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  1. #1
    GPWA Daniel is offline Associate Editor
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    Default Affiliate Interview Series - Neil W.

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    (This interview was originally published in the March 2022 issue of the GPWA Times Magazine.)

    In 2013, after 30 years working in IT, you made a career change and got your start in the iGaming affiliate business. Please tell us what made you decide to make the plunge into becoming a webmaster.


    Quite simply, my role in IT was made redundant and with a years’ worth of money in the bank, I decided to take a few months off before looking for my next role. A friend of mine was an established casino affiliate and while I sort of knew he had some websites and made money while he slept, I didn’t know much more.

    He spent some time showing me what affiliation was all about and convinced me to give it a go. His only advice was to find a niche and something I would enjoy researching and writing about. I had a year to make some money or it was back to the world of IT. The idea of working for myself, being able to decide when and where I worked really appealed to me and was a major motivating factor.

    Obviously, an IT background was probably very helpful as you transitioned into the iGaming affiliate industry. But there were probably some obstacles, as well. What were some of the things that surprised you the most about the industry?

    I already knew what it took to run a business and, you’re right, my IT background helped me understand what I would need to know, but didn’t tell me how. I have learnt to code in PHP, create websites, write content and do SEO. Both Google and YouTube have helped me immensely and are normally my first ports of call if I don’t know how to do something.

    I found iGaming to be everything IT wasn’t. It is colorful, fun, inclusive and everyone I met couldn’t have been more supportive. It’s also a relatively small industry, so I’ve found that if you make an effort to connect with people you get rewarded. It’s not easy, though. You have to work at relationships, content and creating your authority, and that doesn’t happen overnight.

    Why did you choose to work specifically with Live Casinos?

    I was attracted to casino, but didn’t know anything about slots. Live Casino was just starting to become more established. I am a player myself, usually at land-based casinos, and a combination of chatting to someone in the casino about playing online and advice from my friend, I ended up deciding to focus on Live Casino. It was something that interested me and I was keen to learn more.

    What’s next for Live Casinos? What will the vertical look like in another five years? What about 10 years?

    Table games will always persist, as will new variations of them. Live Casino will continue to evolve. It needs to attract new players, games with a higher volatility and provide entertainment is the current focus. I think the next trend will be more social games, taking the concept of streaming one step further, allowing players to play together and make community bets, and the like We’ll continue to see more localized games developed and more language options as more countries regulate.

    As for five to 10 years, I’m hoping we’ll see more games that require player participation rather than just a bet being placed and you watching an outcome. I’d personally like to see some live skill-based games, but I’ve no idea what they would look like.

    You make it a point to travel around and visit Live Casino studios so you have a great grasp on what it’s like behind the camera. What are some of the most common misconceptions about live casinos and the dealers, specifically?

    The major negative comments I see and hear are that the games are fixed. I can honestly say that while technology is used, the games you see online are exactly the same as their land-based counterparts.

    In fact, online is more heavily regulated and audited than land-based games. Every card dealt, bet made, or spin of a wheel is recorded and analyzed in real time. Anything untoward is flagged to compliance teams, so players, and/or dealers can’t take advantage.

    Being an online dealer is a skilled job. Training is thorough and they take their jobs seriously. I’ve tried the training and it’s tough. They learn far more than just dealing cards or spinning a wheel, even being able to identify potential problem gamblers.

    Which markets are hottest for Live Casinos? And which ones have been slow to be receptive to them?

    All markets enjoy live casino games. More recently India and South America are growing markets.

    The biggest market will be the U.S. and we are starting to see live casino develop strongly in the three regulated states. Players can now access games from the premium suppliers, Evolution and Playtech.

    How big is your team? Do you employ full-timers or use freelancers?

    I have a team of one, me. I occasionally use someone to do some content and back linking for me. I decided early on that I didn’t want to create a team, have staff and all the issues that go with that. I’ve done that in my past roles, and quite frankly I’d had enough. My life is quite simple now.

    I realize that limits my site’s potential, but I’m happy with that as I have a great work-life balance.

    I did use a SEO company for about six months and quickly discovered they were not as invested as me in getting results. Perhaps if I had paid them on increases in revenue they may have been more focused, rather than push me through their defined processes, which didn’t deliver the results I had hoped for. I dropped them shortly after I realized I was being taken for a ride.

    Speaking of SEO, what is your approach? How much time do you specifically spend on SEO for your sites on a weekly basis?

    I write and create content on a daily basis. I write about what interests me and I think what my visitors would like to read about. As for SEO, I stick to the guidelines that Google publishes. I don’t use any tools, worry about competitors or do link building campaigns. I rely on the authority I have built and hope I get rewarded by Google with good rankings. So far that’s been successful.

    I sometimes go back and freshen up articles and check for spelling and grammatical errors, but I consider that to be good housekeeping.

