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  1. #1
    GPWA Aaron is offline Former Staff Member
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    Default Affiliate Interview Series: Michael - LazyRiver

    Name:  Michael-LazyRiver-Banner.jpg
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    What’s the state of online gaming in Poland these days? Have recent government efforts to ban it had any effect on the Polish market?

    It’s hard to say, since it is all gray and underground. Judging by the numbers I’ve seen and the rumors I’ve heard, it is what it used to be before October 2009 (breakout of “gambling scandal” followed shortly by new gambling laws = the Big Ban).

    There is no decline. Regular gamblers know they’re not likely to be punished for playing online so they keep playing. But there is no growth, either. New potential players are not educated since all the operators backed away from the official marketing channels – you cannot see any ads or promos anymore in Poland. Also all major affiliate sites are – in theory and small print – designed for “Polish-speaking clients gambling from jurisdictions where it is legal.” How seriously you take that disclaimer is strictly up to you.

    So far our government has taken actions against land-based slot machines, land-based online “terminals” (public slots-like machines which allowed you to gamble online while depositing with the local shop/pub owner) and innocent, recreational tournament poker players who set up card games at clubs. Going after that last group unleashed the fury of the media and online communities (as the police raids were absurdly excessive and exaggerated) and put some heat on the government, which is now considering adjusting the gambling ban to allow tournament poker.

    But in general the ban is pretty hardcore – the government even removed Hold’em cash games from official land-based casinos and made tournaments totally painful and unprofitable to organize. That is the reason all major poker tours skip Poland right now.

    For affiliates looking to enter the Polish market, how do Poland and the Polish market differ from the rest of Europe? What works in Poland that might not work in the rest of Europe? What works in the rest of Europe that might not work in Poland?

    In terms of gambling patterns it is pretty much standard, with sportsbook, poker and casino taking even slices of the pie if you look at the profits. Other markets like backgammon or bingo are hardly penetrated and not popular.

    What definitely works in the Polish market is a strong focus on localization of whatever you call your business – be it betting, casino, poker, affiliate site, etc. If you wanna do it, do it right and do it in Polish! Unfortunately, many Polish gamblers are not that comfortable with English (except maybe for the poker community), so if your offer is run by locals in Polish you immediately gain a strong advantage. Obviously, using local celebrities like Polish sport stars helps too, but since the Big Ban everybody has been more careful.

    And one more thing – forget Google Translate. Our language is complex enough to give us Poles headaches while writing stuff, so just don’t try it! You will lose your credibility and hurt your brand unless you talk to native professionals. Oh, and the same goes for link-exchange e-mails, guys; please use English with me rather than attempt to e-translate to Polish – I might die of a heart attack laughing one day. . . .

    What's the most popular form of gambling in Poland? Is it casino, poker or sportsbetting?

    Sportsbetting is the most popular in the mainstream, for sure. You can still bet in the shops and betting is pretty much most of the heavy artillery in the typical online operator’s marketing arsenal.

    The poker scene got hit by the laws, but people keep rocking; you just can’t keep it down, legal or illegal. Obviously more liberal regulations would make it blossom right now, but that is not the case yet, unfortunately. But as far as I know, many players have taken the initiative and formed official associations to represent the community and talk to the government about better regulations.

    Casino is the most quiet of all, but it is a big business that the government wants to get a tight grip on via a state monopoly lottery, making the government the one-and-only official online operator.

    You work with some European poker providers. What was their response to the Black Friday indictments in the U.S.? And has your affiliate business picked up on the poker side since the indictments?

    Well, they got very, very active around the middle of April, if you know what I mean. It was kind of funny to see how they popped champagne corks around the freshly laid corpses of the Big Boys of Poker and how they were all of a sudden convincing players it is all good if you stick with them – which is true, by the way. As far as the business goes, I am way too focused on casinos to notice any big changes in poker, plus I think PokerStars got back on their feet pretty quickly and made sure Polish players were happy and safe.

    How long have you been involved in the industry? What drew you to the business?

