for at least a decade and is currently the Affiliate Director at WagerWeb. Davis explained that the Legends deal was one of those “right place at the right time” moments and confirmed that all of the player balances were saved. He confirmed that once those funds are transferred, players’ complete their 5X rollover requirements and deposit, the appropriate affiliates will begin earning commission again on those players.
Thankfully, the decisions made by Legends did not mimic those of BetEd and BetIslands, resulting in players and affiliates losing their balances.
“Initially there was widespread panic that players would lose their balance the way they did when BetEd and BetIslands was shut down. The industry can’t handle many more of these Federal shutdowns and more importantly players’ funds being confiscated. So the difference between the BetEd and BetIsland fiasco is that WagerWeb acquired all the Legends players with the balances intact”, explained Davis.
In addition to keeping player and affiliate funds safe, WagerWeb has promised to make some improvements to their sportsbetting product and affiliate software.
“WagerWeb is adding the BLR sportsbetting platform which is the same software that was being used by Legends”, said Davis. “We have upgraded to MyAffiliates software that is very user friendly and many affiliates are already accustomed to. We are also revamping the site, the idea is to help improve the user experience and to retain players. We are constantly looking for new ways to do just that!”
There are still some good options out there for affiliates, but these affiliates will have to work harder now than ever before because choice of reputable operators is smaller and Google is smarter.
“If you are educated, up to date on your SEO and ready to put in the hours the future is bright”, said Davis. “The competition is migrating to the elite Gambling Affiliates”.
To fall into the “elite” category, affiliates must have expertise that goes beyond SEO and website development- they need to possess an ability to adapt to change quickly while only working with affiliate programs of operators with an excellent reputation.
Good places to check up on the reputability of affiliate programs are industry watchdog sites and forums such as GPWA or Sports Book Review (SBR) and even just asking around can help- the US facing online sportsbook business may not be corporate America, but its still a tight-knit community where reputation and word-of-mouth is king.
When it comes to online gambling industry within the US there is still a lot up in the air, but most people will agree that its not very likely online sportsbetting will become regulated anytime soon, if ever. Americans will always seek out ways to bet on sports online, so clearly the market is still there for affiliates, but to be successful they need to do their research and remain as flexible as possible in this unpredictable market.
“This business year after year is a true test of resiliency and the ability to adapt. It’s never going to be a welcome industry and will always face ongoing challenges but what the future holds is mystery”, said Davis. “Who would have imagined the course the US facing Gaming Industry would have taken over the last 15 years. BOS, UIGEA, UB, AP, Black Friday, so much uncertainty, my only prediction is that I do not see Sports Gambling ever becoming legal. Assuming that is the case moving forward so long as the Feds do not shut you down, its business as usual for the Sportsbooks”.