Ever since the first online casinos emerged in the mid-1990s, they have fostered symbiotic relationships with affiliates – via CPA (cost per acquisition) or percentage-based revenue share – as a way of attracting players cheaply, effectively and on a wider scale.
From day one online gaming firms recognised the benefit of having their casinos and other sites promoted by affiliate marketing for bloggers, just as affiliate programs and power affiliates realised how lucrative the global remote gambling industry would soon prove to become.
According to Statista, The Statistics Portal, as of 2017 the global online gambling market is worth over $47 billion, and by the year 2020 is expected to be worth up to $60 billion, if not more, as mobile gambling continues to grow globally in leaps and bounds.
And just as the online gambling industry is constantly evolving and expanding, so too is the affiliate industry with the emergence of super or power affiliates, many of which are almost as big and powerful as the online gaming firms they so successfully promote.
Like the largest online gambling groups have gobbled up (acquired) rivals along the way, so have many power affiliates. These include the likes of Catena Media, XLMedia, Latest Casinos Bonuses, Blexr, Raketech and others that have transcended affiliate marketing.
But before we examine three of the biggest iGaming power affiliates in greater detail, let’s look at the roots of affiliate marketing, and why it has such a lucrative and symbiotic relationship with online casinos, poker rooms, bingo rooms and sportsbooks globally.
What is affiliating marketing?
Although affiliate marketing is broadly defined as an arrangement where an online business pays a pre-agreed commission to a 3rd party site for generating traffic, leads or sales on its behalf, ‘affiliates’ actually pre-date the internet by decades, but under different names.
These other names include ‘brokers’ or ‘middlemen’ who were and continue to be used, for instance, by the insurance industry as a highly effective tool to ‘sell, solicit or negotiate insurance products and/or services on behalf of the insurer for agreed compensation.’
If you’ve ever bought a policy from an insurance broker, you’ve been a participant in some form of affiliate marketing. And just as insurance brokers don’t design or underwrite the policies themselves, so affiliate marketers don’t offer any gambling services themselves.
All they have to do is sign up with one or more affiliate programmes, where if approved, they’ll be given unique tracking codes or links to place on one or more of their sites. The more traffic their sites generate, the more successful their affiliate campaigns will be.
While some affiliate marketers make just a few dollars each month, others make millions, which is very achievable in the billion dollar online gambling industry. The owners of the largest, most successful affiliate marketing firms are the one who make the big moola.
Although some have just one or two casinos or other gaming sites under their belts, others have multitudes of high-yield gaming sites in their portfolios, and it’s these affiliate firms that are known as power affiliates. Many of them started out small and grew into giants.
The benefits of affiliate for online casinos and other gaming sites are plain to see – they are promoted by numerous sources 100% free of charge in the form of review and bonus sites, and only ever have to pay affiliates the agreed CPA or RevShare for depositing players.
Below is a brief description of three of the most renowned power affiliates currently in operation:
Cantena Media Plc
Launched in 2012, Cantena Media Plc is one of the planet’s biggest power affiliates, or as it bills itself, ‘the world’s #1 provider of high value iGaming leads.’ Headquartered in Malta, Cantena has over 250 employees from 30 countries in 6 locations around the globe.
Started by two childhood friends, Cantena Media has become a poster child for affiliates due to its rapid expansion and key focus areas. These include organic growth, entering new markets, (i.e. verticals and locations) and strengthening its position via acquisitions.
In 2016 the firm practically doubled its operating profit from the previous year to EUR 21 million. After listing on the Nasdaq earlier that year, its share price almost tripled to 90 SEK a share, to give it a market capitalisation of more than 4.5 billion SEK (US$5.5 billion).
Some of Cantena Media’s most notable acquisitions include award-winning sportsbook Bettingpro.com (for GBP 13.9 million), award-winning affiliate AskGamblers.com (for EUR 15 million), slotsia.com, MrGamez.net, Spielekiste.de Newcasinos.com and Spelbloggare.se.
Founded in 2008 by three entrepreneurs, XLMedia Plc is a power affiliate that has taken online gambling or iGaming affiliate marketing to giddy heights. With its headquarters on the island of Jersey, the LSE-listed XLMedia has a market capitalisation of GBP 325 million.
Touted as a market-leading digital marketing services provider, it has four lines of business; Affiliate Program (over 300 sub-affiliates), Media Buying (paid search, banners, mobile and social), Publishing (2,000+ sites in 18 languages), and Social, Web and Mobile Presence.
This super affiliate makes use of a series of proprietary methodologies and tools with a single aim – to generate high value, high volume traffic for the international online gambling industry in exchange for competitive CPA, revenue share or a combination of both.
A few of XLMedia’s most noteworthy acquisitions include Money Under 30 (for $7 million), Secure Thoughts, ClicksMob (for $5.1 million), Mobile Performance Marketing Platform, GreedyRates.ca (for $9.3 million), Marmar Media Ltd and ExciteAd (for $19 million).
Latest Casinos Bonuses (LCB)
One of the best examples of an online gambling power affiliate is Latest Casinos Bonuses (LCB), which is well known throughout the remote gaming industry. The LCB Story started way back in 2006, when a budding entrepreneur launched a humble 5-page website.
Today this power affiliate promotes over 1,390 online casinos and lists almost 2,000 regular and exclusive bonuses. It has almost 100,000 registered users along with almost 400 casino reps. Add to that, the site attracts some 300,000 to 2,000,000 visitors every month.
The site has become the ‘go to online gambling destination’ for internet gaming fans seeking the latest and most comprehensive online casino reviews, tips, bonuses, games reviews, software reviews, forum, tournament information, news, research and much more.
LCB’s long line of acquisitions include OnlineBlackjack.com in 2014, GamesandCasino.com, Wizard of Odds, Wizard of Vegas and Wizard of Macau, Bj21.com, Real Money Action, World Directory Casino, Key To Casino, Two Little Fleas and Affiliate Guard Dog in 2017.
Is there a place for small casino affiliates?
The answer is yes, but only within a very small and highly defined niche. Considering the seemingly bottomless budgets and limitless manpower of power affiliates, it’s virtually impossible to compete with them head to head with the most common keywords.
However, if they confine themselves to smaller, more specialist niches, they have a chance to rank in the major search engines, and thus become big traffic affiliate sites that online casinos and other types of virtual gaming enterprises are so eager to partner with.
Take No Deposit Friend for instance, a small to medium affiliate site that has earned itself a reputation as a leading go to site for ‘no deposit bonuses.’ Proof of its authority can be seen in its enviable rankings in most of the search engines and by its high visitor numbers.
Online casinos don’t care about how big or small an affiliate is provided it sends them new players. In this way, online gambling affiliate marketing offers a level playing field, as long as smaller affiliates can carve themselves a niche and boost it using best SEO practices.