In an exclusive interview Markus Jalmerot, co-founder of NoWageringCasinos.com, offers unique insight into the ebb and flow of an industry in flux
How did you first get into the affiliate space, and were you always focused on the iGaming sector?
I got started about 18 years ago when I was at Lund University. I had hundreds of sites and mainly relied on Google Adsense, TradeDoubler and Affiliate Future in the beginning. I have been involved in all kinds of sectors, such as health, hosting, loans, commercial properties, travel, poker and finance – just to name a few. I'm still involved in a finance related site for Scandinavia (Valutahandel.se) and one for the English market; where we hope to help people get ready for the next down trend in the financial markets (with the launch of ShortSelling.com). The previous affiliate project was also in the casino sector and that’s where I enjoy working the most. It’s a fun industry, I love playing slots and table games... I'm currently focusing on NewCasinosOnline.com, a website about upcoming launches and frequently updated reviews of the latest casino brands that are going live.
How is your affiliate business structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
My co-founder and I have been working together on different projects over the last 15 years. Our team is very streamlined, and we work with hand-picked experts and outsourced resources where necessary, meaning that we are extremely agile - which is crucial in the gaming industry. We always strive to be leaders in the industry, rather than followers. With that said we are always working on new and innovative projects and have some interesting concepts in the pipeline for 2020. Some never see the daylight but for many we are actually first to the post.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
Thanks to GeoIP, the world is our market. We don’t target outer space yet, but it would be a dream to market/promote new casinos to aliens in the future. Jokes aside, the main and only language at this point is English. But we don't limit ourselves to certain markets. At NewCasinosOnline.com we work with the world as our market and don't see any challenges with doing so, as our site is just as relevant as the newest casinos across the globe. Emerging markets is where it starts to get interesting.
What makes your traffic proposition / traffic sites unique? What can you offer that others don’t? Are there any exciting plans in the works that you can tell us about?
After being in the industry for a combined total of 29 years, my co-founder and I have the contact network that’s crucial to succeed. Our network is something you grow over time and it never stops surprising us just how this industry is growing. So much is happening every year! We had quite a learning curve during our last project that was sold to Catena Media 3 years ago. Finally, the lock-out period is over and we’re happy to be back.
Is the grass greener on the other side - have you considered giving white label casino or sports betting a go?
Good question. During our last venture that was definitely on the table and there has been a lot of research into that area. However, being a partner to a casino is hugely different from being an operator. A lot needs to be spent, at least €2 million+ to create a good brand during the first year. But at the crux of it, we had to question whether we could keep editorial independence if selecting to be on both sides. Our conclusion was that it would be impossible and New Casinos Ltd. therefore decided to work only as a partner. It’s more fun and suits our style and personas better.
Are you concerned by the impact on the affiliate sector from shifting regulatory environments? (In particular UKGC, Sweden’s Spelinspektionen, and Germany’s 2020 State Treaty on Gaming Regulation)
I think some of the worst parts of it is already done. Sweden has gone from being one of the hottest markets in the world to one of the worst for casino partners and operators alike. It’s a horror story of how casino legislation should not be done, especially when it comes to the unclear rules about “take a break”.
The Swedish initiative SpelPaus.se is greatly needed and does help quite a few people with gambling problems. We need to have tight precautions for problem gambling in place, but an “until further notice” policy should not be an option in Sweden. In reality, most people quickly choose that option and then later find out that they are banned from everything for at least one year.
The UKGC is the most professional of all regulatory environments. Those guys know what they are doing, they understand the issues facing players, operators, and partners. The only worries are obviously of a UKGC limit on all game play to a maximum of £1-2 per spin, drawing “unrealistic” comparisons with offline- gambling. That would kill the UK market for both operators and partners. It would be a way to lose billions every year for the gaming industry, with little real benefit to the players who are managing their game play at a good level. The last thing you want is for those players to switch over to unregulated casinos.
For Germany, we are yet to find out about all the new regulations, and it will surely be interesting.
What is the main thing that you’d like SiGMA readers to know about your traffic? Are you focusing on SEO? PPC? Any other traffic source?
