As with gambling operators, affiliates must also tread regulatory waters carefully, and examine the conditions in prospective markets to assess whether these suit commercial operations and objectives.

This topic played a central role in the discussion between a group of affiliate specialists at the CasinoBeats Summit, speaking at a panel entitled ‘New market pioneers’, sponsored by bet365 Affiliates, and moderated by Ricardo Pinto, CMO, Darwin Gaming.

When quizzed by Pinto on the different markets affiliates are targeting, Marcos Oliveira, CMO at Clever Advertising, stated that Japan has been ‘the thing’ over the past year, explaining that although the US has been attracting significant attention from the gaming industry, for affiliates there is ‘still too much complication’.

For medium or small-sized affiliates, he argued, the US is a difficult market as it is still undeveloped, and companies must be licenced in every state in order to get a ‘worthwhile investment’.

Instead, he detailed his belief that markets in Africa and Eastern Europe could hold lucrative potential, stating: “We are still very focused on our company in Africa. So we’re still developing a lot of business in like 15 to 16 African countries, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya Guinea, Senegal, Cameroon, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda – those are hugely developed markets. 

“We all think Africa is not that developed – that’s wrong. It’s very developed when it comes to retail and mobile, because everyone has access to mobile. Another new area that we are developing is in Russia, which has been regulated for a few years, but now affiliates and other non-Russian brands are looking into there.”

“Ukraine with its new regulated market, people will be moving there, and then of course you have the whole CIS block that’s been developed for the last few years like Georgia, Belarus, Kazakhstan. So the Eastern Bloc, along with Bulgaria and Romania are still very untapped markets that we’ll be focusing on in the next few years.”

Meanwhile, Johan Styren, CEO & founder and DilantiMedia, highlighted the historically difficult compliance requirements for both operators and affiliates in the UK sector.

Describing the UK as being maybe ‘one of the worst examples’ of the regulators heavily fining affiliates, Styren went on to detail how the situation in the country was confusing for many companies, as different operators had different expectations of their affiliates.

“We used to have the UK as one of those markets where we really invested and we will still have traffic there but, quite honestly, due to just so much insecurity in what is, you know the rules and excessive compliance, we don’t see that as a particularly attractive market,” he commented.

This was a sentiment shared by Alison Brincat, head of affiliates at Branders, who described the affiliate situation in the UK as ‘hectic’ and ‘quite chaotic’ around five years ago, saying: “Especially in the beginning, because now obviously things are a bit more clear, it was very very open to interpretation.

“One operator could have one thing, one operator could be doing another, so it was a bit of a conflict as well, because at one point affiliates would say ‘we’re weren’t asked to do this by another operator, but you’re making us do this.”

However, she expressed her belief that the UK was now an easier market for affiliates to operate in, adding: “I think now there’s a bit more of an understanding between affiliates and operators, and how we actually have to work together, it’s become part and parcel of the role. 

“I believe that affiliates have become a bit more agile as well, and their sites are actually a bit more customisable now to the compliance – because they’ve already experienced it. I think it’s become easier, but there has to be constant communication at this point between the operator and the affiliate to ensure things are being done well and to avoid time wasting.”

In place of the UK, Styren argued that Japan was an interesting market for many global affiliates, praising the sector’s safe environment for firms as well as the ability to develop trust-based relationships with players.

He remarked: “In Japan we have a very different situation where obviously the market isn’t fully regulated, but then again, the government has pretty much said that if you don’t operate anything from Japan, you’re fine.

“Obviously as an affiliate you’re even safer, but due to the fact that there’s so much trust involved in gaining players’ trust, we have to be very trustworthy, that’s not a problem, that is how you build your market, by being truthful. 

“It’s about having a balanced view of operators. In many European countries you’d just say ‘this operators great, this one is good, this one is super good’, but in Japan you actually have to be honest, and they won’t trust you otherwise, you may have to point out things about operators that aren’t alright, and the operators are fine with this because they understand as well that it’s all about building trust.”

Japan and US attracting affiliate attention