    I’ve been in the industry for about five years. I started as a marketing consultant for a major U.K. sports bookie, very active in the Polish market back then. Acting as promotion manager for poker and casino, I learned the tricks of the trade and gained a lot of insight into the market. When I terminated my job there and moved on to another business, I decided to use my knowledge to create an affiliate website. That’s how it all started.

    Are you a full-time online gambling affiliate, or do you hold down another job as well? I am a consultant and part-time manager with an international technology company with a branch in Poland, and this takes up 80 percent of my time. The remaining 20 percent I try to dedicate to consulting for Lazy River Group – a company which owns gambling affiliate websites in Polish. It probably won’t be a surprise to say I want to make it 100 percent in the future, but with the current state of affairs in this market, it is a risky bet.

    What do you like about the industry?

    It has to be that certain kind of day-to-day unpredictability of the business. I believe we all (affiliates) have certain gambler’s DNA encoded inside. Sure, I learned soon enough not to gamble excessively myself, but I love the thrill of checking my stats in the morning – even if the long-term results are pretty stable and predictable.

    What don’t you like about the industry?

    The legal environment, for sure, at least in Poland. Banning is not the way to go, unless you want to protect your monopoly. The same rule goes for gambling as for drugs, religion, music, literature, sex, video games – whatever you want to occupy your mind with. Regulate it wisely, profit from it and make your voters happy – that’s the way I see it.

    What surprises you most about the industry?

    The number of affiliate managers who still believe in the magic powers of a flashy ad banner.

    You posted about a year ago that operators and players alike seem to be moving away from the “welcome bonus” promotion. Do you think this trend is continuing? What impact, if any, will it have on affiliates?

    I firmly believe that the extreme “welcome bonus” formula has worn out over the years. It is nothing but a trap for first depositors and something that can put them off for good. I might be a dreamer but I want to conduct business by recommending solid, modest operators who don’t give away fake fortunes but instead offer top-notch service and entertainment, making people come back for more. My top-performing operator offers no welcome bonus at all, and I am happy to place him with my top spots. This business is NOT about gaining, it is all about maintaining. Then again, we all know that the fish goes for the bait – we just have to be reasonable with it.

    Your site has an appealing design with online casino reviews and news. How much time do you spend working on content compared to the amount of time you spend designing your sites?

    I guess there are two kinds of affiliates in this business – those coming from an SEO background and those with a writing/publishing background. I count myself among the latter, so I always put a lot of effort and attention into the way my websites look and speak. is a premium domain which deserves proper design – and it still could be better.

    I believe my job is to convince my visitors that gambling online is just as safe and normal a thing to do as shopping at Amazon or posting on Facebook – hence the design and content, which should be flawless and professional. Yes, I spend a lot of time on design and tweaks, whether it is text, screenshots, actual testing of the casinos, etc. I just want to be honest with my readers and give them proper advice on how to gamble safely online.

    As mobile gaming continues to increase in popularity, do you have any thoughts on the market or any actual plans to begin promoting a program or two?

    Yes, I have already obtained a couple of interesting domains, including Mobile gaming obviously needs to be done on the international level right now, because the Polish market is not mature enough to support projects aimed at a local mobile market. Mobile gaming is definitely a promising market and I am trying to get my head around that, sorting out how much of it is just hype and how much of it represents a real business opportunity.

    In promoting your sites, do you put more time into SEO or into enhancing your social-media presence? Which in your opinion produces the most conversions?

    SEO is definitely my priority. Social media presence and response might be fine for my ego, but businesswise I want to be where my potential players are looking for help, and that is still search engines. If you ask me, I would skip that whole “social” thing and jump right onto mobile apps. For example, AppStore search optimization is the thing of the future – provided you have your own aff app already there. Also, most people think “social = Facebook + Twitter.” They forget how powerful YouTube is. Kids don’t read anymore, they watch videos – they search for clips, not articles.

    How long do you give yourself for responding to e-mail? And what e-mail tips can you offer?

    If an e-mail makes sense, I respond within 48 hours max. My tip? Flag any e-mail you find interesting and review your flagged items every three days. Anyway, an IMPORTANT e-mail gets answered immediately.

    How do you manage your “to-do” lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?

