Pavel Stoychev, operations manager at the owner of Casino News Daily, Casino Games Pro and Casino Guardian, says the company is looking to diversify beyond its current markets, with the US now a focus after the recent Supreme Court decision on PASPA
Pavel Stoychev: I work for a company which used to have various different online businesses – mainly website development, website maintenance and SEO – and in 2014 we decided to run an affiliate casino website, starting with asinonewsdaily.com. At first it was quite small, but after a few years it has grown to what it is now.
iGBA: How is your overall business structured: where are you based and how many portals do you own?
PS: We have three main portals – casinonewsdaily.com, casinogamespro.com and casinoguardian.co.uk – and we have 20 smaller projects that we are working on. Those are in quite a basic state but we hope they will grow. We have two physical offices in Bulgaria; in Varna and Veliko Tarnovo. We also have freelance teams in Italy, Spain and the UK. Also, we have a new team in the US, where we are looking to build a sports website due to events in the US gaming industry. They are legalising it in the US and we want to be there, so we have started a sports project but it is only one week old.
iGBA: So you decided on the US project in response to the recent SCOTUS decision?
PS: We have been thinking about going into sports for quite a while, and after the changes in the US we decided that the US would be a great start for a market. The UK is very competitive and it would take a lot of time and effort in order to make something significant, but the US is absolutely new so we have equal chances to other companies.
It is quite a big market, and we believe that it will be better than the UK at some point because despite the high taxes it is bigger.
iGBA: Which states do you think have the most potential?
PS: I think that Pennsylvania will be a great one. Actually, all states that legislate will have equal chances to grow. We will just go for all of them and see which ones work better for our company. It depends what product we use and on the traffic we build.
iGBA: What are the main markets you are targeting now, and are there any others
you plan to target in future in addition to the US?
PS: We are targeting the UK, Spain and Italy – we have versions of casinonewsdaily.com in those countries. We have been thinking about targeting Germany and Austria more, and we are now also thinking about Asia as this is quite an interesting market. Sweden will also be very interesting once it is legalised and we will continue working on our Swedish project. For now it is more of a background project but we will revive it once Sweden is legalised.
iGBA: Some of those areas you just mentioned, such as Asia and Germany, are not fully regulated. Are you happy to target the unregulated markets as well as the regulated ones?
PS: Yes, there are benefits to doing that. There are drawbacks, obviously, as you can’t advertise much with paid advertising, but for us it is not a problem because we target our visitors with SEO. As long as the brands we promote are fair to the players, because this is the most important factor.
You want them to have a fair game and be sure that you send someone to a place where they will enjoy themselves and not be scammed. So as long as there are such places, we think it is OK to operate in that market, assuming it is not illegal. Also in Germany there are licences in one state [Schleswig-Holstein] and if you have a gambling licence from there you are able to run TV ads. The brands we promote from Germany are mostly licensed in that state.
iGBA: How do you make sure that they are not scam sites, particularly in Asia?
PS: We go for brands we have been working with for quite a long time and usually with affiliate mangers who we have been working with for a long time. It is quite hard right now to be sure about a new brand, one which is just three or six months old, so we don’t work with such brands.
iGBA: Do you have plans to grow via acquisition in the future?
PS: We haven’t really found anything that would suit our budget and our vision and mainly we are looking to build our own projects.
iGBA: How many employees do you have and what are their specialisms?
PS: We have 30 people. We have a lot of content writers, mostly journalists who cover the news and we have writers of guides for casino. This is the biggest part of the team. We also have some tech guys and a small team that takes care of the marketing compliance in the UK where there have been some changes.
iGBA: You seem to invest heavily in editorial compared to many of your competitors of a similar size. Why do you think this is important?
PS: We believe that a portal should provide value to the visitors and visitors should come because they find something for them. It is not only about promoting brands and making money. We think sites should be providing people with the information that they are looking for.
iGBA: Your sites focus mostly on B2B news as opposed to many other affiliate sites, which seem aimed more at consumers. What is the reason behind this?
PS: We are primarily a media company and then we are an affiliate, and for us this type of news – things that happen in the industry – is the news that people are interested in and the news they are looking for. News about the types of new bonuses and content like that is more promotional. We do have content like this, but it is not featured on the website, it is more in the background. The main informative topics are featured on the front page.
iGBA: What is your SEO strategy?
PS: We actually don’t do any SEO for our casino websites, we just provide content and it is kind of a natural SEO strategy.
iGBA: What proportion of your traffic is now coming from mobile rather than desktop,
and what challenges does this present?
PS: Well, it depends on the country and the topic. I believe that for some content mobile now accounts for 60%. The minimum is about 50/50 but it goes as high as 60/40 based on the topic. Most of the brands nowadays are mobile-friendly; it is quite easy to join a casino on a mobile. Some people even find it more entertaining than playing on their desktop, so I believe it is part of the technology world and there is no problem with mobile traffic. We’re working on our websites to make them mobile-friendly as well, and by that I mean user-friendly, not just mobile-friendly.
iGBA: How has the recent increase in compliance demands from UK operators impacted your business?
PS: It took some time to make the updates, but
the most challenging part was that it was quite hard to communicate with some brands because I believe they were flooded with compliance emails from different affiliates. Some of the brands didn’t even know what they should do and were confused, but I think that we handled it quite well.
iGBA: Were there any companies you stopped working with due to this?
PS: There were companies that stopped working with us by closing our accounts. Some of them introduced an affiliate quota, which was quite unfair but it wasn’t just our accounts; a lot of affiliates were also unhappy with the closure of their accounts. But now it is fine because we don’t work with these brands and they don’t work with us. We just keep going with our business.
iGBA: Are you still optimistic about the UK affiliate market despite these issues?
PS: It will always remain an interesting market and a market with a lot of opportunities because even after the UK leaves the European Union, it will still remain a country which has economic strength. People can afford to play and this is the most important thing: if people have their budget to spend on entertainment they will spend it on all different kinds of entertainment. We also know that British people are quite used to betting; not necessarily a huge amount, just a small sports bet on a horse or a sports team. This is part of the culture so the UK will always remain an important market.