    If a 25-year-old friend of yours told you he or she was going to try and become a full-time iGaming affiliate, what would your reaction and advice be?

    Affiliation is not the get rich quick scheme as many people think. Back in the day it may have been, but it’s not like that now.

    My advice to anyone starting in this sector would be to create something they would enjoy researching and writing about. It also depends on the skills they are bringing to the table. Will they do everything themselves or will they get others to do it for them? Doing the former you can do things for nothing, the latter will require some bankroll.

    I’d advise them to specialize and do something that is different from what other affiliates are doing. They should try and stand out and provide something no one else does. The days of review sites, in my opinion, are dead for new entrants.

    I would be researching what data players want and provide them with that in an easily consumable form. I can think of lots of opportunities to do this, I just don’t have the desire or motivation to pursue them.

    How do you decide on which affiliate programs to work with? What have you learned over the years about picking and choosing the right affiliate programs for your sites?

    Firstly, the casinos they promote must have the product my visitors want to play. They must be live casino player friendly (by that I mean have live casino promotions and the like).

    Once I’ve established that, they need to operate in the markets I have traffic for. They must do their own online advertising – I want to promote someone that has visibility. They must have no history of problems with other affiliates. They have to be prepared to sign my variation on terms – which include no quotas, no NCO, and accept my termination clauses.

    My focus is on risk mitigation, so I go into each relationship expecting to get screwed over at some point, so I try and protect myself and business as much as I can. I negotiate terms to lessen that should it happen, which may include listing fees, guaranteed payments, etc. I work hard to get the traffic, so the least I expect from a program is to be able to convert it. If they don’t, that’s on them, I still need to be compensated, and base rev share is generally not enough. Although I do well with rev share as a rule.

    Do you like to attend industry events? If so, what do you like best about them and why do you think they are worth attending?

    I do attend the major conferences. For me, to be successful in business, I need to have good strong relationships with my peers, competitors, suppliers and affiliate programs. There is no substitute for meeting someone in person.

    You can tell so much from having that chat, looking into someone’s eyes and shaking their hand. I still work with some affiliate managers I first met eight years ago, even though they have moved programs, because I trust them and know they will be fair with me.

    How has COVID-19 affected you personally and professionally? Have you made any changes to your business strategy in response to the pandemic?

    Professionally, no. My business has continued as normal I’m happy to say.

    Personally, I’ve lost my mother and brother-in-law during the past 10 months, so I’ve had a lot to deal with.

    On your GPWA profile you list golfing and skiing as your hobbies. What else do you do when you are not working?

    I’m a keen cyclist, so I like long, hilly bike rides. I like to challenge myself and see my performance improve. I’ve had some severe back problems, so since surgery two years ago I’ve become a Pilates convert and practice every day. It’s made a huge difference to my wellbeing.

    If someone were visiting you for 24 hours and had never been to the U.K., where would you bring them and why?

    We have some beautiful country side and castles in the area I live. Winston Churchill lived close by, so I’d probably take them to Chartwell to visit his house and gardens. It’s very interesting and has some stunning scenery.

    If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?

    The first would be my Grandfather who I never met. He won an MBE during WW2, and was a visionary in business. Second would be Bob Geldof, my childhood hero. Third would be Barack Obama, I’d love to know what happens behind closed doors in the White House. Fourth would be George Best, possibly the greatest footballer that ever lived and an idol of mine. Finally, my Mum.

    Name three things that people reading this magazine don't know about you.


    1. I appeared on the U.K. TV Quiz show, Pointless.
    2. I have survived being in two avalanches.
    3. I won $25,000 from a $5 bet on Cleopatra 2 in a Las Vegas Casino, the only time I’ve returned from Vegas in profit!

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    $25k on a slot would have been fun, my maximum win is probably 5 quid in the Hambro Tavern in Southall a long time ago!!...around about the time the Boomtown Rats would have been releasing 'Lookin after No.1'...so 5 quid then really was 5 quid!!

    Great interview, Neil...it's great to see that you did it alone and on your own terms. It's been obvious for some time that anything you need to know about live casinos is on livecasinocomparer....so congrats on the achievement of making it a go-to site.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chaumi View Post
    $25k on a slot would have been fun, my maximum win is probably 5 quid in the Hambro Tavern in Southall a long time ago!!...around about the time the Boomtown Rats would have been releasing 'Lookin after No.1'...so 5 quid then really was 5 quid!!

    Great interview, Neil...it's great to see that you did it alone and on your own terms. It's been obvious for some time that anything you need to know about live casinos is on livecasinocomparer....so congrats on the achievement of making it a go-to site.
    Thanks for your kind words. As for the Rats, I saw them twice just before Christmas, it took me back to being 14 again and the first time i saw them in 77. Great memories.
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    chaumi is offline Private Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by nwalker View Post
    it took me back to being 14 again and the first time I saw them in 77
    I surely get that. A lot of water under the bridge, but sometimes it just feels like yesterday, right Neil. My mum nearly disowned me on account of the green hair, we still laugh about it now!

