Small Gambling Affiliates Can Still Be Compliant
Published On 24th June 2022
This month we've focused a lot on the affiliate side of bingo and online gambling operations. Obviously when your business has it's partnership agreement virtually torn up after 10 years with little or no notice or any option for defence from the likes of Betfair and Bet365 it does make you reflect and wonder just what is going on. One of these brands pulled us up on something we wrote and claimed it was "unfair" yet in the scheme of things such as losing revenue streams and having livlihoods threatened it did seem a bit of an over the top reaction. So in this post we're going to look at an argument or two that has been thrown our way over the last month. Do gambling operators have a point or are they simply conjuring up excuses to avoid paying affiliates? Or is there more to it than meets the eye?
What Is Compliance
Back in 2017 The UKGC decided that the way online gambling was being advertised needed to change. Anything that could be attractive to children such as cartoon images including our Loquax Duck, screenshots of slots with fluffy animals in etc. all had to go. Full terms and conditions of all offers needed to be included alongside various other requirements such as 18+, UK Customers Only and Begambleaware.org. Although this was a lot of work and a bit of a pain in the butt because no one seemed to have the first clue about a uniformed approach, this was all done. This means that if you visit any other bingo review sites or casino review sites then you should see total compliance on their part. Just when everyone thought that all was done and dusted in this particular department then things like #AD needed to be included, old content removed (or at least flagged as expired), and at the real extreme content dictated by the operator. In the latter case for example Bet365 would only allow certain content to be shown. Although we're a small affiliate we managed to adapt to these changes and do our upmost to maintain a fully compliant website. This latter statement is very important.
From what we can deduce by both Bet365 and Betfair's recent decisions is that they're streamlining their affiliate operations. In terms of Betfair we're told that it will "minimise compliance risks" and Bet365 explained that it was so they "can continue to meet regulatory obligations in a focused and streamlined way". So this poses the question are we a risk to their compliance or regulatory obligations. As a small affiliate - and we freely admit that we're not sending these brands loads of players - does that mean we're not compliant or can't manage compliance issues? Probably like all portals we occasionally may have out of date information but when this is flagged can any company out there say that we didn't fix it within a fair time frame. In most cases when our content has been flagged it's been fixed immediately. Could it not be the case that a small affiliate may actually take compliance more seriously because after all you want to protect your income streams and not lose them? So the excuse of minimising compliance risks really doesn't hold much water. In fact it's nonsense.
It's important that we try and look at things in another way. Sometimes an affiliate may set up a website, discover it's too much like hard work or it doesn't convert and forgets about it. Annoyingly Google decides it loves the site and ranks it highly but the content is out of date, non-compliant and has legal teams getting all excited in case The UKGC spots them. In those cases it's understandable why an affiliate may end up suspended or deactivated. But what happens in those cases? Do the links get deactivated? Do visitors get redirected to a landing page saying "you may have visited XYZ Casino from an out of date link, here's our current offer"? No! In the case of our Betfair Bingo suspension the links still worked so obviously they're happy to accept any visitors and/or potential players thereby suggesting they actually are hoping their flagged as inactive affiliate doesn't notice anything. And just for the record - yes our Bet365 links are also still active. If compliance teams were so bothered about regulatory obligations then these links would not take the visitor to the website without some kind of intervention. And we know this can be done because back in February all our Betfair links were switched off for a few days - again without notice.
Cost Cutting Exercise?
Firstly we need to acknowledge that Bet365 are currently honouring their revshare contract. That means players we've sent them previously continue to generate income - at least for now - and we've had to remove their "reviews". Well we say reviews but we couldn't actually review them just publish what we told to do so - unlike some other affiliate sites that seem to be exempt from such rules. Betfair aren't as honourable, or perhaps as clever, and neither were Skybet when they kicked everyone into touch back in 2017. We'd love to know how much revshare they've retained by not paying us for over five years. It might be peanuts to them but it'd be a tidy amount for us. So as Bet365 aren't saving money from revshare but Betfair are then what links their decisions together? The only factor is it's cheaper for them to monitor a few affiliates than many affiliates. We've no idea how much it costs to check compliance on a website but obviously the costs of having an uncompliant affiliate could be much higher if there are issues with The UKGC. Perhaps the revenue we generate doesn't cost the vast sums being paid out for the high levels of affiliate support, compliance checks and wonderful help dished out to us on a daily basis (that dear readers should be read in a very sarcastic way).
The Big Guys Get Bigger
Ultimately it comes to pounds on a spreadsheet and nothing else. If it was about compliance then any affiliate links left by suspended/removed affiliates shouldn't work. By allowing them to remain they're happily accepting traffic from sites which they themselves have said can't be active in order to minimise risks. And do you really think that if Player 1 decided to register and play after clicking through one of these links that the compliance team would turn them away? Of course they wouldn't. It just goes to show what is really going on here. The big guys get bigger and the little guys can't grow or get started. It's a strange way to run an affiliate program. And what you actually end up with is affiliates who are more inclined to be highly loquacious about poor brands whilst happily sending visitors elsewhere, all without the operator's ability to inflict controls and ask for updates. Anyway, just one final thought - if you eventually remove loads of affiliates and just focus on bigger ones then evetually you don't need lots of affiliate managers. So maybe those cost-cutting and streamlining exercises will eventually hit home to those who didn't stick up for the smaller affiliates when their time arose.
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