I have new, existing and potential affiliates contacting me on a regular basis. They’re either looking to become a first time affiliate marketer, diversify into the gambling affiliate field, or looking to expand within the gambling affiliate beyond just poker.
However they’re not sure what field they should enter first, and so I wanted to write this article to list the pros & cons of every field to possibly help people decide.
Now my first answer when someone asks me what gambling niche they should promote is always: do what you are most passionate about. I fully believe that if you are passionate about a topic, you will always be able to make money from it. However this factual comparison will also help you decide.
While some of the facts in this article may change over the years as the online gambling world evolves, the fundamentals will always stay the same. Most of this is in reference to revenue share plans, but I’ve also been sure to keep CPA in mind as well. (If you’re not sure exactly what CPA or Revenue Share is, or the differences, read my CPA vs Revenue Share article.)
Poker Affiliate Marketing:
Becoming A Poker Affiliate: The Pros
The biggest pro about being a poker affiliate, is the constant growth and ever-increasing ROI on revenue share. Income for the most part is going to be always increasing, and always positive – unless the revenue share plan also includes casino side games or sports betting – then you will see swings. In this day and age a bonus is never given to a player until they’ve generated more rake than the bonus is worth.
People aren’t just playing online poker for fun – many of them are looking to make a living out of it. EVERYONE knows someone who makes money playing poker online. There is an absolute TON of poker strategy books available, so many players will be reading those and getting better at online poker, playing more, playing bigger stakes, and generating more rake for you in the process.
There’s also still a casual playerbase too. So CPA works, as long as the requirements aren’t too strict. While the “poker boom” is long gone, there are still lots of new players signing up to play poker every day.
A lot of the webmasters reading this article are existing poker affiliates looking to diversify. The income from poker affiliation has decreased drastically over the years, causing many webmasters to lose focus or completely abandon their poker affiliate projects. When that happens, it’s a great time for someone new to come in and take over the market space they once dominated.
There are a lot of top brands out there, who make your work in regards to conversion a lot easier. Brands like Pokerstars and 888 have big marketing budgets, and worked hard at strengthening their brand name. This makes it a lot easier to promote these types of rooms to new players.
Becoming A Poker Affiliate: The Cons
Obviously the “poker boom” period is over – it’s a lot more difficult these days to get started with a website and make money online as a poker affiliate. There’s also still a lot of competition – and practically every niche is saturated. You’re not going to be able to spend 20 minutes with Google Keyword Tool and checking Google competition and rankings, then discover yourself a goldmine.
The online poker climate and economy is always changing. The USA is for the most part a dead zone, and every week another poker room has closed down, purchased by another, or switched networks.
Look at the rakeback industry for example: there was a time where “rakeback” was the gold mine of all gold mines. Now it’s completely dead, with more and more rooms becoming anti-rakeback and dropping their rakeback program in favour of an in-rewards program. Now many of the once big rakeback affiliates are severely struggling and just giving up.
Player loyalty is low. It doesn’t take much for a player to switch poker rooms. Smart poker players will generally go where the best deal is. Poker room retention sucks – poker rooms for the most part just have no idea how to retain players. They change their rewards programs frequently to “make it better for the player” – which ultimately is insulting the intelligence of the player.
While it’s not as rampant these days, poker players used to move from poker room to poker room based purely on bonuses or rakeback percentage. Even the casual players – while some of them are lazy and will stay at the room they sign up with; others will play until they lose, declare the room is rigged and then move on. I know a few people who have burned through over 10 poker rooms due to the “it’s rigged” theory and not one of the poker rooms has made any sort of attempt at retaining that player.
Becoming A Poker Affiliate: Summarized
It’s a lot harder these days for an affiliate to make money as a poker affiliate. It’s not impossible by a long shot – but it’s going to require a lot of work. You’re also going to have to find a good, relatively untapped niche or have a big budget – it’s an extremely competitive marketplace, and creating a standard, generic poker portal just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
I would highly recommend choosing CPA as a poker affiliate, if you have the option. The long-term value of players at any poker room is unknown at this time. There are so many factors that contribute to this, and they’re practically all negative.
No new online poker room has been able to show up and become a huge success overnight like Full Tilt or Cake did – and it’s not without lack of trying. Some rooms have shown up with a big budget(ie: Victory Poker) or with something groundbreaking(ie: mobile only, mobile apps) and been unable to make any sort of an impact.
I don’t meant to discourage you – it IS possible to start a poker affiliate website tomorrow and make money – but it’s going to be a lot of hard work. It’s not a case of throwing up any old website – you need to take great care in the topic that you choose, and you need to take even greater care in what brands you promote, making sure they match your target markets needs perfectly.
