SiGMA raises the bar with mega successful show

The third edition of SiGMA broke all records. The island has never witnessed an iGaming bonanza this spectacular, this successful: everyone walked out a winner. The organisers anticipated close to 3,000 attendees, with the final numbers edging 4,000, double last year’s numbers. This was clearly visible on the expo floor, which was extremely
busy on both days.
SiGMA16 Expo & Conferences Day 1

 

The iGaming storm came to Malta on 16-19th November. The organisers behind SiGMA pulled off an impressive number of strategic partnerships, culminating in a much anticipated Malta Gaming Week, bringing the entire gaming community together; from affiliates and operators to regulators and vendors.

After receiving plenty of great feedback, this year’s summit saw some great upgrades, including the fact that over 300 affiliates flew to Malta for free, from the organisers’ own pockets. There are plans to reignite this idea with 300 fresh flights, but for new affiliates, thus injecting the show with “fresh attendee blood”.

 

SiGMA16 Expo & Conferences Day 1Following last year’s overwhelming interest in conferences, the organisers switched to a bigger conference hall, with completely redesigned layout. Instead of standard theatre style setting, the room was set up cabaret style, with round tables, giving the attendees a better opportunity for discussion and networking.

Free standing lunch for all the delegates was also introduced on both days. It gave the attendees more time for business during those busy days.

SiGMA16 BiG Charity Dinner & Gaming AwardsThe BiG Charity Dinner was brought to SiGMA for the first time as well, one day before the exhibition officially opened. It was a fantastic night of sports stories and brilliant entertainment, simultaneously raising money to enhance the quality of life of injured, sick or terminally ill individuals around the world, with a focus on the healing power of sport.

First edition of Malta Gaming Awards was held together with the BiG Foundation Dinner at the InterContinental Ball Room.

 

 

SiGMA16 BiG Charity Dinner & Gaming Awards
6 winners were chosen in the following categories:

Affiliate Of The Year – Winner: Game Lounge Limited

Careers Program – Winner: Tipico Careers

Corporate Responsibility – Winner: Maltco

Fastest Growing Operator – Winner: Evoke

Innovator – Winner: Join Games

Investor – Winner: Optimizer Invest

 

 

 

Among the other new events introduced during SiGMA16, the SiGMA Startup Pitch, brought together nine startups and seven investors under one roof. With so many investors wanting to join the gaming scene in Malta as well as worldwide startups, there’s never been a better time to launch this session. Real big names, including Morten Klein (Cherry Group), Ory Weihs (XLMedia) and Carla Maree Vella from Optimizer Invest were among the investors grilling the start-ups.

Each startup had three minutes to present their project and then faced a seven minute session of Q&A from the investors and the audience in a Dragon’s Den-like environment. Despite initial fears, the format worked marvels, and not a single member from the audience was bored given fast paced session.

The winner of the first edition is Commologic, an innovative sports betting software provider based in Israel and licensed in UK, Malta and Denmark. Their first game, BetUP, the world’s first inplay betting cash tournament game, has recently gone live with Unibet and The Football Pools.

Preparations for SiGMA17 are already in full swing. The details on the next edition will be announced in early 2017, but booths are already selling fast. Stay tuned and check maltaigamingsummit.com for regular updates.

Don’t blame the affiliate. Blame the game.

SiGMA met with Romanian affiliate Alex Munteanu from AXL Affiliates – a colorful, bright, self made multi millionaire and one of the leading sports book affiliates worldwide.

 

1. How did you build this affiliate empire?

Everything started when I was only 14 years old by combining my passions for sports and programming. I’ve created my first website just to share my thoughts regarding the tennis matches I was watching and a few months later I found out that this can be more than just a hobby. Once I realised the potential of this industry I started to dedicate all my time and resources to learn more about becoming a successful gaming affiliate. When I turned 18 I decided to quit tennis as I couldn’t do both things in the same time. In the following years all the profits made by the affiliate business were reinvested in buying more websites and projects.

