Are online casinos cheating their affiliates?
With this feature, we would like to give our input on the topic of the two-fold relationship between casinos and affiliates: is there an honest partnership and who the false bottom examples are. Before we actually begin delving if double-dealing is a real problem that transpires in the gambling world between these two partakers or not, let’s just briefly define the terms we will use in this article.
Casino affiliate programs are projects, often appointed by an online casino. They require working in alliance (signed with a contract/Terms & Conditions) between the two parties: casino, which needs promotions to attract customers, and an affiliate, who essentially originates from and subsists to promote that online casino.
Casino affiliates are the project leader and his team of employees, who are sending new players to an online casino via one affiliate program. They get paid a commission for each player that either visits the casino site or becomes a depositing player through a unique affiliate tracking link.
With special software, all the links of the program will trail the activity of the players including their account registration (bonuses for registration).
The data collected by the casinos is the metric detail used to determine the deposits, bonus costs, and the revenue generated by each customer. This same data plus the contractual agreement made at the beginning of the project dictates what commission the affiliate will receive.
Here comes the help - for digesting and utilizing the collected data - there is a special affiliate software, which is designed to digitally facilitate the tracing process, saving time by automating commissions, monitoring, analyzing, reporting, making everything more visible, hence improving the relationship casino-affiliate and boosting both parties profits.
Why will the casino cheats on its affiliates?
It is always astonishing to hear how some casinos are weaselling out of paying their affiliates a fair commission. They are failing to understand the most fundamental facet of affiliate marketing...
The more money their affiliates make, the more money these casinos make. Then why will one casino cheat on its partners? Simple - It is greedy!
While the relationship between the casino and the player is padded with a lot of human work, hours, teams, legalizations, verification and commission bodies, and this way performs more structured, the relationship between the casino and its affiliates is somewhat chaotic and in disarray. Even the contracts and the T&C’s sections are not enough to create a universal and protective for both parties environment.
Casinos believe they are in a power position because they are writing the check. But the truth is that one casino can go from having thousands of players to zero overnight if there were no affiliates to work for it.
So, cheating on their affiliates shows the particularly short sited mechanisms of functioning of some casinos, never realizing that by scamming their affiliates they de facto delude themselves. If only they calculate the extra manpower and efforts they put on creating and executing the sham and compared that number with what they actually disagree on, they should just see how silly and undoubtedly meaningless their actions were. Thus cheating on affiliates is just cheating on themselves!
The same as the casino manager/representative is thinking - if not with this partner - we can sign with the next guy, guess what? The affiliate - if he is not treated well, he will jump ship to the competitor - casino in a blink of an eye! Moreover, he will take his real connections, digital links, followers, and friends with him.
The time can come when a “ME TOO” avalanche of tweaked affiliates can rapidly go down on this or that casino brand for being greedy, massive cheater. Sure these dishonest casinos cannot keep on operating unpunished forever.
Maybe is time to obligate the casinos to make one affiliate-register with the Gambling Commission (or other similar institution), with which they will be enforced/audited to abide by much stricter rules of responsibility to who their partners are, the length of the contract with them, how are they being paid, and how are the disputes going to be settled. Hereby our opinion: We stand for fully “legitimate” casino affiliate marketing.
(Please feel free to leave a comment under this article, or write an email if you agree with our sentiments.)
Payments arrangement for Casino Affiliate Program
Working with an affiliate program will give you 3 ways to arrange your payments:
- CPA affiliate gets paid every time player visits the casino from your blog/site/banner/ad. This “Cost per acquisition” is based on the first time deposit.
- CPL affiliate gets paid once for the player registration. This “Cost per lead” - is based on free membership sign up.
- Rev Share affiliate gets paid some percentage of what the player loses. The “Revenue share” - is the most popular amongst affiliates and lucrative (?) way to earn through the whole lifetime of the player. Being most widely implemented this arrangement might look on the surface as a pretty tempting way of provisions.
However, there is the possibility of negative carrying over - because you see - when a player you have brought loses big - you WIN BIG, but when the player wins big, then you consequently LOSE BIG. This calculation shows how quickly you can arrive in a negative balance situation. There are some programs, which wipe out this negative amount of the affiliate account monthly, but for that to happen, you must have it in the contract!
Main disagreements between the online casinos and their affiliates
As with every relationship between partners, here too, some disagreements can source rattles in the gambling’s cage. The usual disputes/ complaints/ disagreements are based on:
- Casino not paying in a reasonable time
- Casino, using admin-fee deception
- Casino, purposely disabling tracking files (cookies)
- Casino, messing up with the bonuses and bonus terms
- Casino, pretending to have some games, but actually not having it - i.e. deceiving the affiliate, who deceits the players in consequence
- Casino, accused of cross-marketing scam
- Casino, shaving off players from the affiliates
- Casino, dumping affiliates and scrapping programs
- Casino, upsetting the affiliates with unfriendly/untimely Customer Support answers on the shared problems
- Casino, tampering with the T&C’s in the contract with the affiliate - terminating the agreement without a reason, or with unsubstantiated reason.
