Published: 14 October, 2020

Communication is Key

Warren Jacobs, managing director of ActiveWin, and Jeton Kodia, co-founder of Oddspedia JSC, met via video link during Affi liateCon Virtually Live to discuss the relationship between operators and affi liates during the COVID-19 pandemic

The relationship between operators and affiliates is often a fragile one at the best of times. An operator must trust its affiliate partners to be completely compliant with regulation, while an affiliate must trust an operator to treat it fairly and with respect.

When Warren Jacobs, managing director of operator ActiveWin, and Jeton Kodia, co-founder of affiliate site Oddspedia JSC, met during AffiliateCon Virtually Live to discuss the operator/affiliate relationship, it was evident they believe maintaining good communication with partners has never been so vital.

Asked how they would assess the industry’s responsible marketing efforts during the pandemic, both industry representatives agreed that, for the most part, operators and affiliates had taken the opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to compliance.

Jacobs described player safety as the “primary objective in the current climate”, insisting that he was impressed with everything he had seen from operators so far – even if this might be flying under the radar of those in the anti-gambling camp. “I think it’s been very good so far and it would be great if this was recognised,” Jacobs commented. “The industry has made massive strides when it comes to its understanding of responsible gambling. I genuinely believe the majority of gaming companies are far more responsible for their actions.”

In addition to the utilisation of compliance experts, Jacobs commended the UK industry on its charitable contributions during the pandemic. In April, a number of bookmakers donated funds from the Virtual Grand National towards the NHS, while during the same month, Denise Coates, CEO of Bet365, donated £10m ($12.3m) to an NHS trust to support staff fighting COVID-19 in Stoke-on-Trent. Both acts demonstrate the generosity of an industry, which is itself experiencing a turbulent period as betting shops and casinos are forced to remain closed.

While both panellists agreed that the industry had been working well to fight negative stigma during the pandemic, as always, there have also been a small number of operators and affiliates who have let the side down, albeit mainly in the grey or black markets. In March, two Russian gambling websites were found to be offerings odds on COVID-19 betting categories, while in the Netherlands, the regulator was made to take strict action when operators began using the pandemic to promote illegal online gambling websites.

Following this news from the Netherlands, the Malta Gaming Authority and Gambling Commission were both quick to issue notices warning licensees not to reference the pandemic in any marketing. Kodia pointed out that operators were also quick to clamp down on this behaviour from affiliate partners. However, he said the wording of certain emails had led to a breakdown in communication between affiliates and their operator partners – something which he said indicated a “lack of respect".

In sending emails to partners warning them against such behaviour, Kodia suggested a number of operators were in danger of tarnishing all affiliates with the same brush. “The wording in their emails is just unprofessional,” he commented. “Operators could have communicated this without treating everyone like criminals. Communication has to change in general, not only now because of COVID-19. We’re an internationally operating company with a lot of responsibility. The word respect means a lot for me and it’s something operators have to work on in the future.”

It would be certainly difficult to disagree with Kodia on this point. When an affiliate is doing its utmost to play by the rules, being chastised by a partner because of a few bad apples is not going to sit well. This is something Jacobs clearly understands, confirming his own “complete respect” for affiliate partners. He said: “It needs to be treated as a partnership. Recognition of effort is vital in how much they contribute to the sector. I would argue that affiliates are a fundamental component of the online gambling industry.”

Despite the difficulties inherent in maintaining a good operator/ affiliate partnership during a global pandemic, both panellists demonstrated that, with the right amount of respect and trust, this is certainly not an impossible feat.

Asked for one final piece of advice for affiliates, both panellists agreed on the necessity of diversification and expansion. In particular, Kodia recommended expanding into new territories to avoid suffering from problems in certain regions. “Depending on one market could be a big risk,” the Oddspedia co-founder concluded. “I would recommend entering as many markets as possible.”