I would like to thank you for spending time to answer our questions. First I would kindly ask you to shortly introduce yourself and also speak about the company you represent.
I am a Czech attorney based in Prague where I have my legal practice. I am also a senior advisor to WH Partners, a Malta-based leading law firm and head their Central European practice with the main focus being on the Czech Republic and Slovakia where I am originally from. I regularly advise clients in the gaming/gambling industries on transactional as well as regulatory aspects of their operations. In addition to that, I also focus on mergers and acquisitions, private equity and complex cross border transactions.
You have rich experience in gaming and gambling industries since you have been giving advice to clients for a long a time on different aspect of this industry. How would you characterize the Slovakian gambling market and what changes can you relate about?
The Slovakian gambling market was booming at the beginning of the 1990s due to omnipresent land based operations. The gambling industry developed a very negative image in the eyes of the general population which still persists and affects the government’s policy in this area. The main piece of legislation governing the gambling industry is the Act on gambling games from 2005 (“Gambling Act”) which has been through many changes since its adoption. The most relevant changes have been introduced by amendments which became effective on 1 January 2017 (“Amendments”). The Amendments introduced more stringent regulatory and enforcement regime for both land based and online businesses. As in other European markets, it has been the online business that has benefited from stronger growth in recent years. Under the Gambling Act, only a ‘national lottery company’ called TIPOS can operate gambling games via the internet. In reality, however, the online monopoly of TIPOS is not complete as fixed-odds betting is legally offered via the internet by several private operators. Nevertheless, only operators with their seat in Slovakia can obtain a local gambling license and any games offered by foreign operators are considered to constitute an illegal offering and are subject to various sanctions.
In January this year a so-called Black List was created by the Slovak Financial Directorate. What were the antecedents of this regulation and what changes has it brought to the industry?
The Black List was published for the first time on 17 July 2017 by the Financial Directorate of the Slovak Republic (“Directorate”). It is being updated on a weekly basis every Monday and published on the Directorate’s website. The Black List contains names of the operators, their websites, bank account details and description of their illegal/prohibited offer (i.e. offer made without a Slovak license). At the beginning of September, there were more than 50 websites included on the Black List. The Directorate has powers to request a local court to issue a court order to internet service providers (“ISPs”) ordering them to block access to the websites included on the Black List, as well as a court order to payment service providers (“PSPs”) ordering them to block transfers to the bank accounts included on the Black List. The Gambling Act states that the local court must issue such orders within 7 days after the Directorate’s request. The Gambling Act excludes the possibility to appeal against such court orders. At the beginning of September, there were five blocking orders issued to ISPs and one blocking order issued to PSPs. They all related to major online gambling operators based in other EU member states.
How will the new amendments on the Gambling Act affect the future of gambling industry in Slovakia?
Changes introduced by the recent Amendments with respect to the land based industry will mostly affect slot machines and VLT operations. Lots of them were located in pubs and bars and as a result of the amendments, this will not be possible anymore. The amendments also introduced a register of excluded persons and operators that must not be allowed to take part in gambling. Many of the smaller operations will probably cease to exist and the land based market will be consolidated and consist of a few large operators. As for the online regulation, the main changes were the introduction of the Black List and blocking orders to ISPs and PSPs mentioned in my answer to your previous question. Due to the fact that none of the reputable operators based in other EU member states could obtain a license to operate in Slovakia and thus ended up, or may soon end up, on the Black List and access to their websites will be blocked, the players in Slovakia will be effectively channelled to operators from outside the EU who offer very low customer protection. Therefore, in my view, the changes introduced by the Amendments in the area of online gambling will not be very beneficial from the perspective of Slovak customers.
In February this year it was announced that the gambling industry could be totally banned in the capital of the country, Bratislava. It was also proposed that the number of gambling activities should be limited but not banned. What is the present situation in Bratislava?
Under the Gambling Act, a municipality may by way of a generally binding order prohibit the presence of any casinos and other ‘gambling houses’ (as defined by the Gambling Act) on its territory. A generally binding order can only be issued by the municipality if inhabitants of the municipality complain in a petition that the public order in the municipality is disturbed in connection with playing gambling games and such petition is supported by at least 30 % (or 15% in case of two largest cities in Slovakia – Bratislava and Košice) of municipality’s inhabitants who have reached an age of 18.