Our site is made for players, even though many competitors view our sites as a good starting point to find out about the latest in the industry. We aim to make it quick, fun and easy to find the best new online casino sites, regardless of the jurisdiction, for that specific player. We focus on unique content and rely on referrals from search engines and social media. (PPC is not part of our business model yet).
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or, with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
Investors can always be of interest, but at the moment that is mainly for other new projects. I've already sold one business in the iGaming industry to Catena Media (as mentioned above). We are building these sites long term for our customers, as we can see that there is still an empty space to fill in the market. With a lot of new ideas and enthusiasm we are not building to sell but building with a win-win-win (players-operators-us) mindset.
What can operators do to increase support from affiliates?
Speak or chat more with us. Ask more questions. Be honest and clear. Don’t hide any negative factors, such as conversion or tracking issues. All the major partners speak a lot between themselves and will always find out anyway. Create a great and unique brand. Pay a respectable commission but
not more than you can handle. Realise that you will need some awesome partners to grow your business to the next level, get more business insights and understand that there is a lot to be won from a team mindset where everyone can be winners. Choose some selected partners (preferably us) to work even closer with, to get some extra benefits back from and build on strengthening the team mindset.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
There are so many different types of affiliates, so there is space for everyone. Do what you love and keep getting better at it. Hire people for positions you cannot handle so well. Be patient because when you enjoy what you do, you will eventually see results. If the long working hours are an issue and if you are not happy even when things are not at the top, consider another career path.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
Technology is crucial in today’s market and matters for everything. When ignoring technology you might miss out on hundreds of potential new clients every month. The cost for staying up to date might be a challenge in the beginning but staying fresh on the latest innovations are crucial in order to stay ahead and survive in a seriously competitive, fast growing and changing industry.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
It’s growing really quickly and gets better every year. There are way more operators than just 1-2 years ago and a better understanding of what partners can bring. There are also more payment methods out there for Asian online casino clients. The market is starting from low levels compared to Europe, but in a couple of years I think the revenues from Asia will be among the highest in the world.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
Which casino operators to trust and which ones to not even bother to sign up with.
What are the challenges in managing relationships with multiple operators?
Having time to explore and learn everything about all of them. Learning which ones are honest and good partners. This is, however, something we’ve managed to become increasingly better at over the years.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
You get to see how the industry develops from the inside. To meet people in person, listening to what the industry wants and what they offer and building relationships is something that helps growing the team attitude and help us be innovative.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
I’m frustrated and seriously disappointed when missing any SiGMA event, anywhere. I've been to over 20 events during the past few years and there are always many positive news stories emerging from each of them. You might meet new partners, learn about some different angles, see the latest trends and just embrace the gaming and business vibes in the air.
I will most likely go to both SiGMA in Malta and the Asia-based event SiGMA Manila.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all business is done between people, not just companies!
Yet to come hopefully. Going to Fiji and Japan soon. Sri Lanka, Maldives, South Korea, Brazil and Buenos Aires are among my favourite spots.
Favourite book ever read?
The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky and I look forward to reading Sands of Deceit by Natalie
Lord, if it ever comes out!
Where would you relocate with family if you had to pick one city?
That’s a hard choice. Either José Ignacio in Uruguay, Rome in Italy, Tel Aviv in Israel or Stockholm in Sweden. Not sure where we will end up, there are so many great choices.
Don’t wait for opportunity, create it.
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About SiGMA Expo:
The iGaming summit SiGMA is setting its sights on Asia. Our ground breaking Asian iGaming expo will be held in Manila, on the 8th & 9th of June 2020. SiGMA's largest venue to date will bring together high quality conferences and content, premium networking opportunities, and luxury networking event. 10,000 delegates from across Europe, the US, and Asia are expected to attend, making this one of the biggest shows to unite East and West in the region. To become a part of the fastest paced Asian iGaming event, book a pass or sponsor & exhibit.
For those planning to attend SiGMA Manila, AIBC Manila and ICE Asia at SMX on June 8-9th, this is the buzzing business environment to be expected: