Online casino affiliates play a central and significant role in the operator ecosystem, allowing them to acquire new players at scale and for a sensible ROI that is entirely performance-based.
The relationship should benefit both parties; operators receive a steady stream of new players and affiliates are financially rewarded for the players they send that sign-up and deposit.
But, in reality, the relationship is balanced in favour of the operator who has complete control over key aspects of the partnership, such as the commercial agreement and terms and conditions.
Some operators are much better than others, and do value the affiliates they work with and the role they play in their new player acquisition strategy. Others, not so much.
From changing commercial agreements to hiding fees to avoiding questions about tracking links and reporting – affiliates must always be on their guard and not take the relationship at face value.
This creates a partnership where mistrust and cynicism are rife, and as a relatively new affiliate in the space we have found the learning curve to be steep and the lessons learned the hard way.
It is a shame, as the operators that do treat their affiliates well are the ones that we have the best results with – the incentive to promote these casinos is much greater.
Below, I discuss some of the main friction points from an affiliate’s perspective and suggest changes that can be made by both parties to improve the relationship.
Get to know the affiliate
We regularly have online casinos reach out and ask to be listed on our site, but the affiliate manager clearly has not taken the time to look at our site to determine if we would make a good partner.
They then ask information such as the markets we target, how we acquire players, etc – two minutes spent scanning our pages would make it obvious that we are UK focussed and an SEO affiliate.
Another pet peeve is operators asking to be listed in top positions on our homepage as they believe this is where all of our organic traffic lands.
Again, a few minutes spent reviewing our site or using a tool like AHREFS would make it apparent that our homepage is actually one of our least visited pages.
Ultimately, the affiliate knows which brands work best on which pages – putting an established casino on our new casino sites page is not a good fit, for example.
Operators should spend a little more time researching the affiliates they wish to partner with and to put a good proposal together for the partnership to get off on the right foot.
They should also trust that the affiliate knows where to position their brand(s) to ensure the best exposure and to maximise conversions.
Affiliates should be fairly compensated for the players they send to an operator that go on to sign up and deposit, whether that be through a CPA, revenue share or hybrid agreement.
Most online casinos are happy to negotiate commercial agreements and, in our experience, on the face of it they tend to be good and fair.
However, when you dig deep into the terms and conditions of the agreement you discover there are often hidden fees that when applied have a drastic impact on the revenues you receive.
For example, we had one operator where we had an agreed 40% revenue share but once their fees had been deducted the share of revenue we actually received was 11%.
I am not opposed to fees, but I do believe that operators need to be more transparent about the reductions they make and when those reductions are made. I also think they should be split 50/50.
This would improve the trust between affiliate and operator and help make the partnership be one of equals and not one where the cards are always stacked against the affiliate.
Regulation and compliance
As a professional online casino affiliate, we want to make sure we are always meeting the highest possible standards when it comes to regulation, compliance and safe gaming.
We regularly read guidance published by the Gambling Commission, the ASA and other watchdogs and audit our site to ensure we are meeting the standards set.
Of course, it would help if operators were able to provide guidance about what they expect from their affiliate partners when it comes to how their brands are promoted and marketed.
Some do offer “compliance packs” and they are incredibly helpful when writing content, promoting bonus offers and displaying terms and conditions.
In addition, we always allow operators to check our content and how their brands are being promoted on our site to ensure we are doing so compliantly.
Despite this, there have and always will be events of non-compliance. When this has happened, we have found operators can be quite forceful in their attempts to rectify the issue.
While we understand it is their licence at risk and that they want to ensure compliance without delay, working with their partner rather than against them is the best way of achieving this.
Threatening to terminate the partnership if changes are not made within a short space of time – despite not having provided compliance guidance in the first place – is not the best approach.
Collaboration is key when it comes to compliance, and by working with an affiliate, operators can ensure issues are quickly rectified and the risk of future compliance breaches mitigated.
Ultimately, there needs to be respect between the operator and the affiliate for the partnership to be fully maximised by both parties.
While some casinos do a great job of making us feel like a valued partner, with others there is room for improvement, but this can be overcome by working more closely together.
With our best-performing casinos, we speak to our account managers on a weekly basis and work together to promote their brand(s) across our site.
Affiliates and operators have worked together for a long time now, and by each party respecting the other and the role they play, relationships can be strengthened for the benefit of both.