OP ED: Regulated Gambling Affiliate Industry Is Killing Itself & feeding the Black Market
The “game” is rigged, and the house has a wild-card
While it is not unheard of for online gambling companies to exploit their own customers for profit, affiliates are also consistently a target for exploitation by regulated gambling companies looking to boost profits (despite supposedly being “business partners”).
Many gambling industry affiliate programs which start out with good intentions and service quickly become predatory and scammy- usually once there are enough affiliate-referred players to justify what can only be described as a “customer-heist”. Some programs are simply predatory from the outset.
What is a predatory affiliate program?
predatory adjective – pred·a·to·ry | \ ˈpre-də-ˌtȯr-ē \
1a: of, relating to, or practicing plunder, pillage, or rapine
b: inclined or intended to injure or exploit others for personal gain or profit
The Affiliate Account Grab – How the Regulated Gambling Industry Cheats Affiliates
One of the big “tricks” the industry uses is to simply “take it all” – closing the affiliate account, paying 0 going forward, and of course retaining the revenue-generating players.
This is facilitated via unbalanced, one-sided, ever-changing contracts with “moving goalposts” – which enable the ultimate result of a gambling operator severing their business relationship with an affiliate and retaining their referred players in addition to all of the future revenues which they continue to generate.
Step 1: A gambling company advertises what appears to be a legitimate affiliate business partnership. The idea is that the affiliate signs up and works hard to deliver targeted traffic to the gambling provider to share in the rewards.
Generally a gambling affiliate program will offer a percentage-based “lifetime revenue share”, or something to that effect, in order to lure partners who will do all the hard work to bring in customers for the brand, for a slice of the action – revenue share on the profits of the referred players.
Step 2: The affiliate delivers players to the partner, month after month, accumulating a pool of customers which generate revenue for the sportsbook / casino / poker room each month, as well as for the affiliate.
Step 3: The partner decides to change the terms and conditions in some way – despite having signed a legally binding contract with you, the affiliate. This usually involves moving the goalposts so that the affiliate has to give up their account.
If the affiliate declines to accept the proposed terms & conditions changes (which are usually bad for the affiliate & self-serving for the merchant – not “regulatory informed changes”) the affiliate loses the fruits of their labor – revenues from all referred customers who are (but of course the merchant keeps them, and ALL the profits, instead of sharing them with the referring affiliate).
One side has all the power, and there is no negotiation. “Like it, or lump it”. Seems like quite an imbalance in a supposed “partnership”.
Both European and British law specifically refer to “imbalance” in contract terms:
“Contract terms are unfair and, therefore, not binding on consumers if, contrary to the requirements of good faith, they cause significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations to the detriment of the consumer”.
Of course a predatory gambling affiliate program can employ many other tactics to angle-shoot & steal from their partners – including but not limited to:
- Retroactive term & conditions changes to “contracts” which a merchant can update to suit themselves at any time – and which affiliates must accept [no matter how ridiculous] or lose all of their income from the supposed partnership
- New player quotas
- Arbitrary or nebulous terms – e.g. affiliate partner must be working “hard enough” (define:nebulous?) according to the partner otherwise – account can be terminated
- Cookie duration changes – reduction => less conversions tracked to the affiliate, more $ for the operator
- Brand cross-selling – where casino X mails your referred players and gets them to play on their casino Y – without tagging them to you – the referring affiliate
- Skimming – where the brand doesn’t attribute your referred players to you.
- Re-tagging – where the brand de-tags or re-tags your referred players – removing them from your affiliate account
There are a number of online gambling affiliate forums online where countless affiliates share their horror stories of having their accounts closed by big operators like Betfair, Unibet, Entain & Flutter- via retroactive contract changes which cannot be contested….
Less Taxes, More “Gray Market” affiliates, More Problem Gamblers
Affiliate websites are the first entry-point for many gamblers – since many dominate the search engine pages for commercial intent queries.
