US iGaming: Affiliate’s biggest opportunity in the past 20 years?

The continued saturation of the iGaming market in Europe means that affiliates, similar to other key industry stakeholders, are always on the hunt for new growth opportunities. The fact that many US states are typically the same size as some European countries is enough to get anyone excited at the possibility of US expansion.  But with fragmented regulatory frameworks, affiliate license requirements and a large volume of uneducated and inexperienced online bettors, how can this vision of US takeover be properly realised?

Allan Petrilli, VP of Sales and Growth for Intelitics shared his perspective with iGamingFuture on the merits of this explosive market and what budding US affiliates need to consider to ensure successful market penetration.

As new markets in North America continue to open up, what potential does this have for the affiliate community and how can they ensure they’re able to successfully enter these markets?

“The regulated market in the US presents one of the greatest opportunities for iGaming affiliates in the past 20 years, despite the fragmented state-by-state approach to licensing. Most states are the size of a significant European market – some are even bigger – with affluent populations and plenty of channels through which to acquire traffic.

“That being said, SEO is competitive and presents a challenge for affiliates to overcome. Trying to build a successful business through SEO alone will not work which is why publishers must also look to paid media where the opportunity is massive. This is because a growing number of tier one ad platforms are becoming more friendly to online casino and sports betting.

“At present, the majority of affiliates have not leveraged this. While the market has grown quickly, publishers have been sluggish by comparison. This means there is still a first-mover advantage to be had, but affiliates will need to be creative if they are to gain it. This could mean buying traffic in untapped places or building their own sustainable audience in both regulated and upcoming states.”

North America is unique in the fact that affiliates need licenses to operate. There have been many calls for this sort of framework to be implemented in Europe. Do you think this should happen and what impact would it have on the future growth of this sector?

“I understand why the US has gone down the route of licensing affiliates, especially given the long history of rogue affiliates and issues for operators when it comes to ensuring their partners are compliant and market responsibly. Will other countries follow? I’m not so sure as in most other industries, affiliates are not licensed.

“Of course, there are advantages to licensing publishers. It holds affiliates accountable for their actions and removes some of the burden from the operator. There are always a few bad apples that sour the reputation of affiliates but the wider industry has come a long way from the days when they were simply webmasters – today, some affiliates are bigger than the operators they promote.

“My concern with licensing is that it would ultimately prevent a number of quality affiliates from entering the online gambling industry if it was widespread. As I said, it is not standard in any other industry that affiliates work in so I think it would prohibit those active in other markets from expanding into the iGaming space.”

From a player perspective, what sort of content works best in North American regions? Online betting is still a new concept to US consumers, how will that impact the sort of content being produced?

“The best affiliates will be producing educational content around what betting is and how to bet, but most importantly they will be doing it in a way that is creative and fun. There is a huge learning process that needs to be undertaken to ensure that players know online gambling regulated, why brands required social insurance numbers, and how they can be sure sites are reputable and trustworthy.

“Affiliates are very savvy, and I think many will look to own their own player databases so we will see them create content that enables them to build communities that they can then monetize in the long term. This shows the level at which affiliates will need to operate if they are to succeed in the US market and indeed other markets around the world.

“Those that offer the best odds, for example, won’t win without having more engaging content beyond this as in the early stages of the US market a large percentage of players will have little to no experience when it comes to online betting and gambling so they will need to be guided through the process. That is why it is vital that content has genuine value to the consumer.

“There is so much competition for attention already – from betting brands to media companies as well as tertiary and competing products, affiliates need to create and provide content that stands out from the crowd.”

Which jurisdictions within the US do you consider to be the most exciting for 2021 and why?

“This is a tough question. The larger states opening up are exciting from a pure size point but then you also have to consider the rules and requirements in each state as this has a huge impact on the opportunity for affiliates.

“The number of licenses being offered in the state should also be a consideration. For example, New York potentially launching with what amounts to a duopoly will mean it is not nearly as interesting a state for affiliates as states with heavy competition amongst operators, and many offers to promote.”

Editor’s Note: As Allan has demonstrated, the US is still in its early stages and there will be no one clear route to online success in this sector. A mix of marketing approaches, whether paid media or SEO, will be needed alongside strong content that clearly adds value to the customer journey is essential.

The unique nature of the regulatory framework will definitely limit the number of affiliates with the means to successfully penetrate the market but for the ones that do, the growth opportunities are endless. An exciting future ahead, so stay tuned!

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