There has been a petition in Bratislava which satisfied the 15% quorum and was voted on by the Bratislava’s councilors earlier this year. On the first attempt, the prohibition was not passed. However, at the end of March Bratislava’s councilors voted on the same matter for the second time and adopted a generally binding order which prohibited any casinos and other ‘gambling houses’ on its territory (“Prohibition Order”). The Prohibition Order became effective on 1 May 2017. As per the Gambling Act, the Prohibition Order does not apply to those operators who were granted an individual gambling license before such date. Those operators can continue their operations until the expiry of their individual license. Therefore, the complete prohibition (unless repealed) will, in reality, become effective upon expiry of the last individual license, which to my knowledge will be at the end of 2021.
However, after the Prohibition Order was adopted the office of the public prosecutor in Bratislava objected to it by arguing that the procedure of its adoption was illegal. The public prosecution requested Bratislava’s councilors to repeal the Prohibition Order. This request was not complied with and my understanding is that the office of public prosecutor in Bratislava intends to file a court action requesting the Prohibition Order to be declared illegal. Depending on the court’s ruling the Prohibition Order will either stay in place or be repealed.
What is your personal opinion about the European gambling industry and could you make a comparison with the market that you know better and the European situation in terms of gaming and gambling?
What we see is an increasing number of countries which are introducing their national regulatory and licensing regimes. Some of them are sensible and comply with EU laws when doing so, but many are quite flawed and show a clear disconnect between the goals they pursue and the measures they use to attain them. In my view, any regulatory regime can only be successful if it provides a high level of protection for the players and generates stable tax revenues for the state’s budget. A success or failure of the regimes depends to a large extent on how sensible the regulations and tax rates (both general corporate and specific gambling taxes) are. If a state over-regulates the gambling industry and sets its tax rates too high it ends up in a situation where a majority of reputable operators leave, the players end up playing on unlicensed high risky sites and the tax revenues do not increase as planned.
What do you think about the future of the East European gambling industry, especially focusing on the markets you have more experience in?
It is not possible to assess the entire region in general. However, I am quite optimistic with respect to the Slovak and Czech markets. It will take some time until all the current issues with respect to the regulation and implementation of such regulation in practice are addressed but once that happens, the local players, the operators as well as the state budgets of these countries will benefit.
If you could make major changes in the legislation of these markets what would they be?
In Slovakia, it would be to bring the regulatory regime in line with the EU laws and to properly open the market for operators from other EU member states. It would also be beneficial for all industry stakeholders if the Gambling Act would clearly define which games can be operated online by the private operators. As for the Czech Republic, it is too early to state what changes are needed the most. The new Act on gambling games is in place only since 1 January 2017. I think that we will be in a better position to judge once statistics on the tax revenues from the gambling operations for the entire year 2017 will be available.
Affiliate Interviews: Lee James Gwilliam, OnlineCasinosVegas
Please meet Lee James Gwilliam, of OnlinceCasinoVegas and Commercial Manager at Blexr Ltd!
Name: Lee James Gwilliam
Hometown: Middlewich, Cheshire, UK
Living in: Sliema, Malta
Favorite Food: Steak
Must Read Book: East of Eden, John Steinbeck
Profession/Job title: Commercial Manager
GAV: Hello Lee, first of all, tell us and our readers as well a little bit about yourself. How did your career start in the industry?
Lee: I ended up in gambling quite by accident! Despite being a keen poker player, I had no ambitions to work in the industry. I’d been involved in online marketing and affiliation in other sectors for many years and semi-retired with my own retail operation to Malta in 2011. A few years ago, I found myself needing to get a ‘proper’ job again and being in Malta, iGaming seemed a good fit with my e-commerce and content background.
GAV: We know little about Blexr other than it is an international performance marketing company, tell us all about it?