Since affiliates are being burned with scam affiliate programs – many are turning their backs on the regulated markets – instead promoting international / “black market” operators instead.
This has a negative impact on the regulated gambling eco-system, with some key effects including:
- Loss of earnings for affiliates.
- Catalyst for the affiliates to promote international / offshore gambling sites due to having their fingers burned repeatedly by apparently “trusted business partners” in the regulated world of iGaming.
- More gamblers on unregulated gambling sites
- More problem gamblers, as a by-product of no player protections.
- Less revenues & taxes generated from gaming.
Which brands have affiliate programs with predatory terms, or a history of retroactive term changes?
Ironically, the question is actually which brands are not engaged in this scumbaggery – because it seems that 90%+ of the “big brands” have predatory affiliate programs which they can tweak at a whim, with no recourse for their partners.
It is not a joke that one can actually just open the terms and conditions page for any operator’s affiliate program and search for the words “at any time” to instantly find out the bad news – that the program can change the terms at any time , and you can do nothing.
Here’s an example:
Betfair advertises LIFETIME REVENUE SHARE.
The terms and conditions at the time seem incompatible with this claim – a get out of jail free card for the gambling operator with the classic “at any time” clause : 19.3 Betfair may modify all or any part of this Agreement at any time.
Examples of what are generally considered to be highly predatory gambling affiliate program terms (by affiliates) in the wild, 2022:
|Betsson Group||Betsson||Betsson Group Affiliates||“8. Modification of terms and conditions:
We may modify any of the terms and conditions contained in the Affiliate Agreement or replace it at any time and in our sole discretion by posting a change notice or a new agreement on our site and notifying Affiliates in an email of the implemented changes. Modifications may include, for example, changes in the scope of available Commissions and Affiliate Program rules. If any modification is unacceptable to you, your only recourse is to terminate the Affiliate Agreement. Your continued participation in our Affiliate Program following our posting of a change notice or new agreement on our site will constitute binding acceptance of the modification or of the new agreement.”
|Kindred Group||32Red, Bingo.com, Bohemia Casino, Huone, iGame, Kolikkopelit, Maria Casino, Maria Bingo, Roxy Palace, Unibet, VladCazino||Kindred Affiliates||“4. The Company may change all or any part of this Agreement at any time and at its sole discretion
If the Affiliate does not agree to such changes, the Affiliate may terminate this Agreement in accordance with its terms. However, should the Affiliate continue to participate in the Program after the Company has posted the changes, this will constitute binding acceptance of such changes.
6.6 The Company reserves the right to reduce the Affiliate’s Commission/change the Reward Plan if:
|Entain||PartyCasino, Gala Bingo, Gala Casino, Gala Spins, Foxy Games, Foxy Bingo, bwin, Coral, Crystalbet, Eurobet, Ladbrokes, Neds International, Laimz, Ninja Casino, Optibet, Casino King, Gioco Digitale, CasinoClub, Party Poker||Entain Partners||“2.5. Except as otherwise stated in clause 9.9, we may change all or any part of this Agreement at any time. Where possible, notice of any changes will be provided to you in advance of any such changes being made, either by an email to your last known email address on our records or through a message via your Affiliate Account. It is important, therefore, that you regularly log into your Affiliate Account. Unless we believe that a change to this Agreement is required under Applicable Law, in which case that change will come into force immediately, any change to this Agreement will come into force 7 days after notification is made. Your continued participation in our affiliate programme after such time will constitute binding acceptance of such changes. If you do not agree to the changes, you should notify us that you wish to terminate this Agreement under clause 14.6.
9.9. We reserve the right to change your chosen payment structure (including the amount of your Revenue Share) at any time by providing you with at least 15 days’ written notice. Upon expiry of the 15 day notice period, the new Revenue Share will automatically apply to any new Customers referred to us after this date. If you do not agree to the change then you may terminate this Agreement by notifying us in writing in accordance with clause 14.3. For the avoidance of doubt, in respect of Customers referred to us before the relevant date, the Revenue Share will remain unchanged.
