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    GPWA Abby is offline GPWA Editorial Staff
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    Default Affiliate Interview Series - Nikola Zugic - Zuga

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    Name:
    Nikola Zugic
    Age: 34
    Hometown: Kotor, Montenegro
    Living in: Belgrade, Serbia
    Favorite Food: Sushi, dumplings

    Sites:
    www.latestcasinobonuses.com
    www.latestbingobonuses.com
    www.bingoreviewer.co.uk
    www.latestpokerbonuses.com
    www.latestsportsbonuses.com
    www.nodepositbingo.co.uk

    (This interview was originally published in the October 2016 issue of the GPWA Times Magazine.)

    You've been involved in the iGaming business since you were 26. How did you first get into it? What did you do before becoming an affiliate?
    I started as an online blackjack player at the age of 26. I used to be a "bonus hunter" – or "bonus *****," as we called it back then – and I made a decent buck, too. In search of good deals and new bonuses, I found LCB, which had been founded just a few months before by Joshua Chan. I started sharing my experience and tips and got hired within a couple of months. My first role was as a forum moderator and a blogger. In the years that followed, I became a business partner.

    Before I started as an affiliate I was a law student at Belgrade University. The plan was to finish school and start working for my dad as a lawyer. Luckily, that did not happen.

    You've been very active on the forums lately, tracking down sites that use hacked or pirated games. How do you go about finding and recognizing these sites?
    Over the course of nine-plus years, we encountered many shady things done by various casinos, but I have to say that we never expected to find such rogue behavior and the extent of fraud done by such a high-profile casino group.

    It all started when we received a player complaint about what they claimed was a weird looking NetEnt game. We immediately decided to verify their claims and conducted an investigation and inspection of the game's source code. This is when we found that the NetEnt games were not hosted on the official NetEnt server, and in addition we discovered discrepancies in game designs, jackpots etc.

    On top of all this, we found they were also hosting pirated Novomatic games – once again, not being hosted on the official servers. They had obvious visual discrepancies with the original games, and our contact at GreenTube confirmed these games were not genuine.

    These days we check most of the games manually, especially if it is a new casino, and verify whether they host legit games or not. It's time-consuming, and that's why we had to assign a person to do this as their primary job. As a result, we found several casinos using pirated games, and I am sure there are more.

    We interviewed Josh, who is also associated with the LCB sites, back in 2012. (You can read the interview here). How have things changed for the company and the family of sites since that time?
    Yes, indeed, many things have changed – and for the better, I may add. We have grown as a company, now employing more than 35 people full-time. We have two main offices, one in Sydney where Josh is based, and one in Belgrade, Serbia, where I work in the headquarters. We also have staff working from the U.S., the U.K. and Romania.

    We have kept working on improving our existing network, and we are currently in the late stages of releasing the new and improved LCB. Plus, we focused on expanding our network by acquiring well-established affiliate sites.

    Our biggest acquisition to this date was two years ago when we bought www.wizardofodds.com and www.wizardofvegas.com for $2.35 million. Before that we got www.gamesandcasino.com, and our most recent acquisition was www.bj21.com.

    Tell us about your role within the LCB team. How and when did you get involved?
    Hehe, this is actually a tough question. I have been doing everything for LCB and the network. I started as a forum moderator and blogger, then I was a data entry and research guy. I have done some SEO and social marketing – pretty much everything but programming and Web design.

    These days I mostly boss everyone around. But all jokes aside, I'm mostly involved in day-to-day operations, delegating work, brainstorming ideas and making sure things are running smoothly. I still do a lot of research and always strive to improve our network.

    LCB runs sites for casino, bingo, poker and sportsbook. Which verticals bring in the most traffic?
    LatestCasinoBonuses.com is dedicated to casinos only. It started as a bonus comparison and casino directory. Several years ago we created three sister sites dedicated to other verticals: LatestBingoBonuses.com, LatestPokerBonuses.com and LatestSportsBonuses.com.

    LCB is our biggest traffic driver and earner, which make sense since it was our first site and the one we focused on the most, followed by LBB (bingo), which has grown a lot since the start of the year.

    Our recent acquisition, wizardofodds.com, is also a huge source of organic traffic. But unlike LCB, it is more focused on blackjack and other table games, related strategies and the odds that come with them. So we get to cover all these different aspects and verticals of online gambling with our whole network.