Casino Affiliate Marketing:
Becoming A Casino Affiliate: The Pros
The obvious one is if you are on revenue share – the income. While something like poker is a gradual growth – being a casino affiliate, you can go from making $0 in your first month to making $5,000 in your second month. It won’t happen as often as you may hope – but casino affiliation is both highly profitable in the short term and long term.
It’s also a lot easier to “get lucky” when it comes to casino affiliation. You can stumble across whales via the most random keywords. And it can be constant too – checking your casino affiliate accounts can become extremely addictive, watching a whale drop hundreds of dollars every day for months.
It’s also not even just about the whale – casinos can be easy for getting consistent depositors. A large portion of my income is made up of people who only deposit $20 at a time. Some of them only deposit $100 per month but it all adds up.
Even when players win at online casinos – it’s a lot more likely that they will simply lose it all back and then some. A player can deposit $20, work it all the way up to $300, $400, $500 and $600….then lose it all within 10 minutes.
Even if the player wins and requests a withdrawal – the casino usually won’t process the withdrawal for a few days, allowing them to log in and cancel the withdrawal(which happens often). Unfair to the player? Sure. But it’s similar to the land-based casino. To cash in your money you actually have to get up from the table or slots, and walk over to the cashier area to cash out as opposed to getting your money right there and then.
Depending on the online casino – retention can be very strong. You will learn via trial and error what casinos work for you and your traffic in terms of retention but when you pick the right one it can be a gold mine.
Conversion can be relatively easy too. Online casinos are GREAT at setting up custom landing pages, promotions or bonuses for you and they have a lot more freedom – which can really help you when it comes to converting your visitors.
New online casinos are opening every day as well – and many of them actually take off. Unlike the poker world where you mostly have a monopoly – when an online casino launches these days, the affiliate program seems to put a lot more effort into that casino than normal. Ranking for new online casinos can be highly profitable.
Becoming A Casino Affiliate: The Cons
The long-term future of online casinos is a big one. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen the closure of many casino affiliate programs and even actual software providers such as Vegas Technology. Many of these changes have happened overnight.
Shaving, cheating and stealing from affiliates is unfortunately rampant in the casino affiliate industry. It’s at the point where you honestly cannot trust any program, due to what has happened in the past. C-Planet for example were a fairly reputable affiliate program, however over the course of a year got worse and worse. Rogued at many online gambling portals, they ended up blatantly stealing players from affiliates. Casino affiliate programs LOVE to retroactively change their terms and conditions as well – never in favour of the affiliate.
The casino industry is also very competitive. Why wouldn’t it be? It can be one of the best ways to make money online. There are still areas that are untapped or have relatively low competition – but the primary keywords will take a LOT of work to even come close to ranking for.
Finally – players DO win. It’s not like every player is going to sign up and deposit and lose their money and you’ll be wiping your arse with $100 bills. So there can be huge spikes. You can be up $500 one day, down $250 the next. So it’s not income you can count on – until the end of the month all your earnings could be wiped out in one day.
And when I say the end of the month I mean the end of the month – don’t go into the last day of the month thinking you’re good. On the last day of the month, the $2000 in affiliate earnings could be wiped out.
Something that funnily enough, happens enough times that you wonder if it’s a coincidence.
Becoming A Casino Affiliate: Summarized
I know quite a few affiliate managers who will be reading the “cons” section and cringing – I’m sure some people are reading that and thinking “Wow – every casino affiliate program is a crook!”. That’s not the case at all. There are some fantastic affiliate programs and managers out there who I trust, and who are extremely open about their program. There have been a few times where I’ve been concerned, and when I’ve contacted the program they’ve been extremely open, and provided me with a detailed report on a specific player to set my mind at rest.
Just do due diligence and research prior to working with a casino affiliate program. To me – that’s the biggest mistake a casino affiliate can make(well, after choosing CPA over revenue share!); not doing enough research when it comes to choosing who to work with.
While I try and keep promotional links out of my articles, If you’re a new casino affiliate pick any of these programs to work with: Affiliate Edge, Focal Click, Revenue Jet, Rewards Affiliates, Slotland Affiliates, VideoSlots. They are programs that I have worked with – some for months, some for years – and would have no qualms about recommending.
Sportsbook Affiliate Marketing:
Becoming A Sportsbook Affiliate: The Pros
To me, one of the biggest appeals of being a sportsbook affiliate is that the market is still relatively untapped. Yes, I said it and I believe it – there’s still plenty of room online to make a living as a sportsbook affiliate.
It’s quite interesting really – because you’d think with so many people having interest in sports, that one of the first things they would do is head into sportsbook affiliation. However they don’t – even though you don’t need to have a lot of gambling knowledge to promote sportsbooks online.
