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Social media a major theme at GIGSE

11 May 2010

MONTREAL -- If there's a lesson to learn from the Global iGaming Summit & Expo in Montreal, it's this: The online gaming market is enormous, and it's extremely competitive.

That was evident during a presentation made by GPWA Executive Director Michael Corfman, who spoke during the afternoon session of the conference. Using data collected by Online.CasinoCity.com, Corfman walked conference delegates through the competitive landscape that includes over 2,300 online gaming sites.

Even in jurisdictions where online gambling's legality is murky, like California, the typical player has access to about 1,000 different properties to wager.

And for affiliates, the marketplace is even more competitive. According to Corfman, there are tens of thousands of sites that offer information on gaming.

Not everyone attending the conference was familiar with affiliate marketing, so Corfman offered an analogy of why there is such a demand for this type of data.

"If you're going to buy a washing machine, you're going to look up information on brands," he said. "What does Consumer Reports say? If you're going to buy a book or movie on Amazon you might look at what other purchasers have to say... That's the way a lot of purchasing decisions are made today by consumers, particularly when purchases are for services that are purchased online."

He also explained how affiliates establish relationships not only with players, but other affiliates as well.

"One of the things that webmasters or those who promote online gaming do is share information," he said. "Who's good to work with? Who's bad to work with? Who offers good player incentives? Do they pay players on time in a trustworthy fashion? It's not good for webmasters to promote places that don't provide good customer service, particularly if you are working with them on a revenue share basis."

Corfman also noted that Facebook and Twitter have emerged as a essential tools for all businesses – including affiliates.

Facebook overtook Google as the most popular site in the U.S. about six months ago. It is ranked in the top five in terms of popularity in countries ranging from Indonesia to France to Mexico.

"One of the really wonderful stories about Facebook is it's really the first multi-lingual application," said Corfman. "If I look back to a year or two ago it was predominantly present in only English-speaking countries."

The numbers for Facebook are, in his words, "mind-boggling" and "phenomenal."

There are more than 400 million actives users on Facebook, and it is growing by about five million new users a week. The average user spends 55 minutes a day accessing his or her account, and that activity adds up to 20 billion minutes worldwide. Around 1.5 million businesses have Facebook fan pages or groups.

"Every one of your businesses should probably have a group or a fan page for Facebook," Corfman said. "They take just a few minutes to put up and you should crosslink back and forth between your Web sites."

Another growing aspect of Facebook is the number of third-party applications. There are more than 500,000 of these applications on the site, with gaming being a popular theme. A Texas Hold'em poker application has a little over 30 million active users.

Another way for online gaming companies to establish their brands it through Twitter.

"Twitter positions itself as being the pulse of the planet," he said. "If something is happening on the Earth that is significant, they'll be tweets about it on Twitter and be activity (on that event)."

Twitter has been growing at a substantial rate as well. And its growth is global. About 65% percent of Twitter accounts are outside the U.S.

Corfman estimates that 1/3 of online casino players go through affiliates, and a panel headed by Casinomeister's Bryan Bailey reiterated the importance of affiliates to the land-based casino representatives attending the conference.

The panel, which included Global Gaming Events' Jason Rosenberg, Casino City's Vin Narayanan and Income Access' Nicky Senyard, drove home the point that affiliates provide the information that casino players need.

The panel also agreed that land-based operators shouldn't rely on their brand to translate into the online gaming market. Narayanan said while the Caesars brand might have staying power in the U.S., it won't be a significant driving force for new players in the U.K., France or Italy.

Senyard said the expectations for players and affiliates will be much higher for land-based properties that are looking to expand online because they'll already be well-established in the gaming business.

And Rosenberg said a land-based entity launching an online casino needs to accomplish three objectives to be successful: It needs to have an excellent software platform. It needs to have a team that knows the industry inside and out. And it needs to have enough money to back up promotions.

Bailey also brought up a major point in regards to affiliates should the American online gambling market become legalized and regulated. How will the tax situation unfold? An affiliate in Norway or the U.K. will not be happy having to deal with the IRS when it comes to American players.

Online gambling's future in the U.S. and abroad is unknown. But SEO expert Bob Raines had a simple piece of advice for everyone attending the conference:

"Don't ever pretend your Web site is done."
Social media a major theme at GIGSE is republished from GamingMeets.com.
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