    Do you gamble online? What about in brick-and-mortar casinos?
    As I've already mentioned, I started as bonus hunter. I am also a big fan of online poker and have won a few big tournaments at PokerStars. But playing poker professionally, or semi-professionally in my case, is a full-time job, so I find myself playing less and on more of a recreational basis now.

    I do like to gamble in brick-and-mortar casinos. Las Vegas is one of my favorite destinations, and I made my fourth trip there this summer. I also have plans to go to Monte Carlo this year.

    How often do you get to see and interact with other people in the industry? Have you attended any conferences?
    I am a regular at the industry conferences, and do enjoy them a lot. I mostly attend the bigger and affiliate-related events. I still remember my very first conference in Budapest. I believe it was back in 2009. I was literally blown away.

    Some of the industry people I met there are still my friends today. And this is one of the reasons I like these events so much: You get a chance not just to discuss business in a semi-casual way, but you get to meet people from all these different countries and learn about different cultures. That has definitely helped me grow as a person.

    What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?
    Personally, I don't do much marketing these days. We have our dedicated marketing team, run by our lovely marketing manager Melanie Attwell. Nonetheless, the AM has to be prompt and accommodating, and must know who we are and what our sites are all about.

    A perfect example of AMs not doing their job would be not understanding LCB's business model. So, if we tell them we provide a value to our visitors in terms of free bonuses, exclusives, rewards and other promotions, and if their reply is that they can't do that but they can offer something else, it is obvious that we will be less than happy to send them traffic. If anyone knows our traffic that would be us, so if an AM wants to get the traffic from us, they need to meet our needs and do what we require of them.

    We also need AMs to register at our forum and be there to assist our members and represent their brand. Again, a big part of our business model is to help players with their issues and complaints, to mediate between them and our industry partners. This is why it is crucial for AMs to understand this and be present at our site. This is also a good PR for them, as it is saying they care about their customers, especially keeping in mind that LCB has the biggest casino forum online, with over 84,000 registered members.

    From an affiliate program, we are looking to be transparent, have real-time tracking, and pay us on time with no issues or excuses. They also need to offer us the deal we want, stick to it, and not change it suddenly and retroactively. Plus, it has to be an honest affiliate program and not cheat the players. Otherwise, we will blacklist them on our site.

    What's your preferred method of communication with affiliate managers?
    E-mail. Some AMs don't understand that I don't have all day to chat or Skype. Also, I prefer to have everything in writing as proof of our correspondence, in case any problems arise.

    What prompted you to join the GPWA? How has it helped you?
    Wow, I had to check the date when I joined the GPWA, and it was back in December 2011! How time flies! Honestly, I cannot remember what prompted me to join. It was probably that I wanted to get informed about the latest industry and affiliate news, and learn about any issues and complaints that other affiliates are having.

    I believe that the affiliate community needs to stick together, and sites like the GPWA are instrumental in that. Personally, I find the GPWA to be useful in spreading the word on rogue programs and casinos.

    What do you like about the industry?
    I like the diversity that it brings in terms of different cultures. I like that it is really interactive and ever-changing and challenging at times, which is good as it makes us stay on our toes and keep improving.

    If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
    It has to be getting rid of the dishonesty, and getting more regulation and protection for both the players and affiliates. I don't like the Wild West feel this industry has, and the lack of regulation.

    What do your family and friends think of your work as an affiliate?
    I don't think my parents quite get it. My mom and dad initially thought that I was gambling my future away – pun intended – but somehow I did manage to explain to them that what I do is sort of marketing.

    As far as my friends go, they get it, and I have actually hired a few of my closest friends who are now part of the ever-growing LCB team.

    How do you manage your to-do lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?
    This has to be my Achilles heel. But I find that tools like BugHerd help a great deal with managing tasks and organizing to-do lists.

    How much time do you devote to social networking for your sites?
    We have a dedicated team that does our social media pages. We currently have more than 50 Facebook fan pages, plus Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. It's a full-time job, weekends included.

    What's the most difficult thing about running your sites?
    The sheer size of our network and managing tasks and staff on a day-to-day basis. That's why we're hiring more people every few months and giving more responsibility to our key staff members to delegate some of the workload and make things run smoothly.