There ARE some highly competitive markets in sports betting – and bizarrely, this is what new affiliates seem to drift towards. “Free bets”, “sportsbook bonuses” and “sportsbook reviews” are the most popular choice for affiliates. These are extremely competitive markets and should probably be avoided if you’re new to affiliate marketing.
But there is absolutely tons of room outside that market. From specific sports betting keywords to specific sports – it never fails to amaze me just how much potential there is for a sportsbook affiliate.
Player loyalty is extremely high too – when a player signs up at a sportsbook, they’re likely to stay there even if the sportsbook spits in their face. It doesn’t matter what else there is to offer, what bonuses there is to chase, what odds are elsewhere – players get comfortable at a book and will stay there no matter what.
Players can also be relatively easy to turn into regular sports betters. A recent example of this is Carbon Sports which Chipsplit launched late 2012.
You had all these players under you playing poker – and after launching Carbon Sports, a lot of these players gravitated to sports betting with practically zero effort. The launch of Carbon Sports has been a relatively low-key launch yet I’m seeing about 30% of my players place at least one bet at the sportsbook – and many of them are making multiple bets every day.
Becoming A Sportsbook Affiliate: The Cons
The biggest con is when it comes to revenue. On revenue share, sportsbook affiliation is like the bastard child of poker affiliation and casino affiliation. Your average sports better is going to win about 40%-50% of the time, and get better as he goes along. While long-term they will ultimately end up losers, there can be some incredible dry periods when it comes to income.
I primarily promote 10 sportsbooks. During the NFL 2011/2012 season, EVERY ONE of those sportsbooks was in the negative. Some climbed out of the negative after a few weeks but for most of them it took months to get back in the black. I’ll still remember the day I got a $52 affiliate payment from one book. It was the happiest payment I ever received, as that sportsbook had been negative for me for over one year in the range of $25,000.
Sportsbooks can also be confusing for the new user – there’s relatively low consistency between all sportsbooks and the way their user interface is set up. That makes it more difficult to get people to switch sportsbooks, as it can be extremely overwhelming. The education level is low as well – with many sportsbooks lacking when it comes to laying out the specific terms of a bet, or how their system works.
I also find many sportsbooks promotional offers are misleading, and end up losing the players trust rather than being an attractive reason to sign up. Many of them will tout the “free bet” or the “risk free bet” – then you start reading the fine print and realize that to claim this “free bet” you need to deposit and bet with that money. Then if you lose that bet, you’ll be given the money back…but then may have to rollover it a few times. That’s the sort of marketing crap that should have went out in the last decade, as everyone is aware of the “fine print” scam by now.
Conversion at sportsbooks can be very frustrating too at times. I find you get a lot of curiousity clicks at online sportsbooks – that, or the sportsbook just isn’t doing the best job at convincing the user to sign up. So you can see extremely low conversion rates which can be disheartening. Over the years I have some sportsbooks where I’ve delivered quality traffic to, and my signup ratio is 1/1000 or lower.
Becoming A Sportsbook Affiliate: Summarized
From the POV of running a website – sportsbook affiliation is the most attractive. It’s not as competitive, it’s a lot easier to get up and running, there’s a huge audience of players and player loyalty is great.
However unlike poker or casino affiliation, it’s not an industry where you can count on regular payments. And that’s not because of rogue programs or shaving or anything like that – it’s just a case of players winning. On the sportsbooks I promote where I get paid on a weekly basis, I’ll often go 3-4 weeks without payment due to the negative balance, 6-7 weeks of payment, then another 3-4 weeks of the negative again.
If you’re looking to make consistent money in the short-term, and if you’re looking to rely on money made online as your sole source of income – then I’d recommend at least diversifying, and not relying solely on sportsbook affiliate income.
I didn’t cover becoming a bingo affiliate in this article because honestly – most people ask about poker affiliation, casino affiliation and sportsbook affiliation.
To cover bingo affiliation in short – I’ve found you REALLY need to know the market, to make money as a bingo affiliate. It’s not something you can BS your way through. Most bingo rooms offer free cash. Spend a week taking advantage of a few bingo rooms free deposit bonus, and also depositing money of your own. Play bingo, play the chat games etc – after a week if you don’t want to kill yourself, then you have the ability to be a bingo affiliate.
There are many other factors that you can of course add to the pros & cons, but I believe those are the main ones. My aim here is to really outline the pros & cons that you need to factor in when deciding what area of gambling affiliate marketing you are going to get into.
No matter what path you choose – just realize that it’s going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of self-education and a lot of failure before you really succeed in that path.
But it’s all worth it.