Marketing

Affiliates can help the US gaming market get off the ground  

Charles Gillespie, CEO of Gambling.com Group, details the important role affiliates will play in the young market  

With the expansion of sports betting and online gambling in full swing across the United States, state gaming regulators are a very busy bunch. In the rush to draft gaming legislation and regulations in new states, most regulators are not paying much, if any, attention to the role of the affiliate. Regulators would do well to establish clear requirements for what affiliates need to start to operate in their states and what guidelines they should follow thereafter. By fostering a healthy and dynamic community of affiliates, the regulators will be taking a strong step toward helping their nascent gaming markets get off the ground. A healthy affiliate market with sensible regulation will facilitate the overall development of the gaming market, drive customers away from offshore operators and toward the regulated local operators and most importantly, educate consumers about their newfound ability to legally gamble.

Education

Due to the heavy hand of the typical American gaming regulator, online gambling expansion in the US will be more frustrating and slower than many in the European market would prefer. Like it or not, the US is simply a different animal when it comes to gambling enterprises. For reasons perhaps more political than practical, expect states to approach gaming issues very cautiously.

This trepidation will be evident in the way that states approach affiliates, which is why affiliates should be proactive to educate regulators about the important role they play in the market, particularly in Europe.  Regulators can and should subject their affiliates to oversight and regulation, although nothing so overbearing that will threaten the development of the affiliate market altogether.

The offshore battle 

The regulated US sports betting market faces a unique challenge in that, for decades, PASPA created an offshore monopoly for sports betting. Long established offshore sports books have become household names while regulated sports books entering the scene now have names consumers have never heard of before. If regulation is to be a success, regulators must give reasonable advantages to licensed sports books in order for them to effectively lure customers away from the offshore market.

Affiliates have a tremendous role to play in driving customers away from offshore operators to licensed operators. But state gaming regulators should make one thing clear to all affiliates: if you promote offshore operators you will be locked out of the onshore market. There can be no room for affiliates who skirt the rules on one website and wish to benefit from regulated US iGaming on another. This should be the primary goal of affiliate regulation, but an affiliate’s duties extend into the realm of consumer education. The legality of sports betting is sure to entice a new customer base that may not know the first thing about the process and parlance of sports betting. Affiliates must be prepared to guide customers in a responsible and truthful manner, and odds are that state regulators will want to have some oversight over their activity in this regard.

Regulation is inevitable 

State gaming polcies will likely include affiliate regulations – states need to know that affiliates are who they say they are and that they will act responsibly. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, as long as these regulations aren’t overly burdensome and are tailored to serve the objectives of a safe, competitive and consumer-friendly environment. Affiliates should be prepared to engage in the regulation creation process – if regulators view affiliates as a partner and a tool to further their goals, it may make a difference in some states’ ultimate decision to open the door to mobile sports betting and iGaming expansion.

For more, follow @charlesgillespi on Twitter.

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