Published: 25 October, 2021

Zombie casinos

Tim Poole speaks to Casino Guru’s Social Media & Community Leader, Daniel Dolejsi, on the benefits of growing an online gambling community through web forums.

Could you tell us about Casino Guru’s community of users, which I understand has just surpassed 34,000 users?

I checked a few days ago and now we actually have over 43,000. What’s more important is that 20,000 of them came back to our website. It’s not just about the people who register; it’s more about the people who come back. Since April 2020 we’ve had over 8,500 new posts from 1,700 unique users. The situation is quite steady; we have over 600 posts per month and it’s growing.

How important is the focus on retention to keep users coming back?

The most important thing is to make sure people return to the site. It’s quite expensive to get a customer or visitor from the website to the forum. It’s more expensive to make sure the player registers; it’s not about paying them, but it’s about the designers, user experience and making sure the user feels comfortable on the website without complications.

For communities and forums in general, it’s the players giving their opinion who have actually experienced the operator, rather than someone promoting the product without using it. How important or beneficial is it to have a forum of users when it comes to viewing operations and giving a full honest picture?

If a player complains (angry because they didn’t get paid, their winnings were voided or they claim the casino is a scam – sometimes they are right, the casino is a scam), we manage to clarify the situation. If a player informs us about a problem with a casino, we must investigate why. We need to figure out if the issue was on the player’s or the casino’s side; sometimes the casino simply has a few technical issues with payment providers – it doesn’t necessarily mean the casino is bad.

You mentioned angry customers and emails; is this a problem that affiliates wouldn’t have if they didn’t have such a big forum, and are there any extra challenges brought about by having a larger community?

It’s great having the forum and having the possibility to write user reviews. It gives a user space to contact us directly and publicly. So users know that whenever they write anything about the casino – it’s visible to everyone. If we just had a general email address with no forum, community or user reviews, we wouldn’t get these types of messages so often.

You’ve also implemented a ranking system; can you tell us more about this? Customers get points for writing posts and reviews. Getting ‘likes’ from another user can get you a point; you can even get points for writing a complaint against a casino. But your complaint needs to be approved. It doesn’t mean you just create complaints and in turn receive points and achieve a higher ranking in the system. I’m considering a ranking system where you could reach a certain number and claim bonuses – or free spins or merchandise.

So that’s a ranking system that incentivises users; are there any plans to have a ranking system for brands where users can rank operators?

I don’t think the brand would be interested in getting ratings or collecting points. They don’t have time for it. The casino representatives are so busy, but they are happy when you tell them their brand has been mentioned on the forum.

The forums are available in 16 different languages, which might sound simple to a user, but localisation and translation is a time-consuming process. How do you go about this?

We use Google Translate. We have tools that help us minimise any incorrect translations. If your native tongue is English and you also speak Spanish, we don’t need to translate the post for you; so that’s something we ask at the beginning but you can also change it later or in the future.

So overall it can be quite simple for the forum translation but there are some subtleties to it here and there?

We have the forum in 16 languages. I’m sure the next one will be Indonesian because we have become quite popular in Indonesia. We have a lot of visitors on the website and social media too, so we need to implement automated translation for Indonesian language as well.

We discussed the topic of honesty of player reviews with your colleague Simon, on AffiliateCon. How does this affect the relationship with Casino Guru, and what is it like having a community of thousands that could potentially write negative comments?

If a casino is unfair to our players, we are not afraid of ending that relationship with the casino. Our main aim is to represent the casinos that are fair. An example of this is when a customer took out a bonus and lost all of the money. He had around $0.11 on his account and $0.20 is the minimum; he topped up and played with his own money. He won thousands but the casino claimed he had an active bonus, therefore the winnings were void. We explained that the player only had $0.11, but the casino voiced its terms and conditions – and that was that. This is something we can’t ignore and act as if it’s okay: that’s why we ask casinos to use their common sense.

In a case like that, does having a community of users help make it easier to actually find these things out, as opposed to writing Casino Guru in-house reviews of the site?

Sometimes we get the same negative feedback on one certain casino, which means players have been experiencing similar issues. In these cases we contact the casino to find out the problem. Sometimes it’s temporary issues, so we report back to the community to reassure the customers. Sometimes we find out the casino is closed, or inactive. If such a casino had a good rating on our website, we would then decrease the ratings. It’s good to warn the other players so new ones don’t register. We call these types of casinos “zombie casinos.”

Finally, what advice would you give to an affiliate that either does not have a community of users and is thinking about this kind of approach/doesn’t have one, but is looking to start one up?

Having a community is the best way to build trust; it provides a tool for feedback. You build a community and a forum and get valuable feedback for free. However, if you think you can just create a forum on a free template and watch the community grow – it doesn’t work this way, you need to be there 24/7. Something we deal with on a daily basis is spam emails, fake ID sellers, even spammers offering you love spells! Be prepared for it and make sure you have anti-spam tools. Something you should keep in mind is this is not just about replying to messages from players.