 

2. Tell us more about your business.

Right now AXL Affiliates is one of the biggest sports betting affiliate network in the world. We maintain 5000+ active websites that are welcoming over 1 million daily unique visitors. Our team is composed of 28 highly trained and experienced people who ensure everything is up to date, running and growing. I think our big advantage lies in the unique team spirit. We are a big family and our friendships make us achieve our goals with ease.

 

3. Is it too late to start a new affiliate career?

I don’t think it’s too late to start as an affiliate but it’s definitely much harder as the competition right now is huge. I encourage everyone to start a business in this field if they have a passion for betting. The most important thing is to follow your dreams and there are a lot of examples in this industry which demonstrate this aspect.

 

4. What is your opinion of the recent regulatory update in Romania?

The regulatory update in Romania is not something unique. The process is very similar to what happened in other EU countries and everyone (affiliates, operators and state) will benefit from the new law that has been put in place. The affiliates have to pay a 7000 EUR yearly class 2 license tax to compete for the €1 billion market.

 

5. How did you find Malta for business relocation?

I love Malta! It is by far the best place to start an affiliate business. I can go as far as comparing the little Mediterranean Island to Silicon Valley. Nice weather, friendly people and the awesome legal framework wraps up Malta – Europe’s gambling hub. There is huge amount of gaming companies based there, making it the perfect place for a networking and educational event. To add even more value, Malta also has SiGMA, the perfect place for gaming operators and software providers to exhibit and meet with affiliates.

 

6. What are the future plans for AXL Affiliates?

We are currently investing 80% of our revenue in the research and innovation department. We have successfully financed several projects that have a huge growing potential. I think that only way to stay on top is to invest in new ideas, platforms and research. By doing this we are consolidating the company future while helping the industry evolve.

In the same time, we are also prospecting the field for becoming operators. I have this dream for years and this is the perfect time to give it a go.

A Winning Partnership

SiGMA caught up with entrepreneurs and affiliate buddies Max Noremo & Magnus Karnéus Hall from Slotsia.com.

Tell us more about the success story of your affiliate business; how did it happen, how did it all start? Can you take us through a journey in time, shedding light on some of the most remarkable moments, challenges and achievements in history?

It hasn’t been a short journey, I can tell you that. We started out very small, creating our first website about three years ago. Back then we had no clue what we were doing, but we had the motivation to keep trying and failing until it worked. We also consulted our good friends in the industry, like Oliver Fagerdahl at Betsafe, who has been a great mentor.

One day I remember clearly was when we made our first €100. We had, before that, not made a single penny, and we were not 100% sure this would actually work out. I guess that’s the success story put succinctly; to never give up on your dreams and to keep work hard.

With Slotsia.com we tried to create something new. We wanted our website to look and feel more like a casino than a regular affiliate site. Trust, conversion and user friendliness were our keywords during the whole site-building project, and now we can see that a lot of competitors are using our ideas in their new sites, which, to us, is like a stamp of approval.

 

In terms of the end user, what distinguishes your affiliate site/s from the many competitors out there? Can you name the traffic sources you currently have?

I would say the design and the user friendliness. We’ve tried from day one to do something different and new, and I’m glad to say we succeeded with our goal. Competing affiliates, operators as well as regular people have given us great feedback on the website.

 Before starting the project we used friends and family as test pilots, getting them to visit loads of different affiliate websites. This would let us know what they liked and did not like, and also how to make the experience as easy as possible for the user.

 

What made you move to Malta and how was your experience settling here? Most of the operators on your site are also based in Malta – is this coincidental?

We used to live here for three years and we have both missed the island since then. We started working together after we moved away and our goal since then has been to come back. Being able to work in a county filled with driven entrepreneurs really makes a big difference and, as you mentioned, being based on a walking distance from the operators we work with is definitely a plus!

 

What’s next for your business? Do you plan on selling or merging? How do you plan on growing this business?

