The most popular way gambling affiliates get compensated is a revenue sharing agreement with a casino, sportsbook, or skill gaming merchant. “Rev Share” deals allow affiliates to profit – almost without limit – on their players’ net losses after bonuses, comps, and chargebacks have been deducted. Smaller affiliates prefer revenue sharing agreements because they can get paid even if their traffic levels are sporadic.

Revenue Sharing agreements also rightly compensate affiliates who send high quality players to a gambling merchant. “High Quality” in the gambling industry means big losers, also known as “Whales”.

The average online casino player doesn’t deposit more than $400 before they either visit another casino or stop gambling entirely. Whales are a much different beast. They might initially deposit $100-$500 to test the casino’s quality. Then, once satisfied, they will continue to deposit thousands of dollars a month if the casino’s VIP team takes good care of them. The lucky affiliate who referred this player will suddenly be making four or five figures on a single player’s activity alone, which makes all the blood, sweat, and tears dedicated to building a gambling portal worthwhile.

If you went with the casino merchant’s CPA program, you would have only been paid about $150 for a player routinely losing $5,000 or more a month. That’s why revenue sharing agreements with trustworthy affiliate programs are so popular. :)

Let’s Not Sing Kumbaya Yet…

Aggressive affiliate managers love to throw big promises at affiliates, only to disappoint or defraud them later.

Many top affiliates receive a regular flow of emails offering 50% or greater revenue sharing agreements. In some cases, these agreements only apply to the first 3 months of the relationship, after which the percentage will drop to 25% or higher based on player net losses. The 50% for X months is merely a hook to get you through the door: 99% of affiliates don’t have strong enough traffic to actually make this offer profitable for them, so treat any email promising the world for 3 months with skepticism. Seasoned affiliates know that it can take 6 months or more before their player base at a particular gambling merchant generates a regular flow of income.

Some less scrupulous affiliate programs offer a good rev share and consistent payments, but secretly remove high quality players from an affiliate’s account. This tactic is commonly known as “shaving”, and it is difficult to prove unless several affiliates can track their performance collectively and look for abnormal changes in their earnings. Even if you suspect you’re getting shaved, the affiliate manager will simply say, “Your players are depositing less”, or “The whale you sent left”, or “We’re experiencing intermittent problems with our tracking software”. Affiliates promoting USA facing brands have no choice but to blindly trust their affiliate managers until it is absolutely clear that the program is cheating affiliates. Unfortunately, this is almost always realized too late, and the casino usually gets away with making extra money off your traffic.

Case Study #1: Rushmore Casino’s affiliate program C-Planet was suspected of shaving players since 2009, and recently stopped paying affiliates claiming their website had been “hijacked”. See the CasinoMeister thread about them – click here. C-Planet has not paid affiliates in months. Many affiliates who sent hundreds of players over the years lost a huge portion of their income while C-Planet and its crooked staff quietly defrauded them.

The most obvious case of abusing a revenue sharing agreement with affiliates is closing the affiliate program altogether, sometimes with little or no advance notice. There are legitimate reasons why this might happen. The affiliate program’s parent company might be facing legal trouble, financial insolvency, or a potential merger/buyout. If you’re lucky, your affiliate manager will explain the situation thoroughly including the fate of all the players you referred, how to update your tracking links, and most importantly, how you will continue to be compensated.

Sadly, the aforementioned scenario is the exception, not the rule. Affiliate programs will shut down and not pay affiliates at all, or, they will claim to be involved in a “merger” and stop honoring their agreements with affiliates. The casino, sportsbook, or skill gaming operation continues to make money off your players while your income stream is decimated.

Case Study #2: GammonEmpire.com, one of the web’s first real money backgammon gambling websites merged with Play65 a couple years ago. GammonEmpire successfully operated GammonAffiliates.com since 2004, reliably paying its affiliates. Once the change to Play65 was made, the affiliate site was taken offline. Affiliates ceased receiving payments as the company suddenly decided to stop offering real money play. Some Play65 players reported having funds removed from their accounts, with little recourse to get their money back. If this affiliate program had any conscience, they would have advised affiliates that they would no longer be honoring agreements (and making payments) the minute their merger was announced. Instead, they quietly left the building, keeping thousands of player accounts referred by affiliates for themselves.

In reality, “lifetime revenue sharing deals” really only last until an affiliate program defaults on its obligations or company ownership changes. This happens all the time in the offshore online gambling world, typically every 3-4 years. One can count the number of affiliate programs that have honored their agreements more than 5 years – including after company mergers or branding changes – on one hand. Bodog Affiliates (now BettingPartners.com), Referback Affiliates, and Rewards Affilates come to mind as three that haven’t screwed over their affiliate partners, although each company definitely has had their own share of controversies in the past decade.

Recommendations for better USA casino affiliate programs:

  1. Affactive.com – RTG Software, 6 brands welcoming USA customers. Reliable payouts. Straightforward stats reporting.
  2. RevenueGiants.com – Top Game Software, many old brand name casinos acquired in recent years. Bingo halls also available for promotion. Stats are minimal but seem to be fairly accurately. Steady payments.
  3. AffiliateEdge.com – RTG Software. One of the most trustworthy, enduring casino affiliate programs to date. Casino merchants are first class and have great reputations among players. Payments come like clockwork. Responsive staff.
  4. MainStreetAffiliates.com – RTG Software. Another solid platform with detailed stats reporting and fast payments. Casino brands are popular and convert well. Wide variety of banners, links, and creatives available.

“Online Gambling is a Gamble”

Pick your affiliate programs carefully: research them, follow forum activity, and send small amounts of traffic to assess their trustworthiness before you commit to a full stream of steady depositing players. Monitor your stats frequently: if you catch an affiliate program messing around, it’s better to know sooner than later that they no longer deserve your business.

Revenue Sharing agreements still offer the most profit potential, particularly for smaller affiliates. Unfortunately, one must eventually accept that they might not be paid for the players they loyally sent to an online gambling merchant. Nothing is forever. Weigh all your options diligently and only promote stable companies with impeccable credentials.