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    MJM
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    There is a lot of wisdom in this interview, especially the parts about building a team and it's effect on work/life balance. Felt that to my core.

    As a back country skier (and golfer) myself, I've never been in an avalanche - but I've had a couple close calls including a guide I skied with being killed in one at the same place we were at a few days later. Would be fun/interesting to trade stories sometimes - crazy that you have been in two avalanches - buried both times? Avalung?

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    Quote Originally Posted by MJM View Post
    There is a lot of wisdom in this interview, especially the parts about building a team and it's effect on work/life balance. Felt that to my core.

    As a back country skier (and golfer) myself, I've never been in an avalanche - but I've had a couple close calls including a guide I skied with being killed in one at the same place we were at a few days later. Would be fun/interesting to trade stories sometimes - crazy that you have been in two avalanches - buried both times? Avalung?
    In the first Avalanche I and the guide were taken. I remained on the surface and got spat out as it slowed, the guide was partially buried. In the second, 2 of my group were taken into trees and sadly were killed instantly. I managed to ski out, although dealing with the situation was quite traumatic.
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    MJM
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    Quote Originally Posted by nwalker View Post
    In the first Avalanche I and the guide were taken. I remained on the surface and got spat out as it slowed, the guide was partially buried. In the second, 2 of my group were taken into trees and sadly were killed instantly. I managed to ski out, although dealing with the situation was quite traumatic.
    My biggest fear along with tree wells. Someday I'll need to catch up with you about these stories, simply amazing. Let me know if you ever come skiing in the USA - I am an Ikon pass holder and travel a few times a year to chase powder. Usually take 1-2 cat skiing trips per year.

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    What a down to earth, knowledgeable dude. I found the interview to be really good. I especially like what he said about meeting someone face to face, I thought that was really interesting. We spend so much time in the office, on the computer, writing content - it seems almost as if meeting people is a secondary behaviour these days.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MJM View Post
    My biggest fear along with tree wells. Someday I'll need to catch up with you about these stories, simply amazing. Let me know if you ever come skiing in the USA - I am an Ikon pass holder and travel a few times a year to chase powder. Usually take 1-2 cat skiing trips per year.
    I've yet to ski in the States. Maybe not this coming year as I fancy Japan again, but happy to trade stories. Maybe if you go to G2E we can catch up for a beer. I'll be at Pebble Beach before hand
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    Quote Originally Posted by nwalker View Post
    I've yet to ski in the States. Maybe not this coming year as I fancy Japan again, but happy to trade stories. Maybe if you go to G2E we can catch up for a beer. I'll be at Pebble Beach before hand
    Wow, Japan is on my bucketlist for years now - haven't made it.

    Pebble is great, a bit over rated but worth playing once for the experience. I will be at G2E. Once again great interview and thanks for sharing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MJM View Post
    Wow, Japan is on my bucketlist for years now - haven't made it.

    Pebble is great, a bit over rated but worth playing once for the experience. I will be at G2E. Once again great interview and thanks for sharing.
    Agree about Pebble, but when you're there it would be rude not too. Prefer Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills. I'll Pm you regarding a G2E meet up.
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    An interesting read!

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    Great interview Neil!

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    Nice Interview Neil!

    It was lovely to see you at ICE. I hope you recover from Covid soon.
    Feature your Affiliate Program with us and enjoy the rewards!

    Regards,

    Maria Florides
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    Quote Originally Posted by GPWA Maria View Post
    Nice Interview Neil!

    It was lovely to see you at ICE. I hope you recover from Covid soon.
    Good to see you too Maria. Hope i have more time for a chat next time. Covid wise I'm fine, just a few mild sysmtoms. Lots of people are in the same position.
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    Quote Originally Posted by nwalker View Post
    Good to see you too Maria. Hope i have more time for a chat next time. Covid wise I'm fine, just a few mild sysmtoms. Lots of people are in the same position.
    Glad you are well
    Feature your Affiliate Program with us and enjoy the rewards!

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    Experience in IT, PHP programming, website development, SEO, with this knowledge you can work in any field, set up your own business and teach the younger generation. You are a mentor, an expert and a friend, your knowledge will help many workers in this industry, plus your like-minded people working together can open more than one casino. That's cool, that's something to aspire to.

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    You are too kind. I'm coming to the end of my career hopefully, so being an affiliate has been a nice swansong. I count myself very lucky.
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    Great interview and interesting GEO's that you work with!

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    This was a great read!
    Kind Regards,
    Jen

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