Affiliate marketing is huge in the iGaming business. It’s a pretty simple model of traffic monetisation whereby casinos partner with affiliates and provide them with a bonus code or sign-up link. The affiliate reviews and rates the casino or gambling product and lists the sign-up link. The affiliate then earns money for players who register using the link, usually, a commission or percentage of the players spending. Surprisingly, affiliate sites are also one of the least regulated elements of the UK gambling industry. But how are affiliates regulated, and is this an area of the industry that should be subject to more robust controls? Let’s take a look.
To become an affiliate site in the UK, you do not need a licence, experience, or even industry know-how. You only need to set up a site and begin forming affiliate partnerships with gambling sites. While this takes considerable resources and patience, it doesn’t require a background check, site audit or a licence.
The rule of thumb for UK affiliates is that the casinos they form relationships with are responsible for how their affiliates advertise their product – UK Gambling Commission regulations state that licensed operators “require comparable levels of compliance with Commission directives”. In short, affiliates must keep to UKGC rules, and the buck stops with the casino if they do not.
Additionally, affiliate sites must adhere to advertising regulations from the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and their CAP and BCAP codes for how they market gambling products and ensure that the marketing is socially responsible. There are rules for age-gating and geo-gating content so that no under-18s or people in restricted jurisdictions can access it.
What keeps affiliates legit?
The apparent issue with the affiliate industry is that by monetising recommendations, there’s an incentive for profit generation to come before legitimacy. Essentially, what is to stop affiliate sites from recommending operators simply for the commission, and how do customers ensure the integrity of a review site?
Firstly, there isn’t anything to stop affiliates from acting this way. However, there’s a vast selection of great online casinos in developed markets like the UK with top affiliate schemes. There’s also money for affiliates in repeat visitors who were happy with past recommendations. In the long run, honesty is more profitable. Affiliates that understand the market, their consumers, and the best gambling options, create content that meets the needs of casino customers and earns trust.
Of course, this is not the case for all affiliate sites, and from the vast number of legit sites, there are some bad apples that recommend offshore casinos or monetise too far. In this context, consumers have a part to play in discerning better high-quality affiliate sites and those looking only to profit from player recommendations. Whether or not an affiliate licensing scheme is introduced in the future, players will still need to undertake these checks to get the best casino recommendations and access high-quality content.
How to distinguish genuine affiliate sites
There are hallmarks of great affiliate sites, such as producing high-quality content, using professional language, providing accurate content and displaying genuine enthusiasm. Moreover, these sites offer plenty of detail and unique reviews.
In addition, genuine affiliate sites take the necessary steps to protect customers. This includes setting limits on deposits and wagers, providing advice on problem gambling or ensuring players know the terms and conditions of their bonuses. Furthermore, they have processes in place to prevent minors from accessing online casinos. It is also important that these sites remain compliant with local
Accuracy of content is a significant indicator of how up-to-date the site is. If the bonuses are current, it is an excellent way to test a review site’s trustworthiness. Keeping on top of the latest promotions and bonuses and producing accurate, up-to-date content is no easy task, so if a site achieves this, it indicates there’s a passionate team behind the scenes working hard to keep everything current.
For example, an affiliate that doesn’t know the casinos in their market might recommend the wrong site. A player looking specifically for sites with free spins on slots doesn’t benefit from being directed to a platform with free games on live blackjack.
Reviews recommending out-of-date bonuses or deals that are not available are not on top of their game, and sites that lack in-depth comparative knowledge don’t know their market and won’t be making the best recommendations.
Is there a need for greater affiliate controls?
While the market self-regulates pretty well via a de-facto operator control over affiliates, players can benefit from distinguishing legitimate affiliate sites from those making lousy recommendations or sending traffic offshore. Ultimately, the affiliate industry is open to abuse with or without licensing requirements.
The US licenses affiliates, and it’s working well, but it also increases the barriers to entry, with costly application fees in each state. This benefits the large affiliates with expendable resources and keeps innovative new affiliates from the market.
With the UK market on the edge of major regulatory reform, there are concerns that players may turn to offshore gaming sites to avoid affordability checks and changes to game rules, like max stakes on slots. If this happens, it will be crucial for affiliates to support the regulated market by continuing to disperse information to consumers about regulatory changes and recommending licensed gambling sites.
While some affiliates are worried about the additional red tape that potential affiliate licensing could cause, for some in the industry, like BonusFinder’s Fintan Costello, licensing would mean ensuring that affiliates only make legal and safe casino recommendations, keeping to every T&C in the book and becoming “responsible and liable” for their actions.
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