Lee: We’ve always preferred to be a private company, small but with a big footprint. We’ve various product verticals across casino, sportsbook, poker, bingo and financial services. I’ve actually just got back from the EGR Power Affiliate event at Goodwood where we are now ranked in the top 50 affiliates worldwide, in fact, top 10 in some of our niches.
The website you contacted us about, OnlineCasinosVegas, or OCV as we call it in-house, was an acquisition made by us rather than an in-house product. It’s one of our smaller properties but not to be underestimated. We bought it last year as part of a wider network from a very well-known UK affiliate and seasoned gambler.
GAV: Since there are thousands and thousands of websites in this niche out there, where do you think OnlineCasinosVegas.com stands now?
Lee: What makes OCV stand out, is the very thing that made it attractive as an acquisition. So many modern affiliate sites offer just basic cookie cutter content, OCV was written by a professional gambler and although the design might be a little antiquated to modern eyes, it’s incredibly knowledge driven throughout. This shows through in the quality of the site’s audience and we think this will become even more important in the future. Serious gamblers want serious content.
GAV: How do you see the online slots market/industry at this moment?
Lee: More competitive than ever. Just a few years ago a few some companies, such as NetEnt, were miles ahead of the other developers. Now, you have a whole host of bespoke operations offering great game content and with VR and skill based games on the way these are very exciting times for both the industry and players alike. Sports betting too, with expansion into E-Sports and other niche areas is far more diverse than ever before.
GAV: How did you start and most of all what bumps did you have to overcome at the beginning?
Lee: Once, Blexr was a small affiliate like thousands of others, with a simple poker rake back site. This was successful and led to further acquisitions. The founders have been very careful to re-invest in both the company and its employees which has allowed us to grow to where we are today. Outside of the challenges faced when any affiliate business becomes ‘a real company’ rather than a small team, the biggest roadblocks were managing our migration into a full performance marketing operation instead of ‘just’ an affiliate.
Before several of the modern ‘super affiliates’ landed, affiliate operations simply didn’t have such a wide remit and there was no model to copy for structure. Building such a structure from scratch is a challenge that many have failed, fortunately, we didn’t. As a result, we now offer consulting in CRM, market research, marketing, affiliation and brand launch in addition to the direct acquisition that a stock affiliate provides.
GAV: We have analyzed OCV and found some great quality content. Are you writing it by yourself or do you have a team of people writing for you? How many slots are there on your website? How about the your news section?
Lee: The nature of my current role sadly prevents me from contributing as much to content as I once did though I still mentor one of our writers and do a little key content to keep my hand in and stay match fit. We’ve a writing team of more than 40 people across the network and they are looking to add more slots to OCV in the coming months in addition to the several hundred already on the site. We’ve also been expanding the detail in some of the older articles and written some in depth guides for skill based games. The news section has fallen a little by the wayside in recent times but we hope to turn that back into an active blog in the future once we’ve dealt with all the existing articles.
GAV: How do you manage to keep the content always fresh and relevant on your website, when a lot of fluffy and nonsense appear on the Internet on a daily basis?
Lee: Hire experienced, well-trained and knowledgeable writers and then pay them well. Really, it’s not that hard when you break it down. A number of slots sites are just concerned about being first to market, they don’t even play the games they are reviewing, they write a preview based on a few screenshots available before launch. Whenever we advertise for a new writer we are inundated by ‘content-writer’ CV’s who’ve been working in the industry for years just on the basis they were native speakers. That isn’t enough if you want deep value content. It’s like auditioning for the national football team because you own a pair of boots and can kick a ball. Writing is a profession like any other and you want the best professionals who have put years into their trade.
GAV: With all the Google updates that we’ve all witnessed how do you guys approach SEO, content and of course generating good traffic?
Lee: Google is being very helpful to us just lately with its move towards prioritising ‘value’ based content. Fluff is yesterday’s content, just being first to write on a subject is barely enough to get you there and certainly isn’t enough to keep you there. The same applies to SEO, spam is dying, both content and SEO must be top notch for you to rank for good keywords and bring in good traffic long term. Things are biasing more and more to user value and this can only help people who are trying to do the job right. I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of tips and tricks or shortcuts still out there, but, the fundamentals are becoming ever more important.