    No, I use an old-school Moleskine® notebook and a pencil to put down my ideas, action items, things to do, etc. I also run a general Excel spreadsheet to keep track of long-term projects regarding my main domains – something I review once a month, to be honest.

    Time management is one of the biggest issues facing affiliates. What time-management tips can you offer your fellow webmasters?

    Focus on what you do in your “aff-time.” Get down to business. Create an account with Xmarks for your browser and switch to aff-only bookmarks when you work on your sites. No Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter. Just work-related links in the top bar.

    Once you start your daily session, jot down in your notebook REALISTIC goals to achieve today. Cross them out and don’t move forward if you’re not fully done with the previous one. In general – no magic formula here. Just hard work, that’s all.

    How much time does it take to keep your sites updated?

    No limits here. If I could commit all the time I had in the world, I would spend three to four hours a day. The rest would go to my little daughter, sports, reading and video games in the evening.

    How much time do you devote to social networking in order to drive more traffic to your site?

    Honestly, almost nothing. I might be wrong, but I believe in “fresh blood” from Google, not the “friends” from Facebook. Plus, gamblers prefer to keep a low profile in Poland. The ban and legal situation don’t really go well with the whole “social” concept, if you know what I mean. . . .

    What prompted you to join the GPWA, and how has it helped you so far?

    It was a GPWA seal on one of the sites I purchased. I checked out what it meant, got into forums and lurked around. At first I saw it as being too U.S.-centric, but since Black Friday I’ve seen it switching more toward the European market and audience. I got some helpful advice from the site as well as some business leads. Still, I think personally it is too fragmented as a discussion forum to keep track of what’s really going on. I would prefer way less subforums: I am a big fan of the evolution theory – weak threads will drop down and interesting topics will stay on top, so there’s no reason to categorize everything.

    If you could have dinner with any five people, living or dead, who would they be, and why?

    David Simon, the creator of <i>The Wire</i> – I love the show. Ricky Gervais – this guy cracks me up. Donald Tusk, the current Polish Prime Minister – maybe I could explain why our gambling laws suck and how to make them better. Mike Patton from Faith No More – for the music. And Charles Bukowski – for the books.

    When you need to get as far away from work as possible, where do you go?

    I am an avid runner, so I just get up from my desk and run 10-15 km, totally relaxing and recharging. For a longer break I go snowboarding or hit the Greek island of Ios.

    How do your family and friends feel about the way you make your living?

    My family supports me and my friends don’t know much about it. I tend not to bore them with my business life; we have better topics to discuss when we meet!

    If someone were visiting you, what’s the one place you’d definitely take them to see?

    The Warsaw Uprising Museum. It commemorates a tragic yet heroic moment of our history, which is hardly known to outsiders.

    What’s your all-time favorite movie?

    <i>Swingers</i> (1996). It reminds me of my good old student days, hanging out with my crew, still able to waste my time and have fun. And it has the cult scene in Vegas, where Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn pretend to be high rollers at the blackjack tables. Anyone from the industry should see this. It’s so money!

    If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?

    I would take my family and friends on a crazy trip to Vegas and double the winnings. . . .

    If you were a brick in a wall, which brick would you be?

    Probably the bottom one, hardest to remove.

    What are three things that nobody knows about you?

    1. I sailed on a small boat all around Europe when I was 18 with a captain and five other mates who, like me, had no clue about sailing.
    2. I was one of the first downhill skateboarders in Poland in the mid-80s.
    3. I was playing online poker for microstakes once and got into an argument with another player via chat. The heat was on and we took it to a high-stakes, heads-up face-off where I lost my entire bankroll within five minutes.

  2. #2
    Maria F is offline No longer with Harbour Gaming Affiliates
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    November 2010
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    Great interview! Thank you for sharing your experience with the Polish market.

  3. #3
    Connie B's Avatar
    Connie B is offline Public Member
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    April 2002
    Richmond Hill, Canada
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    Hello Michael
    Great interview!


    Connie Burstin
    Connie Burstin
    The Affiliate Agency
    Telegram: @connieburstin | Skype: live:cburstin

  4. #4
    casinoeu is offline Public Member
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    November 2010
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    Thanks ,Came to about some nice facts .nice interview

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