    What's the best thing about running your sites?
    Being the second in command and a business partner gives me a lot of freedom, and it has its own perks. I enjoy the role and the responsibility that it comes with it. I enjoy being able to work remotely, even though most of our staff works from the office.

    I enjoy being able to travel and run the sites at the same time. I also enjoy the ability to cater to our visitors, to inform and educate them, and to make a difference and help protect them.

    What do you do to stay in shape – both physically and mentally?
    I work out at least four times a week. I quit smoking two years ago, and that proved to be one of the best decisions of my life. I have a dog that I walk a few times a day, which relaxes me greatly. And, of course, meeting up with friends for drinks is always a good idea.

    What do you do with your spare time?
    I mostly spend it outdoors with my dog, watching TV or going to the cinema. A big part of living in Belgrade and our culture is spending time at café bars. We love our coffee, and it's still the best way to kill some time and socialize.

    What did you dream of doing, both professionally and personally, when you were a kid?
    Um, that's a tough one. I wanted to be a historian at one time, then I wanted to save the planet and do some ecology work. I wanted to help people as a kid, and I still do. I have some plans in that respect in the not-so-distant future.

    If someone from out of town were visiting you, what's the one place you'd definitely take them to see?
    Belgrade is known for its nightlife, so it would be one of the many river clubs we have here. It is also a city of history, so I would take them to see the old city fortress and Kalemegdan Park – and, of course, get them to try the local cuisine at one of the most prominent bohemian quarters in Belgrade.

    When you need to get as far away from work as possible, where do you go?
    I travel a lot, and the work always follows me! I can't get away from it. It is both a blessing and a curse.

    What's your all-time favorite movie?
    I am a sci-fi fan, so has to be 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the recent one, Interstellar.

    If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
    It can be only one – and no, not the Highlander! Nikola Tesla!

    Name three things that people reading this magazine don't know about you.
    I am a big fan of football and a Partizan Belgrade fan. I used to play basketball in elementary school and in high school. And I had my neck broken when I was 19.

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  3. #2
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    I remember meeting you in Budapest , I think it was my second conference!

    Great interview!

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    tell us about your role within the lcb team. How and when did you get involved?
    So, if this is not a secret, you the one of the owners or manager?

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    Great interview and awesome sites.
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    Great article, enjoyable read! It was a pleasure meeting you at BAC.

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    Thanks for the article. You're a Champ
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    An interview with a superstar

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    Very cool interview! In my opinion LCB is one of the best affiliate sites out there! Keep up the good work Nikola!
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    Great interview, Nik. All the best to you, and keep up the good work @lcb
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    Great interview Nikola!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moonlight Cat View Post
    So, if this is not a secret, you the one of the owners or manager?
    im one of the partners yes.

    @everyone , thanks guys
    ​LCB Network

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    Woohoo, great job Zugice! Charming as always

    I have to add that Zuga is one of the coolest people in this industry, dedicated, analytical and innovative as a businessman, fair and just as an employer - it's such a pleasure knowing how nicely things work in LCB office in Belgrade, full of awesome people. One can really learn a lot and hear the latest news and trends from Zuga.

    One of the tallest and loudest people as well

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    Quote Originally Posted by FruityJelena View Post
    Woohoo, great job Zugice! Charming as always

    I have to add that Zuga is one of the coolest people in this industry, dedicated, analytical and innovative as a businessman, fair and just as an employer - it's such a pleasure knowing how nicely things work in LCB office in Belgrade, full of awesome people. One can really learn a lot and hear the latest news and trends from Zuga.

    One of the tallest and loudest people as well

    awwww shucks
    ​LCB Network

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    Always a top notch group of portals, nice job
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    Great interview!

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    Amazing path you had man, intresting

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    First time I met Zuga was in Budapest right before the supershow in Prague.

    The funny thing is that my mum's side is part Serbian and I have a cousin who looks like Zuga with the same name.
    So now we are cousins

    One of my favourite people in the industry and I always look forward to seeing you
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    Hands down the friendliest most affable affiliate I have ever met he deserves every bit of success he has a great guy and a scholar and gentlemen.

  34. #19
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    Great interview. I like they way you handle your business
    Affiliate Network: http://www.pokeraffiliateware.com/

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    A lot of advantage players seems to end up as affiliates in the end...

    Interesting interview and good to see that I am not the only one who despises Skype.

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