17 March, 2021

The affiliate exodus

Tero Päivärinta, head of accounts at Mr Gamble, speaks about difficulties in Finland that are forcing affiliates to enter other markets.

Finland has long been seen as a land of opportunity for online casino brands and affiliates. While state operator Veikkaus holds a monopoly over the market, it is open and consumers are free to sign-up and play at other brands so long as they are not seen to have directly marketed to players.

This has presented affiliates with a huge opportunity to work with operators that accept Finnish players, and many publishers have built sizable businesses in the market. It was only a few years ago that XL Media paid € 15m ($18.2m) to acquire Good Game Ltd's Finnish-facing sites.

But fast forward four years and the Finnish market is changing. The government and Veikkaus are taking active steps to ban oversees operators from the market - a payment block is expected in early 2022 with other protectionist measures likely to follow. Whether the government can bring its payment block to pass remains to be seen - the Norwegian government has been trying to do this for some time now - but it is putting the frighteners on affiliates with some looking to expand into other countries or leave the market entirely.

Those sites purchased by XL Media for € 15m a few years ago are now up for sale. Of course, big affiliates such as XL Media have the resources to rapidly enter new markets to mitigate any damage done by the changing situation in Finland, but smaller affiliates are not so well placed and it can be difficult for them to expand internationally. For many, launching their sites into new markets is a huge undertaking and an action they will likely not take. Instead, they will ride out any changes to the Finnish market and ultimately have to decide whether the impact on revenues means their business remains viable or not.

Expanding into new markets is tough, but it can be done even for a small site. There are plenty of markets to target, some regulated and some grey, and with the right approach and determination it is possible to compete with some of the larger brands in the space. This is how.

Enter English language markets:
For most affiliates, and certainly SEO affiliates, one of the greatest costs in terms of money and resource is content. By targeting English language countries, small affiliates can easily amend key ranking pages for each market without having to worry about translation.

This allows them to extract the greatest possible value from a page by simply making small changes to localise it to each market and ensure that it's considered unique by Google. For example, a New Online Casinos Canada page is not significantly different to a New Online Casinos New Zealand page.

Some of the most exciting English language markets right now include Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, India and of course the USA although here a licence is required and that may be cost prohibitive for smaller affiliates.

Do your research to localise your offering:
To succeed in each market, it is important to do your research to fully understand player expectations and preferences. It's also important from a content perspective as some words and phrases are different

in one market to another slots are pokies in New Zealand, for instance. Research also steers what pages you create - while PayPal casinos are popular in the UK, different payment methods are preferred in other markets and this will be reflected in the pages you publish.

Partner with the best brands for that market:
Some online casino brands are international but have been developed with specific markets and players in mind. As an affiliate, it's important to understand what properties your readers look for in a casino and partner with the brands that best meet those needs.

Securing the best commercial agreement is vital, too, especially for smaller affiliates who really do need to maximise earnings across all the brands they work with. It's also important when it comes to being able to re-invest in your site as the competition in each market increases.

Ultimately, any affiliate can launch in any market. It just takes planning, research and the most effective use of available resources. The situation in Finland will undoubtedly force publishers to expand internationally and those that do will be in a strong position to not only survive but thrive.

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