Monday, April 30, 2012

Affiliates: The Anchor Around The Neck of Online Casinos


In the early days of the Internet,search engines weren't the endless founts of knowledge that they aretoday. It was frequently difficult to find things, and even moredifficult to find new things.As such, there emerged a marketing strategy, that many types ofcompanies still actually employ, called the affiliate.

Affiliates are people who gather upcustomers and then send them to a client for a share of the profit.This could be a casino, Amazon, gourmet retailer, anyone.Today, with search engines as good as they are, the affiliate programhas faded for most industries... except for the casino industry. Thismay seem innocent enough, but it is actually a devastating anchoraround the neck of the casino world.

Eventually,you had affiliates who worked very hard to draw as much traffic aspossible to their pages. They would buy all casino-related searchterms on Google and Yahoo. They would fill their sites with pagesmeant to vacuum up general search traffic. Truly, they blanketedthe Internet with their presence vis-a-vis casinos.

At the beginning,there weren't that many casinos, so this wasn't terribly difficult.But as the number of casinos and affiliates increased, casinos haveto compete by offering greater percentages of the profits to theaffiliates.

Theindustry is now in a position where affiliates control large numbersof players, with some even being referred to as super-affiliates. To see some of these guys in action, all one has to do is Google "Online Casinos," which of course I did.

The first listing is the Wikipedia page, but #2, #3, #5, #8, and #10 are all affiliate pages. The others are casinos that have simply been around for so long, like 888, that they can't help but appear in the top search results.

I did the same thing on Yahoo!, where all eight sponsored listings were for affiliate pages. In their general search results, only two listings were for actual casinos and not for affiliate pages. During your average search, affiliates essentially own your screen.

Thisabsolute clusterfuck of a situation means that any casino that was starting up and wanted to gather acustomer base couldn't just start.They had to go to one or many of these affiliates and pay forplacement on their page. And since casinos have to pay by offering upwards of 60% of their profits tothese affiliates, the casinos have responded by lowering the RTP andgenerally finding any and all ways to screw players.

The other half of the system only makes the first half worse. Casinos that offer these deals to affiliates (usually referred to as "sheets." As in a "fifty cent sheet.") get top placement. Thus, the worst casinos get the most attention, because affiliates push those casinos that give them the highest commissions. Affiliates only care about themselves, casinos only care about the affiliates, and no one cares about the customer.

I consider thissystem untenable. In many ways, it has already collapsed under itsown weight. Revenues at online casinos are way down, even with theglobal recession taken into account. I think the affiliate model anda complete lack of quality from the major players (save for NetEntand Galewind) has caused this.

The only way forward is for some serious companies to arise and take back the industry. I am talking major online casinos that immediately invest many millions in advertising and promulgate an attitude of quality and character. They spend the necessary money to own the Internet. For me, there are a few casinos that manage this on the strength of their tangential brand (Virgin, Sky), but only one that manages it on sheer force of quality, Pinnacle.

They don't advertise, and since they don't offer an affiliate program, they don't get mentioned on major websites. There's no way to make money off of them, which is absolutely fantastic. That means that the quality and seriousness of the casino is what carries them. They are not infected with this horrid illness that as endemic to the rest of the industry. They are simply a casino.

You go in. You play. You win or lose. That's all, and that's exactly what you want.

Affiliates and bonuses are tightlyconnected, and they have evolved together in this colossalpooch-screw that we call online gaming. Make sure to read my post onbonuses (coming soon).

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Welcome

I'd like to welcome all none of you the inaugural post on my new blog. This isn't my first blog, but it is the first for my newly-created anonymous personality. I'd rather that friends and family don't know that I'm silly enough to spend a rather significant amount of money playing casino games online. This has actually proven to be relatively easy. The difficult part was the few times that I really hit it big and had to explain why I was suddenly buying a new car.

But that's besides the point. The real point is that I have created this blog to air my grievances with online casinos. Not any one of them in particular, but all of them, or near-as-dammit all of them.

I've been playing online games every now and then for over a decade, but only recently did my desire and ability to play really become a centerpiece of my entertainment spending. So, no surprise, my scrutiny of what I was playing increased. That increased analysis brought with it a whole host of nasty revelations about the structure of the industry and nature of the companies in it.

My problems boil down to affiliates, the jack-asses who quasi-control the industry, bonuses, the absurd "free money" promotions that are basically lies, and Terms & Conditions, the legal-ish documents that try to provide some air of legitimacy to otherwise shady practices. All of these issues will be explored fully in later posts.

But those are later posts, and they are coming, well, later. Until then, welcome. I hope that you find what I have to say informative.