GAV: We are pretty sure that you receive messages from Affiliate Managers on a daily basis showcasing their best products. You of course select them by the brands they work with; but what are your thoughts on how a real Affiliate Manager-Affiliate relationship should be built?
Lee: Literally hundreds, by 9 AM any given day my skype looks like a Christmas tree! A good AM(affiliate manager) will earn their employer a fortune, a bad one will cost them the same. It would terrify some operators to know how much an AM has potentially cost them at one point or another because a relationship went sour. That said, affiliates have a responsibility to try and help bridge the communication gap too and help AM’s gain experience.
I’ve accepted a speaking position at a conference later in the year on managing affiliate relationships from our point of view and am starting a LinkedIn series next week called ‘Friday frustrations’ to try and get some things out there from the affiliate standpoint. It isn’t fair that affiliates complain about the ways AM’s approach them and deal with them when they aren’t making any attempt to feed back the data – we want to do our part in correcting this and contributing to the industry.
GAV: Which markets do you target at this moment and are you planning to break in into emerging markets?
Lee: We are already a global network, with our reach approaching triple digits in terms of the countries we target for. That being said, we think emerging markets and newly regulated markets should be the big focus for affiliates and operators alike.
GAV: How do you see the future of the online casino/gambling industry? For instance, will it become a truly global phenomenon?
Lee: I think my point above indicates that to be so! Yes, some countries are way behind and others have stumbled due to regulatory processes but this will be and, in many ways already is, a global business.
GAV: Tell us one change that you want to see in the casino affiliate ecosystem?!
Lee: Proper affiliate software between the affiliate and the operator. Transparency is the first step to rebuilding trust on both sides of the gambling industry and neither party can optimise their business with each other properly without full accurate data sets.
GAV: How about the UK market, is there still place to grow, what is your position?
Lee: The UK is one of the hardest markets out there right now amongst the premium countries. The existing, and future regulations facing both operators and affiliates only adds to the difficulty. However, this also creates opportunities for those companies which can navigate this and create stable, sustainable business models. It will be a tough market with lots of opportunity for the right businesses.
GAV: Do you have any advise you would like to offer to newbies who are looking to venture into this great industry!?
Lee: Have a niche and master it. There is a new casino every other day, white labels which are all but identical bar their branding. The brave and creative businesses which do something different are the ones we will be talking about as the next success stories in 5 years time.
GAV: Do you attend any iGaming/online casino conferences? If so, which one is your favorite and what is your most fun experience?
Lee: I seem to spend as much time at networking events and conferences as I do at home these days. I’m a big fan of the IGB events and the EGR event recently at Goodwood was an exclusive treat. SiGMA, as our local conference, is very important and we will exhibit there this year. Their local networking events are impressive too and so is the new Affiliate Grand Slam concept.
GAV: Tell us about your experince at the Affiliate Grand Slam in Tallinn?
Lee: An excellent new take on the traditional affiliate conference, the second one coming up in Bucharest is only going to build on the first one. To have a small number of operators and a larger number of key affiliates improves the opportunity to take time over business discussions and keeps networking at maximum value.
GAV: What do you think the chances are for Eastern Europe to become a potential gaming hotspot in the future? Where do you think the region must improve upon?
Lee: If you look at places like Malta and Gibraltar a key ingredient for success in a gaming hot spot is the support of a local regulatory body. Eastern European destinations have masses of opportunity for all areas of the industry both as operating spaces and markets but, the regulatory infrastructure needs work.
GAV: Where would you like to travel in Eastern Europe?
Lee: I’d really love to spend some time in Russia and Kiev is on my hit list too. I spent a lot of time in Romania last year and it’s my favourite country in the world right now. I wintered in Transylvania which was amazing and Bucharest is an incredible city. Will be heading back there this year for the next AGS event and probably again in winter for some much needed down time.
GAV: Where you wouldn’t want to travel in Eastern Europe?
Lee: Never really been attracted to Bulgaria, though, I’d be happy for someone to change my mind.
GAV: How about a favorite celebrity, or a mentor do you have one?
