r-Gamble.com, an Estonia-based iGaming affiliate site owned by Cashmagnet Ltd, has recently expanded to UK and Canada markets after an initial Finnish offering 18 months ago. The iGaming affiliate brand has seen its team increase from 2 to 16 staff since 2018 to cater for growing interest in international markets, resulting from an approach that combines casino comparison reviews with custom website development and integration with emerging affiliate opportunities such as Twitch’s streaming platform, where the brand became Finland's most viewed slots channel in just six months.
Jonas Kyllönen, Marketing Director at Mr-Gamble.com, spoke with Yogonet about the iGaming affiliate sector and the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Could you share your own concepts and insights regarding the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the online gaming industry globally, and your company in particular?
The coronavirus has for sure taken the world by storm. We’re happy to see that the world has reacted to it well so far and hopefully we’ll slowly get to grips with how to handle this pandemic. Gambling is a human habit that will always persist, and the current world situation with the pandemic is certainly changing where we gamble and how often we gamble. That being said, online operators have an even bigger challenge focusing on their responsible gambling features. This is also an important factor for our audience, so Mr-Gamble.com is one of the first comparison sites that actually ranks online casinos based on their responsible gambling features.
What's your approach to this global crisis, in order to leverage the shift to online business? What special strategies and resources are you drawing on?
Our business is online by its nature, so we haven’t had to adapt that much, apart from working remotely at home. It’s important to empathize with our audience though — everyone is experiencing this crisis in different ways. Focusing our resources on finding responsible gambling partners is now more important than ever, so we take care to showcase the most responsible casinos for our audience. After that, the casino has to take responsibility for the welfare of the player and recognize any potential addiction or problem gambling and offer proper solutions to guide the player to appropriate responsible gambling resources.
Do you see new player profiles since the outbreak began? If so, how do you address this? What role is the land-based segment shutdown playing, also with the major sports events cancellation affecting sports betting?
To be completely honest, the pandemic has not had any real impact on our numbers. In neither a positive way, nor in a negative way. We are obviously happy with these results, since so many businesses globally are going in a very bad direction. We have never been a major player in the sports betting scene, but as big fans of sports and fightsports in particular, we feel the pain for bookies and event organisers — sports betting is obviously taking a big hit in the gambling industry. When it comes to land-based casinos, you would think the land-based casino players would transfer online, but we have not seen a trend like this so far.
How is this affecting the affiliate sector in particular? What progress and changes have you seen in your iGaming affiliate operations, including your Twitch’s streaming platform?
As a casino affiliate, thankfully the coronavirus pandemic is not affecting us much, but our sports betting affiliate colleagues seem to be struggling, since there are no events happening whatsoever. We have seen a slight increase in Twitch viewer numbers, which might be because of the tight quarantine restrictions globally. In Spain however, the government has banned casino ads, so we imagine affiliates in the Spanish market are really struggling at the moment, since they cannot advertise to their audiences in the same way.
With the surge of online gaming, are there further actions or requirements in place in terms of responsible gaming, compliance and CSR?
We have not seen a surge in online casino gaming, but online gaming in general must be experiencing a big surge in demand right now. We’re happy to see casinos being regulated more and compliance increasingly viewed as a key factor. We think the pandemic will only speed up these responsible gaming developments, so in that sense there is also something positive happening because of it. In terms of CSR, we think it’s hugely important to have general guidelines on how to proceed now while people are working in self-isolation.
What are the main demands or concerns you've been receiving from your customers and partners since the outbreak began?
We have not got any direct feedback from players after the outbreak. The main demands and concerns will no doubt be addressed by the operators.
How would you assess the existing resources, approach and measures taken by regulators, governments or other state institutions in the jurisdictions where you have operations? Could you mention any kind of similarities and differences between those gaming jurisdictions, on any level? Do you see the need for further regulatory actions to be taken?
This is really a tricky question, because the regulations vary so much from country to country. From an affiliate perspective, regulations often mean licensing, which results in fewer options of casinos to play at. In general, gambling regulation is important for everyone from players to affiliates to operators, to promote safe and fair gambling entertainment, as well as to protect players from fraudulent casino operations. Luckily the licensing system and the MGA license in particular has been very effective in cleaning out the dirty players from the market. Country-specific regulations can be quite different to each other, and so far our main markets are not country-regulated, so I cannot give you an answer from my own experience.
What are in your opinion the possible scenarios this could bring for the igaming sector, and your business areas in particular, in the mid-long term?
It will require a lot of country-specific attention, should our main markets get regulated. For example, the UK regulations required loads of changes in marketing materials, for example to be specific in how to phrase some sentences. In the mid to long term, I believe it will cut out a lot of operators who we work with if the regulators require very specific and demanding features from the operators and the affiliates. It’s important for the players to have solid regulations in place, but those regulations should also be well-balanced to allow the industry to continue growing in a responsible manner.