14.2. We may terminate this Agreement for convenience at any time and for any reason by giving you 1 week’s written notice (including email).”
|Flutter Entertainment plc||PokerStars, PokerStars Sports, PokerStars Casino, Full Tilt, Skybet||Stars Affiliate Club||“4.2 (a) if the form of Commission that you receive from us is Revenue Share Commission, you will generate a minimum of one (1) Qualified Player for each of Our Sites which you market pursuant to these Terms for each consecutive period of ninety (90) days commencing on the date upon which we confirmed our acceptance of your Application Form to join the Stars Affiliate Club Program;
4.3.2 will (in the case of Revenue Share Commission) cease to be payable in respect of each Qualified PS Player on that date which is twenty-four (24) months after the date on which that internet user first opened a User Account as part of the process of becoming a Qualified PS Player
10.5 Without limiting any other of our rights and remedies, we may terminate these Terms immediately if we determine in our sole discretion that you have become a competitor of ours and/or any other entity within our Group.”
|Caesars Entertainment||William Hill||William Hill Affiliates||“8.3 At any time where three (3) calendar months have passed without the Affiliate directing at least four WH Customers to the Sites, the respective WH Party shall be entitled, in its discretion to: (i) suspend the Affiliate’s account; and/or (ii) reduce the rate of the Affiliate Remuneration. Such reduction may be notified to the Affiliate or may be published within the WHAP Remuneration Table.
8.5 In the event an Inactive Account Notice is sent to the Affiliate, the respective WH Party shall be entitled to retain fifty percent (50%) of the total balance remaining on the Inactive Account (“Inactive Account Fee”) after fourteen (14) days have elapsed from the date of such Inactive Account Notice. Should the Affiliate subsequently fail to withdraw the remaining balance from his/her account, the respective WH Party shall be entitled, upon expiry of forty five (45) days from the date of the Inactive Account Notice, to retain the remainder of the balance on such Inactive Account without further notice to the Affiliate. Following such retention, the Affiliate’s account will be closed and this Agreement will be terminated.”
|BetWay||BetWay||BetWay Partners||“14.10 We reserve the right to change the Commission payment schedules and methods of calculation at any time, in our sole discretion. 26.2 Either party may terminate these Terms and your participation in the Programme for convenience at any time, effective upon written notice to the other“|
|BetVictor||BetVictor||BetVictor Affiliates||“1.3. Modification We may change any of the terms of this Agreement or replace them at any time in our sole discretion“|
|Leo Vegas Group||LeoVegas||LeoVegas Affiliates||“2.5 Modification of the Terms and Conditions
We may amend, alter, delete, interlineate or add to these Terms and Conditions at any time and in Our sole discretion, by posting a change notice or a new agreement on Our site. Such amendments, alterations, deletions, interlineations or additions may include, for example, changes in the scope of available Fees, fee schedules, payment procedures, and referral programme rules. Any amendments, alterations, deletions, interlineations or additions to this these Terms and Conditions shall be effective immediately upon notice,
5.1 Terms Applicable to Profit Share Deals
As these terms, and the consistent moving goalposts show, the odds are always stacked in the favor of the house – and they *always* have a get out of jail card up their sleeve.
Until regulated gambling companies understand the difference between being parasitic and being partners – it would seem that in 2022, ‘regulated affiliate game’ is rigged.
Only a fool would do business under these terms – because it is truly “gambling”.
Another key fact in the discussion is that many gambling affiliates who promote offshore gambling do so because they have no other option – they refuse to be bullied out of the lucrative online gambling industry by a greedy few.
(P.S @ iGaming events & media companies – you are not helping things by giving these clowns fake “best affiliate program” awards – just because they pay for seats at your “awards”. You know who you are.)