Lee: I’ve had several good business mentors including our current founders. Celebrity wise I’d have to admit a liking for Kate Beckinsale and Robert Downey Jr is a modern icon.
GAV: Tell us your opinion about the Gambling Affiliate Voice?
Lee: It’s incredibly important for affiliates to have a voice in the industry and the GAV gives us exactly that! I think for new/smaller affiliates which are just starting out or attempting to grow resources like this cannot be underestimated.
Affiliate Interviews: Nina Sparv of Nya-casinon.org (Epicorns)
Name: Nina Sparv
Hometown: Vasa (Finland)
Living in: Andorra
Favorite Food: Seafood, I guess I´m not allowed to answer wine here, am I?
Profession/Job title: CMO & Co-founder at Epicorns
GAV: Hello Nina, first of all tell us and our readers as well a little bit about yourself, we want to know who Nina really is? How did your career start in the industry? Since when are you active at Nya Casinon?
NS: I`m born in Vasa, a small city in the west coast of Finland. It´s a two-language city, so I actually speak Swedish with my family instead of Finnish. An interesting fact that many people might not know about Finland. I kind of ended up in the industry pretty randomly, I was tired of Finland and I was searching for some new adventures. In the same moment, my previous boss in Finland asked me if I would be interested into moving to Cyprus. He had a friend that was working as a CEO for a gambling company that needed a copywriter for both Swedish and Finnish content so he thought I might fit, since I also happen to love playing slots. I had no experience in the industry, but I liked it a lot from the very beginning. After working as a copywriter / content manager for one year, I got promoted to Business Manager, where after I was responsible for the business development of 3 separate casino brands in several different markets. The company was fairly small, so it was great that they gave everyone so much responsibility, since I learned a lot during the 1,5 years as a Business Manager. Without that experience, I wouldn’t probably be where I am today. Many people say you shouldn´t mix work and personal life, I couldn´t quite live up to that, since that´s exactly what happened in Cyprus, I met my soul partner Jaume at work. We moved together and after a while we got tired of Cyprus and moved to Andorra to set up our own affiliate company and online marketing company. It sounds easy and fast, but there was a lot of sweat, tears and endless amount of work before the company first of all, was setup, and second of all, before the sites actually started generating money.
GAV: We know that you’re also active at an international online marketing company, tell us all about it?
NS: Epicorns (our company) was first setup as an online marketing and consultancy company to be able to generate income, that we later could use on investing in our affiliate sites. We have been doing a lot of consultancy and online marketing services during the last year to generate income, such as SEO, web development and content writing. Now that our affiliate sites have started to generate money, we don´t focus much on promoting our online marketing or consultancy services, but it´s always good to have them as a backup plan.
GAV: Since there are thousands of websites and portals in this niche out there, where do you think nya-casinon.org stands now and what is that plus that the other portals don’t have?
NS: First of all, the Swedish market is very competitive, and it´s difficult to compete against all the giant affiliate companies nowadays. That´s also why we´ve decided to focus on a small niche within the market, which is new casinos, where we should be able to reach some of the top positions in Google with the great domain that we have. It´s still a very new website, and it will probably take some time for it to jump higher in the rankings, but we´re working hard with the content and the SEO constantly.
GAV: Next to the swedish market which market do you target?
NS: With nya-casinon.org we naturally only target the Swedish market, but we have in total around 150 websites targeting a lot of different markets. Currently we´re focusing mainly in the Finnish, Swedish and Spanish markets, but we also have websites in Norwegian, German, English, Portuguese, Italian and French.
GAV: How do you see the online casino market/industry at this moment?
NS: I don´t think it´s needed to say, but it´s a very competitive industry, although it´s still a fairly new industry. Every time it´s getting more difficult and it´s taking way longer time to be able to reach high rankings for the websites. There´s new affiliates sites and casinos launched every month, so you must keep up with the speed if you want to be in the game. Before you could basically rank a website with few pages and some blogposts, which nowadays is barely impossible.
GAV: Is it hard for a woman in this industry, which are the advantages and disadvantages?
