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With our latest Affiliate Q&A, we spoke with Michael Gentile, Director at Fuse Media which is home to pokerfuse, a site that gives its audience the latest intel in the online poker world! Michael gives us his insights on the poker vertical for affiliates, the US market and much more!
Income Access (IA): Thanks for speaking with us Michael! Can you tell us a bit about your background in the iGaming industry and current role with pokerfuse?
Michael Gentile (MG): My background in the iGaming industry originally started when I began playing online poker. That experience exposed me to many of the behind-the-scenes aspects of iGaming including how legislative and regulatory efforts could shape the landscape in a particular jurisdiction, the importance of UX and UI in product differentiation, and the type of information that is valuable to an iGaming player.
My role at pokerfuse has evolved over the years, as I’m now less hands-on in the actual creation of daily content compared to the early days of the site. Today, I use my knowledge and expertise to help guide the content direction at a higher level as well as contribute to the development and execution of business strategies.
(IA): Being a Poker affiliate in 2023 is an interesting challenge. Where do you believe the greatest difficulties lie for affiliates in the space?
(MG): Being successful in the online poker affiliate space is no easy task and while there are plenty of challenges to overcome to be successful, the most recent challenge to emerge could prove to be existential.
As a result of the inundation of sports betting advertising (mostly via broadcast and print), lawmakers and regulators in some jurisdictions are looking to curb all iGaming advertising including digital. There were even discussions prior to the launch of online sports betting in Massachusetts about prohibiting the use of affiliates for marketing purposes.
Though we haven’t seen these types of restrictions yet for online poker or online casinos in the US, we have seen the approach to affiliate marketing in Ontario veer away from industry standards in a direction that I think may be harmful to consumers.
(IA): Tell us more about pokerfuse, who have been providing a decade of online poker news?
(MG): Pokerfuse launched on Black Friday (April 15, 2011) to help keep online poker players across the globe apprised of the unfolding legal events occurring in the US. The closure of the largest online poker market in the world not only impacted all aspects of the games, the seizure of funds and the reputational hit that resulted threatened the viability of the industry. Pokerfuse was instrumental in providing information to players in the US on how to recoup their frozen funds and separating fact from fiction when it came to efforts to ban poker and other forms of real money online gaming permanently in the US.
More than a decade later, pokerfuse is still the most reliable source for news about the legislation and regulation of online poker in the US and we have expanded our remit to include online casinos and online sports betting. From news about emerging regulated markets to reviews and comparisons of operators, bonuses and promotions, the content on pokerfuse is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in playing online poker and other forms of iGaming.
(IA): The Ontario market recently opened and pokerfuse has made it paramount to provide reliable info for their users in Ontario. What have you noticed about the emerging market so far? Where do you see it going?
(MG): The opening of the regulated iGaming market in Ontario last year was a step in the right direction for consumers in Canada, but there is room for improvement in my opinion.
Regulating online gambling has the benefit of helping the people in the jurisdiction where it is regulated. This help comes in several forms including tax revenue and job creation.
While tax rates and the level of localized operations vary, consumers also benefit from the competitive business landscape created by the regulations. Competition increases choices for consumers, drives down prices and increases quality. It also attracts new reputable operators who would otherwise not serve unregulated markets.
But perhaps the most direct benefit for consumers is the responsible gaming requirements for regulated online gaming operators which result in an overall safer gambling environment.
Responsible gambling measures require operators to provide access to tools that can reduce problem gambling and protect vulnerable individuals. And while education and information are some of the most effective ways of promoting responsible gaming, the regulations implemented in Ontario around the disclosure of “inducements” actually reduce the amount of information that affiliates can provide consumers.
We understand the desire to reduce inducements to gamble, as tempting consumers to increase the amount they gamble (in frequency or in stakes) is problematic. Yet instead of restricting the actual inducements, the regulator chose to restrict informing consumers about what each operator offers.
One place that this is especially harmful to consumers is prohibiting the disclosure of welcome bonus offers. Many consumers use this information to make the most beneficial financial decision for themselves when choosing an iGaming operator. Even restricting information about available bonuses makes the consumer less informed.
Creating an environment that obfuscates pricing information instead of one that provides additional transparency is an area for improvement in the regulated online gaming market in Ontario.
For more information on pokerfuse or to discuss a partnership opportunity, contact Michael and the team today.