Dumping/ Scrapping affiliates
But there are operators, who with the argument of protecting their brand name (fake?/truth? reputational worries), or redirecting their project funds to other more suitable causes, or just not willing to pay any more commissions, are inventing “all-new marketing” strategy, that excludes this or that affiliate. So, in the beginning, they show you their good face, but in the future, you are risking to be left with lower funds and even to be dumped via simple T&C’s “bending” with a new set of requirements per “traffic”.
One unfair casino even blamed its high CHURM RATE on the affiliates, instead of navigating its business plans to more effective results and marketing performance. Due to this, the casino dumped several long term affiliates. (CHURM RATE- % of casino players, who for some reason leave the casino and never visit again)
So, one gambling operator can pressure the affiliate for stream hustle or in the worst-case scenario to cast that partner aside in this super rivalry market!
Deception of partners with the help of admin fee
At this point, we need to clarify that the examples below are purely speculative (we do not have real evidence of them). However, they are highly indicative if one follows clean logic and a line of assumptions.
During one operational month, a casino (here we assume it is a white label casino) has its variable in size costs, which besides the affiliate commissions include the payment systems fees, the percentages for the game developers - royalty payments, jackpot fees, regulators taxes, etc. Some online casinos above the named costs take an additional 20% to 30% from the amount of the player's deposit as an admin fee.
- For more information check our article "How much money an online casino makes?"
The trouble here is the imposing of an admin fee, which:
- 1 - Is not initially placed in the contract with the affiliate, i.e. retroactively changing the amount of fees without telling affiliates.
- 2 - They have it indeed written in the contract, but shifting it as it suits them, for nobody can perform checks all the time.
Some affiliates are complaining about missing transparent reports with a detailed layout for the login or numbers of players. On their platforms they see only the quantity of registrations, the number of new depositors (players who at the first time deposit to their account) and amounts already "clean" (that is, after deducting all admin fees).
Avoiding an ostensive way of displaying the numbers the casinos may vary with the admin fee % as they go. Even with the constant tests and checkups on what and how much was actually deducted the gambling operators always find some excuse of “mix-up/technical/mathematical” error, or temporarily adjusting the commission as originally agreed, till the time that the affiliate is checking. Then they reverse the percent once again - intentionally reducing the affiliates' money.
There are casinos, who are trying to justify the high admin fee with the high payment method tolls imposed for all the transactions (deposits and withdrawals) by the payment operators (bank and other financial institutions). Some money wired is tolled (they say) with a 10-12 % fee of the amount. Some other payment companies (Skrill and Neteller) are charging about 4%, third ones - Visa and MasterCard - between 3 and 5%.
“Shaving off” affiliates
“Shaving” statistical reports (also known as“players shaving”) of affiliates, can be a serious deceit problem which refers to casinos' attempt to deprive affiliates of their commissions. This type of scam is possible only for Rev sharing and Lifetime arrangements, where the affiliates are alleged to profit on a continuing basis. The casinos are practically “shaving” their budget expenses of sums they were supposed to pay to affiliates.
The scenario of this scam goes as follows:
- One affiliate brings in a player to an online casino.
- That player becomes a regular and/or big spender at the casino.
- The casino employee is instructed by the managers of the casino to“shave” off the affiliate commission.
- The employee then adjusts its statistics to exclude the player from the affiliate’s deserved profit.
The “shaving” itself can be performed in various ways:
- The player can simply be “untagged” or removed from the affiliate’s statistics;
- The player can simply be moved to another casino from the same network circle;
- Hiding selectively from the affiliate some various deposits of this player;
- Inventing non-existent issues with payment processing or chargebacks.
The managers also can impose the following 2 radical methods:
- Inappropriately changing the contractual elements with the affiliate to “lifetime” commission policy, which is usually one extremely small and uncertain percent (1- 5 %);
- Scrapping down the affiliate program, regardless of the outstanding - still unpaid commissions.
Disclosure and early prevention of stats “shaving”
- Partner only with trustworthy casinos and be informed in advance about all the pros and cons of their affiliate programs.
- Monitor and keep the grip of your statistical figures. This way you can notice the discrepancies in the early stage and make attempts to resolve the issue immediately.
- Collect evidence if something is “fishy” and ask the players of your “flock” to help you with details (deposit reports or screenshots for example) to prove your case. Don’t be afraid of the dispute with the casino.