NS: I don´t see it hard as a woman to be in this industry, we´re obviously not the majority, but there´s a lot of professional women within the Igaming industry. I wouldn’t say being as a woman is any different from being as a man in the industry, neither do I have any advantages or disadvantages to mention.
GAV: In your opinion what are the strong points of nya-casinon.org and what makes it stand out from the other niche websites?
NS: Since I write most of the content myself, I would say unique content and up to date blogposts for the users about the latest promotions and news.
GAV: We have browsed your website and found some great quality content. Are you writing it by yourself or do you have a team of people writing for you?
NS: I try to write as much as I can myself, but since we have already a lot of websites in both Swedish and Finnish, it´s difficult to keep up with everything. Last year I was writing for all the websites, but now there´s too much work in other parts of the websites to be done. The blogposts and news I always write myself, but for the rest of the new content I have 3 freelance content writers helping me out, one in Sweden and two in Finland.
GAV: How about the online marketing and SEO of your website, how many team members do you have, let us in on a new trend that you guys are following?
NS: In the marketing and SEO, we´re in total 3 people, and we try to divide the workload by markets or countries, where I usually work with the Swedish and Finnish markets. I would lie If I say that we have some awesome new trend that we´re following, it would sound cool though. Our main target right now is to keep on doing what we´re doing, and keep growing the sites with great content and good links.
GAV: How do you manage to keep all the website fresh and relevant, when a lot of fluffy and nonsense appear on the Internet non-stop?
NS: Since I write most of the blogposts and news myself, it´s not that difficult. I check the news within the industry daily and scrolling through all the available promotions and offers few times a week to be able to write about interesting topics for the users.
GAV: We know for sure that you receive messages from Affiliate Managers on a daily basis showcasing their best products. You, of course select them by the brands they work with. What are your thoughts on how a real Affiliate Manager-Affiliate relationship should be built, and how not?!
NS: Nowadays it depends a lot, since there´s these huge affiliate companies but also small startups like us, so of course the relationship with the affiliate managers is not the same for both. I prefer to work with affiliate managers that are genuinely interested in our business and in us, not just interested in how many players we can bring in one month. We have a lot of affiliate managers that have helped us, and have been interested in us, from the beginning, although we weren’t able to bring much players. These are the relationships that later have turned into friendships, which I think is a beautiful part of the business.
GAV: How do you see the future of the online casino/gambling industry? For instance, will it become a truly global phenomenon?
NS: After visiting Las Vegas this month, I think that the gambling industry will for sure always exist. It provides a bit of excitement to the everyday life for a lot of people. Gambling is already very popular in many places all around the world, so I´m sure it will at some point become a truly global phenomenon. About the online casino business, I think it will become more and more regulated for each year in the countries, but that it will surely always exist.
GAV: How about the swedish market, and the Nordic market, it has seen a huge growth?
NS: Gambling, Poker and Betting is something that have been advertised in the Nordics already for years, so I would say that the Nordics (Finnish people specially) are gamblers by nature. You can´t even step into a food shop without seeing slots and huge lottery jackpots. The “Boom” of the Nordic markets happened already some years back, but there´s constantly entering more and more players due to new younger generations and new innovative marketing campaigns.
GAV: Tell us one change that you want to see in the online casino industry?!
NS: Trust. In countries like Malta, UK and Sweden for example, the casino industry is a normal everyday business. But in many other countries the casino industry is even illegal, although betting and sports is very popular for instance. This is one of the reasons this business is still seen as a bit “dirty” and “not reliable”, although the people like me for example, are doing normal online marketing stuff, just like any other person working in an online focused business.
GAV: Do you have any advise you would like to offer to newbies who are looking to venture into this majestic industry!?
NS: Patience. It will take time, a lot of work and knowledge before you´re able to make a living out of this business on your own.
GAV: How about iGaming or affiliate conferences, do you attend any of them? If so, which one is your favorite and what is your most fun experience? Did you attend the Nordic Affiliate Conference?
