OCR: Regulation & Growth
Published 7th October 2016
Can you tell us a little about how the OCR business is structured, for example, your offices/locations, number of employees,professions of staff (i.e., tech, content, SEO, PPC, etc)?
Online Casino Reports was started by a small group of friends in 2001. Currently, we are based in Tel Aviv witha loyal team of 10 people, the majority of whom have been with the company since its inception. Therefore, we function more like a family rather than a group of employees. We sit in an open-office layout overlooking the Mediterranean. It’s a tight-knit environment, and we really believe in working together as a team and communicating openly. The staff is more or less divided evenly among content, webmasters, and SEO professionals.
Which territories and markets are growing and showing potential for business, and which are proving challenging?
Without a doubt, the most challenging markets are the UK, Canada, Germany and Sweden. The number of affiliates operating in these markets is very high, making for very stiff competition. Yet at the same time, these are some of the most rewarding markets because the player values are high.
So, even if you only deliver a few players, they still pay off quite well. I suppose that’s why everyone wants a slice of these markets! Recently, we have seen growth in the Asian and Eastern European markets and have expanded to suit this need. We’ll see if this pays off in the future.
After our Italian site, we knew we needed an overhaul of all our international sites to include brands with valid licenses for their respective countries.
The UK will shortly join the ranks of markets implementing dot.country regulation. What impact has this trend to regulation had on OCR’s business and strategy?
The question of regulation is a neverending battle. We had to deal with it first in 2007, when online gambling became illegal in the US. That’s when we decided to move towards the European market. Our decision was to expand and create local-language OCR sites to limit the international impact of individual legislation on our sites. In 2012 countries slowly began regulating online casinos. We suddenly found our Italy site was down because it was blacklisted by AAMS. At first we thought the new legislation was only applicable to brands, but it also applied to affiliates. Therefore, we decided to upgrade our Italian site, only offering brands with Italian licenses. After a lengthy six months, AAMS reviewed us and we were re-enlisted. After our Italian site, we knew we needed an overhaul of all our international sites to include brands with valid licences for their respective countries. Denmark was our next stop and we’ve continued from there. Today, we can proudly say that OCR Italy and OCR Denmark fully serve Italian and Danish online gamblers.
Next on the list are Spain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Hungary, and of course the UK, which is a top priority. We are in the process of updating these sites and once complete, each will only offer brands with valid local licences. The idea is simple – we want to serve local communities, so we
only offer relevant brands.
The obstacle, as usual, is time. We have approximately 60 local sites and it’s a lot of work to stay current with the content and to close affiliate contracts. The good news is that the markets do not issue licenses simultaneously, so this gives us time to stagger the updates.
Another regulation problem we’ve faced is when a country bans any type of online casino activity. France is a good example. Most of our top partnerships do not operate in France and therefore we focus less on this market. We do promote brands that decide to accept players from France.
Our decision to do this was largely based on the fact that French is widely spoken internationally. We see traffic from other francophone players, so we decided to keep this site.
Regulation issues are always in flux, and OCR mirrors the developments in the online gambling world. As regulations change in various countries - some countries legalizing online gambling, some outlawing it, and others remaining undecided - we must reflect these developments to move forward.
What have been the most significant changes in the online casino space in recent years, and how have these affected how you operate and do business?
Two developments really stand out. The first is regulation and the second is the number of new brands that have appeared in the last three or four years. We believe the regulation has impacted the growth of online casinos.
Prior to 2010 we had approximately 200-300 casinos on our site. Today, we have tripled this number of casinos and sportsbooks. Some brands are smaller, local operations that target players from specific countries because they are localizing due to the new regulations. What we are seeing is
an overall improvement of brand localization, and players now feel much more comfortable to try new casinos more often. This is good news for an online gambling portal like us, and we’re happy to bring awareness of these new brands to our readers.
We believe regulation has impacted the growth of online casinos. Prior to 2010 we had approximately 200-300 casinos on our site. Today, we have tripled this number of casinos and sportsbooks.
How have Google’s algorithm updates affected how you approach and deliver content at OCR?
Google updates its algorithm on a monthly basis. Instead of chasing after changing parameters, we focus on bringing highquality content for our end users. We focus on promotional offers, gaming site reviews, news coverage, and whatever else our users are interested in. Our content has become more informative, more focused, less promotional, and less SEO-structured. In short, we are trying to forget Google and remember our readership.
What challenges and opportunities has the move to mobile presented you with?
The move to mobile meant that we had to upgrade 60 websites. This meant implementing the UX and latest codes to have dynamic websites that work crossplatform and on all devices. After a lot of work, we can now say we support all mobile devices. With mobile came new opportunities. It’s no secret that mobile gaming is the next big phase – player behaviour is more “open” on mobile, meaning that the convenience and intimacy of a mobile device seems to encourage faster decisions and more play. This is good news for everyone, and we’ve seen more than a few mobile-dedicated casinos spring up.
As one of the biggest online casino affiliates, what two pieces of advice would you give to any affiliate starting out today?
The first piece of advice to a new affiliate is “quality, not quantity”. Focus on just one market you’re interested in, start small, learn as you go, and don’t compromise on quality of the information and services you are providing. If you try to take on too many markets from the start, you’ll lose a lot of time and money trying to stay on top of things. This industry changes all the time, and it’s easy to make costly mistakes. The second piece of advice is to choose a product that you can relate to and understand your audience. When we first started in the business, we thought all forms of gambling were more or less the same. Today we know that the audience for poker is very different from the audience for casino, sports, and even bingo. It’s important to focus and know who you are speaking with and what they want.