Bringing order to the chaos of online marketing
Published 12th November 2014
Gaming in the US has always been highly regulated – correctly so - and the same is true for iGaming. But an unfortunate by-product of that is that US online casinos have taken the cautious route when it comes to marketing, largely mimicking land-based casino marketing templates and leaning heavily
on word of mouth to establish their casino and poker brands. One area that has not been utilized to any great extent is affiliate marketing.
Affiliates account for an estimated 30% of new player acquisitions for iGaming operators around the world. But in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey, affiliates have only accounted for a fraction of that. Why? Partly due to the pace of the market’s evolution. Regulators, rightly concerned with the more fundamental aspects of the iGaming experience, did not articulate specific rules for affiliate marketing, leaving American online casinos to forge ahead with little definition of what they could (or could not) do on the affiliate front.
Some regulated operators reached agreements with existing iGaming affiliates, which resulted in their legal regulated products being promoted alongside those of the most notorious illegal casinos. Others avoided the channel entirely.
As we move past the launch phase of regulated US iGaming, it is imperative we resolve the ambiguity surrounding the suitable marketing practices of regulated iGaming operations. My company, Overlay Gaming Corp, was the first to be licensed as a marketing affiliate in Nevada and New Jersey.
Several others are now also licensed, resulting in a small but growing pool of legal and licensed companies with which the US online casinos can do business.
It’s a start. But there’s still more work ahead. So, to clarify the fair, ethical, and suitable marketing practices of iGaming in the regulated US markets, including utilizing marketing affiliates, I have joined with Melissa Blau from iGaming Capital, Roger Gros with iGamingPlayer.com, and Chris Grove from OnlinePokerReport.com to form the Society for iGaming Marketing in America (SiGMA). The mission of SiGMA is simple: To develop, promote and enforce standards for ethical, responsible marketing of regulated online gaming in America. In practice, SiGMA’s mission will take a variety of forms, including:
SiGMA Certification: SiGMA will publicly certify iGaming marketers and marketing service providers who meet standards for responsible gaming.
SiGMA Awards and Events: SiGMA will highlight the industry’s top performers and contributors to responsible, ethical marketing practices.
Media Outreach: SiGMA will serve as a positive, constructive voice in the growing mainstream media conversation surrounding regulated iGaming.
Industry Representation: At conferences, hearings or in meetings with lawmakers, SiGMA will communicate and demonstrate the industry’s responsible gaming commitment.
Regulatory Resource: SiGMA will serve as a resource for state and federal regulators and legislators to demonstrate how iGaming can effectively benefit the players taxpayers, and local communities where it’s available.
Let’s not forget that until recently, most iGaming was functionally illegal in the US. The Justice Department has indicted multiple companies and individuals in connection with online poker, casino and sports betting operations. The lingering perception of iGaming as an illegal endeavor remains in much of the American mainstream.
My colleagues and I believe SiGMA will play a major role in improving that perception by clarifying the best practices in safe, fair, and ethical marketing practices among iGaming marketers, marketing service providers, and of course, marketing affiliates. By methodically determining the
best practices of the iGaming marketing industry while taking all constituents into consideration, SiGMA can shine light into an otherwise darkened corner.
In addition to our founding team members, SiGMA will draw on the expertise of our Advisory Board, which will include experts from all areas of gaming and marketing: operators, regulators, lawmakers, marketing affiliates, online and offline media, and marketing services providers. I invite you to join us, both in SiGMA and in continuing the larger conversation regarding marketing of regulated online gaming. By working together in this new industry, we can assure its long-term success in providing an entertainment platform that policy makers, politicians, players and, most importantly, the general public can trust and respect.