NS: I love going to the conferences, I think it´s because I´ve never actually lived in a place where the business is based and where there is a lot of people from the business to talk with, on every day basis, like in Malta for example. The conferences are the only time I have a chance to catch up with friends and colleagues within the business. I would say my favorite conference is the iGB, Berlin Affiliate Conference that I´ve attended a couple of times. This year we haven´t had time to join any conference yet, unfortunately neither the Nordic Affiliate Conference. But we´re heading in September to the Affiliate Grand Slam in Bucharest and in November to SIGMA in Malta.
GAV: What do you think the chances are for Eastern Europe to become a potential gaming hotspot in the near future? Where do you think the region must improve upon?
NS: I´m pretty sure it will become a gaming hotspot, there´s a lot of potential traffic, but it´s still not very popular.
GAV: Where would you like to travel in Eastern Europe, any favorite country or region?
NS: Oh that´s a difficult question, there´s a lot of cool and beautiful places in Eastern Europe. I would like to travel to Romania and Czech Republic since I haven´t been there before. Now we will visit Bucharest in September since we´re attending the Affiliate Grand Slam conference. If I must pick a favorite country I would pick Poland, although I like Estonia a lot as well.
GAV: Where you wouldn’t want to travel in Eastern Europe 🙂 ?
NS: Travelling and exploring new places is awesome, so it would be wrong if I said I didn´t want to travel to some specific place.
GAV: How about a favorite celebrity or a mentor, do you have one?
NS: I have a lot of favorite celebrities, mostly YouTube stars, especially Pewdiepie and a famous Spanish youtuber: AuronPlay. I also like the Spanish president Rajoy, he´s just too funny with his comments that doesn’t make much sense most of the times.
I also have to mention Jaume (my better half) here, since he has been a very big influencer and mentor in my life since the first day we met.
GAV: Tell us your opinion about the Gambling Affiliate Voice?
NS: It´s a good and important iGaming magazine, since I like to keep up to date what´s happening within the business I try to check the website few times a week. There´s a great variety of different news and updates which I usually find very interesting and worth reading.
GAV: Nina, thank you for the interview, if you have any news to share just let us know! We wish you guys all the best!
Affiliate Managers under interrogation by GAV: Ruslan Legenzov, Affiliate Manager at King Billy Casino
Get to know Ruslan Legenzov Affiliate Manager at King Billy Casino
Name: Ruslan Legenzov
Living in: Kyiv
Favorite Food: Steak
Must Read Book: Theodore Dreiser The Financier
Affiliate Manager at: King Billy Casino
GAV: Hi Ruslan, first of all, tell us and our readers a bit about yourself. How did your career start in the industry? What determined you to engage in this activity and start working at King Billy Affiliates?
Ruslan: First of all, greetings to your readers and also to your team at GAV, you‘re doing an amazing job, guys! To answer your question, my career in the industry started more than 5 years ago, when I joined an iGaming project as Affiliate Manager. From the very start, I started dealing with Affiliates and found it a fascinating occupation. However, after having worked for all those years with Affiliates, I felt that I needed a fresh and exciting challenge. I finally found it with King Billy Casino, where all things, including running the Affiliate Department, are done at the highest possible level.
GAV: King Billy Affiliates is an exciting new project. What do you think is the key aspect affiliates appreciate regarding your affiliate program?
Ruslan: We have a nice phrase at our casino which encapsulates the answer to your question: the “King’s Package”. At King Billy, we are never one-sided in what we do and we excel in many areas: attractive welcome deal, plenty of promotional material, exclusive and unique content, all delivered in less than 48 hours and tailor made to our partners’ needs. You want a 10 by 10 pixel visual? We will do it. A 2,000 word original review? This too. And last but not least, we work in an Affiliate Department with the extra mile philosophy: we will do everything we can and then some more, so that we will leave no Affiliate unhappy!
GAV: King Billy Affiliates is relatively new, does your program have any East European affiliates that you manage?
Ruslan: It is true that we are relatively new on the market, but we are adding more and more affiliates, at a very fast rate (good news travels fast)! East European Affiliates are strategically important for us and we are happy to see their numbers on the rise.
GAV: Are there any super-affiliates coming from those region? We know for certain that a huge group of affiliates come from Eastern Europe.
