SiGMA met Bryan Bailey, Director of Casinomeister, for an interview about his business and thoughts about the industry.
Hello Bryan, how are you? Are you ready for SiGMA17?
I’m fine. And yes, I am ready to peruse the crowd and stay out of trouble.
How did you come to enter the online gaming space and set up your company?
For me, it was entirely serendipitous. I started Casinomeister as a semi-hobby site. In the late nineties, I was working for a small translation firm in San Diego – we translated websites and software packages. We ended up translating some online casinos which I thought was a total joke. Playing Blackjack online with your credit card – and the company is in the Caribbean? What a joke! One company (World Gaming) owed us about $3k which they never paid – so yeah, the first rogues.
About the same time, one of the local San Diego casinos approached us – they had a Cryptologic site – and they want to have it translated in four European languages, but they had their reservations. “Translations are expensive. How will the public know that we are the good guys? That we aren’t shady crooks from the Caribbean?” And that’s when I suggested that I could make a website – have some casino news on it, maybe have a guestbook or forum (this was 1998), and a list of good casinos (like theirs), and a list of bad casinos (like the jerks who didn’t pay us). And since I was planning to eventually move to Germany, I could call it “Casinomeister” – I could use it to practice my German.
Well, that worked. I launched the site in June 98, and within a few months, we were getting about 35 – 50 people on the site per day. In November, I published our first newsletter to about 60 people. We had a forum (html flat files), and around this time we started getting people to complain about their treatment at certain online casinos. I had no clue on casino games, frankly I couldn’t care less about them, but I liked interacting with people and I would do what I could to find points of contact at whatever casino the person was complaining about. Most of these casino managers were grateful, and they would subscribe to my newsletter, or join our forum. That’s about the time they offered to buy advertising space at Casinomeister, or pay revenue share – 5-10%. “Wow!” I thought, “10% is more than twice you’d get at Amazon.com – how awesome is that?!” So at this time, I was able to monetize on my hobby website.
I moved to Germany in November 99, still working for the translation company – but that company went bust within months – and I soon found myself jobless in a foreign country. At this time, I was making a little bit of money from the site – enough to pay half of the bills, and I figured if I put 100% of my effort into the site, it should work out.
I had already set up standards for advertisers (I would not take just anybody on), and the Rogue Casino section was launched in 2000. In December 2000, I decided to attend my first conference, the ICE 2001 in London – and that was a turning point of Casinomeister.
I discovered that most of the iGaming industry folks had been using my site as a reference – on what players were thinking and how they behaved. Most everyone knew the site Casinomeister, and this is when I was able to establish my contacts and professional relationships with the online casino industry pioneers.
That was then – this is now.
Can you tell us a little about how your company business is structured?
It’s me, Max (our venerable complaints manager), Vortran007 (our warning robot), Protecto, a couple of content writers, and a couple of back end developers to assist with the new awesome website. That’s it.
With the recent wave of consolidation, mergers and acquisitions of affiliate sites, are you surprised at all of the changes happening in the industry?
Nope, I’m not at all surprised. Surviving in this industry is tough – it’s easier by a consolidation of resources.
A number of your competitors have gone down the real money operator route, and tried their hand at white labels. Have you also done this?
I would never want to be an operator. Too much work – and it’s got to be excruciatingly boring.
Developing unique content is a key pillar of your strategy. What will be your primary focus on this front over the next 6 months?
To keep working.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets ?
I focus primarily on the English speaking market mainly because I can’t be bothered with foreign languages. German is hard enough.
How do you find UK markets and competition?
How have Google’s algorithm updates affected the way you go about traffic generation, SEO and content at your company?
I’ve never paid too much attention to Google algorithms. For me it’s content – as long as there is enough original content being produced on the site, and your HTML is sound, then you should be good to go. It’s only recently that I’ve switched to HTTPS, and made the majority of the site “phone friendly” so people can look at the site with their phones without too much aggravation.
Are there any exciting plans in the works that you can tell us about?
I’m considering marketing action figures, Casinomeister (me), Madman Max, and Vortran007. Produce a few thousand, and then mass dump them from C-130s across Europe and the US. It’ll probably piss a lot of people off, but just imagine the viral marketing prospects. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, y’ know. Oops, cat’s out of the bag.
What is the main thing that you’d like SiGMA readers to know about your sites?
That I make the best videos. My jokes are so funny, I even crack myself up.
What challenges and opportunities has the move to mobile presented you with?
It was a real PITA converting thousands of pages into mobile friendly pages just to appease these young folk that have to have everything on their damn phones. I can’t be bothered with playing any casino game on my phone – I need a big wide screen and a proper PC if and when I do play. We did a survey about five years ago and 25% of or members didn’t even have smart phones. But times change, and you have to roll with the punches I guess.
What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for your business and the wider affiliate sector in 2017?
To make affiliate programs understand that there is the right way and the wrong way of doing business. There are quite a number of affiliate programs that think that implementing retroactive predatory terms is acceptable and it’s par for the course. It’s not – it’s unethical and should not be tolerated by anyone. Affiliates don’t realize that they are being screwed over by these affiliate programs. Casinomeister reports on not only rogue casino operations, but on those affiliate programs who take the same dodgy path.
What two pieces of advice would you give to any new affiliate starting today?
Actually – I’m giving three:
Number one, be very careful who you do business with. Generally speaking, most of the larger affiliate programs (William Hill, Ladbrokes, etc.) don’t give a care about the affiliate. They are there only for the money and will throw you under the bus in a New York minute. So do your due diligence – read the terms and conditions carefully – beware of anything predatory like “if you are not able to produce more than x amount of players per quarter your rev share will be reduced to 10%” or something of that nature. That’s a bullshit rogue term. What happens if you become incapacitated, or you are unable to work in that jurisdiction? Terms like that are unnecessary and stem from thoughtless greed. Additionally, affiliate programs that market casinos that rip off players will in turn rip you off. So be careful who you do business with.
Number two: join the casinos, play the games, understand how the casinos work. Players are looking for an knowledgeable voice – be that voice and care what about you are promoting.
Number three: you are not selling shoes online – you are promoting gambling and you should never forget that. Take problem gambling seriously, and always try to assist others in their time of need. Make sure you abide by proper standards of marketing.
Do you play slots and what would you do with 1 million Euro from jackpot winnings?
I would probably invest it into my dream of making a Tiki head factory. That’s one of my plans for when I retire.
Bryan Bailey has been running Casinomeister for over eighteen years. He provides the direction of the site, writes most of its content, produces three newsletters, the occasional video, and provides consultations to players, affiliates, and operators via the forum or other means of communication.
Have you attended SiGMA last year? Relive the highlights from our last show and stay tuned for this year’s SiGMA. Watch out for what we’re branding as the ‘iGaming Village’ this year.