If they are using such practice operating with partners, they surely don’t stop with one affiliate - they are massively cheating! Some affiliates signalized, that while the player is being "shaved" from his platform that player’s money is vanishing from all previous periods as well. So, that means the affiliate can filter the numbers for the past months if some player is “disappearing”, and periodically check if the casino is messing with the stats.
What kind of players do usually online casinos “shave off”?
Commonly, online casinos incline to disconnect large and medium players with big and average bets. The easiest way to execute this is after a pause in the game, cause at this moment it is less probable to catch the attention of the partner. Sure the casino can argue again that it was a technical failure.
They often try to disconnect players who are not indirectly associated with an affiliate. What do you think about an online casino that asks you to fill out an extensive query (country and address of residence) while registering?
This practice was introduced by West European online casinos as license compliance rules. Their method was based on the logic that as less the player and the affiliate are connected with each other, as higher the likelihood that they will not suspect the disconnection and the casino will very inconspicuously release the affiliate from the burden of getting a profit for that player.
If the affiliate is not inquisitive, observant, and willing to regularly make tests the casino appetite for “shaving” one or more players grow. Moreover, the larger the affiliate program and the more players register and play, the easier the casino can “shave off “any of them.
Disabling cookies (tracking records)
It is well known if a person at least once went to the online casino site via an affiliate link, then the player’s tracking code will be preserved at the cookies. Regardless of the player registered an account immediately after the transition, or after a few days - if he did not clean his browser history (in particular the cookies section), then the code will be fastened securely under the affiliate.
Some years ago, one large and respected online casino was caught up running operations while their cookies did not work. If a person erased the tail and remainder of an affiliate link or did not immediately click on the register button, then he was involved as a direct player without any binding to the affiliate. The managers of this online casino, being owners of a large poker site for many years already, having had relationships/partnership/contracts with multiple affiliates for long period - to assume that they did not know anything or did not understand that the cookies are not functioning - it sounds silly - the least.
One of the affiliates noticed this fraud, and after verification, it was uncovered the whole massiveness of the situation. With disabling the tracking cookies for several years was discovered that 90% of the players that this online casino received as direct players, were actually referred by the affiliates. But they were robbed from them, i.e. this casino did not share profits with them. After presenting the claims results, the casino ascribed this misfortune to a technical failure in the system, and then they had no other choice but to activate the cookies files again.
Cross-marketing cheating deal
This is one simple but if well executed a very effective casino “marketing” technique, which is similar to the widely popular bank “phishing” scam. It first began in Western Europe as a sending email system, claiming to be from a reputable firm in order to convince some individuals to reveal their personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
With casinos the crooked “marketing deal” looks like this:
- Phase 1 - Open not one, but 2 casinos.
- Phase 2 - Sign up with as many affiliates possible (new/old; big/small; worthy/not worthy), and promise them the best deals in the world - mountains of gold if you want - super incomes - and also mega future deals for the players plus all the sweet promotions one can imagine.
- Phase 3 - Collect all the players’ database in a short period, when selectively collect the players who are there only for the bonuses and wipe them off this “special marketing database” then only the juicy depositors will remain.
- Phase 4 - Send mass e-mails to the leftover big depositors on the name of the second casino, introducing yourself as the casino manager and persuade the player to sign up in this second casino, where he will get No Deposit Bonus and a Super Bonus with a very low deposit wager requirements. Also, suggest a cashback, which is more sizeable than the deal promised by the first casino. In the letter, you place one new link for login.
- Phase 5 - Before someone realizes that both casinos are owned by the same proprietor, and before somebody sniff that something is wrong, large scale spam emails are on their way - sent across the entire database of players from the affiliates. It is especially important to consider players who closed their accounts or installed self-exclusion.
- Phase 6 - Close the “phony” casino and even pretend that you worry deeply about gamblers' state of mind and that you always comply with the rules of gaming commissions in regards to responsible gaming.
From the player's point of view - it is not a big deal - you registered in one casino, entered your e-mail, phone number and other private preferences - some mass-mailing spam is launched, followed by calling and sending SMS messages. But you remain a member of the second casino - with better deals, just without affiliates.
- Control your program at all times. At the slightest discrepancy contact the casino Customer Service and require clarification. The casino should know that the affiliate is not one “sleepy/mute” partner, and cheating on the affiliates is not an easy occupation.
- Control your commissions by having the total picture of the admin fee on the moment of the contract signing and periodically as well. Perform regular checks with your friends depositing some amount and see how much is added to the total income.
- Control the relevance of your redirects. In case you have an old link, the player can appear on the stub. Do not miss your commission by having nonactive links.
Where to play?
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