Ruslan: We do have super-affiliates from the East, although we would like to have some more! By the way, we are very satisfied with our overall super-affiliates performance, since we have managed in a very short time to cover important areas, like the Nordic countries and key English-speaking countries.
GAV: What is your personal opinion about fair gaming? Do you think there is still room to improve the view of the gambling industry? I mean, is there a new generation prepared to do that? Both Affiliate Manager and Affiliates.
Ruslan: Yes, there is definitely room for improving. The problem with our industry is that just one “black sheep” can discredit the whole flock. So, we need to be vigilant, both Affiliates and Affiliate Managers, double and triple our efforts to improve our image. The time is ripe and the new generation is ready, knowledgeable and committed to not repeating the mistakes of the past.
GAV: Ruslan, please fill us in on your current offer for affiliates and maybe a brief description of your program!
Ruslan: Well, currently, half of our Kingdom is yours! King Billy Affiliates offers a very generous welcome deal for all new affiliates: 50% Revenue share with No Negative Carry-over within 3 months upon registration. Furthermore, our Affiliate program features up-to-date functionality, has a proven record and a user-friendly design which comes in handy not only for newbies but for experienced Affiliate Managers as well.
GAV: What markets target does King Billy Affiliates target, and what makes it stand out in the growing crowd of online casino affiliate programs?
Ruslan: Our main target markets are the Nordic Countries, Germany, Australia, Canada and, obviously, BTC players all over the world. We stand out by offering two Affiliate Programs at the same time: SoftSwiss (BTC players mostly) and Income Access. This is rather uncommon in the industry, but we have a saying in King Billy Casino which also applies to our Affiliates Department: “The King always adds one!”
GAV: Since the Berlin Affiliate Conference is almost here, we would like to ask your opinion about this event, are you guys attending these conferences or are you going to be at SIGMA? How about other events?
Ruslan: Well, didn’t Leonard Cohen sing “First we take Manhattan then we take Berlin”? The King Billy Affiliate Department is planning to “take” Berlin by a storm! Our whole team will be there, attending the Conference and meeting our partners. Regarding SIGMA, personally, I find it one of the best conferences, with an excellent atmosphere that makes new deals much easier.
GAV: Where do you think the online casino industry will be in 3 years, and of course, on which scale do you see King Billy Affiliates?
Ruslan: I am pretty sure that the online casino industry will move to VR slots and live games. This is inevitable as all software providers are striving to create the most realistic atmosphere for players. As for King Billy Affiliates, our goal is definitely to enter the list of Top 50 European casinos. However, with the positive attitude in the company and our philosophy of hard work, we believe we can rise even more and become a well-known casino all over the world.
GAV: Tell us a bit about your team? As we know it’s quite new but well positioned industry professionals with many years of experience in the field.
Ruslan: Yes, you are right. We have a wonderful team of hard working professionals who know the needs of Affiliates. Basically, we “speak the Affiliate’s language”, which makes life easier for everyone!
GAV: Since Central and Eastern Europe offers a large pool of successful affiliates in the industry, do you think that this region is somehow overlooked by brands that are not applying for licenses in the demographic region?
Ruslan: I believe it is not exactly a case of overlooking, it is rather one of withdrawing. Unfortunately, if one takes into account the latest changes of gambling legislation in Central and European countries, the reaction of the top brands is rather obvious. Very strict rules, regulations and numerous licensing restrictions have been imposed, resulting in lack of interest by the brands.
GAV: Who is your favorite celebrity and if you’d have to a pick a destination in Eastern Europe, where would you travel?
Ruslan: My favorite celebrity: Robert De Niro. I would probably travel to Budapest.
GAV: Where you wouldn’t want to travel?
Ruslan: Well, I wouldn’t travel to locations with poor Internet, since this would mean being away from Affiliates!
GAV: What is your opinion about GAV (GamblingAffiliateVoice.com)?
Ruslan: GAV is like coffee, you cannot start your morning at work without it. You have created a unique digital hub for all Affiliate Managers with all the news and information one needs. Keep it up like these guys!
GAV: Thanks for your time and for the nice words Ruslan, keep up the good work and all the best to you for the Berlin Affiliate Conference 2017.
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