Our next step is to go into new markets; in Scandinavia but also in Asia. There are a lot of exciting new markets as well as new products we are looking at. That’s a keystone in growing our business; branching out, reaching more users.

 

What is your main source of traffic? SEO & content writing? Email marketing? SMS marketing? White Hat, Black hat, Google algorithms keep changing constantly. How do you stay afloat?

Our main source of traffic is organic search, so SEO and content writing is a big part of it.

By constantly keeping an eye on what competitors and other websites do, but also by trying (and sometimes failing) new methods of ranking. It’s definitely not easy to work against an algorithm which is constantly changing, but it’s exiting and very rewarding when you try something new that work.

 

Do you work directly with the operators or did you find it easier to work with an affiliate network such as Matching Visions? What’s your relationship with these affiliate networks? How helpful have they been in helping your business take off the ground?

We used to always work directly with operators, but this last year we have also worked with a few different networks. Both ways have their pros and cons, but I would say that an affiliate network such as Matching Visions really can save you a lot of time. A good example is at the end of the month when you have to do all the invoicing to a bunch of different operators. With Matching Visions, for example, you only need to invoice them; they take care of chasing all the operators.

 

On an employee level, what makes employees stay with the company? How many employees do you have or plan on recruiting in the coming months?

I think you can go far with a good environment where the employees get feedback and appreciation from their employers. At the moment we do not have any full time employees, but we’re looking at hiring content.

 

E-sport, daily fantasy sport, binary; has any of these buzz words made it to the board room yet? Are there plans to delve into these markets?

They definitely have, particularly e-sports. We used to play games when we were younger, and we are impressed with how big the e-sports market has gotten since then. Definitely something we’re going to explore further!

 

We certainly hope to catch up over a pleasant dinner during SiGMA. What do you think of having a show like this in Malta? Have you ever attended SiGMA before?

That sounds like a plan. We’ve only been to iGB Berlin and London so far, but this year we’re definitely attending SiGMA. We’ve heard so much about the conference, and since all the operators are already here, it’s quite logical to host such a show in Malta, to be honest. Plus, the island lends itself quite well for wining and dining.

 

What are your passions outside the office environment? How do you spend leisure time outside work?

Our main goal is to find balance, so we try to do a little bit of everything. We spend a lot of time with friends and try to enjoy life, which is not that hard living in Malta. Dinners and some shenanigans does of course also take place from time to time!

Meet twitch affiliate Mr Casino

They call him Mr.Casino. Twitch Highroller and affiliate.

 

Who is Mr.Casino and how did you start streaming?

My name is Joel and I am currently living on the beautiful island of Malta. I work as a construction manager and have most recently fallen into the wonderful world of affiliation through my Twitch Channel. Twitch is a huge plattform on the internet where people live stream directly through their computers. Over a 100 million people watch streams on Twitch every month and it is growing every day. Most people play video games when they stream but I discovered that some were streaming when they gamble online. I have been a fan of gambling my entire life and being able to share the excitement with others through Twitch seemed to good to be true. I quickly fell in love with the idea of having an audience while gambling and after a while of watching the others I started my very own casino stream. I am now one of the biggest casino streamers on Twitch and come by the name Mr Casino, hence my username on Twitch; Casino.

 

Tell us a little bit about how it works.

I stream when I gamble on online casinos about 6 hours a day while using a face cam and a microphone at least five days a week. Everything is live and I have a chat  in the stream where the viewers can communicate with me. They ask questions about me, the casino and general stuff about gambling. I like to try out different casinos and I always contact the people behind the specific casino that I play on to ask if I can do giveaways in the stream. Two times a day I raffle out free spins to create more value in the stream and because I want to give something back to the viewers. From the casinos point of view this is basically a 6 hour live-commersial of their product so most of the time they are more than happy to provide me with free spins to hand out to my viewers.

 

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What do you like about streaming and why does pepple like to watch you?

I must say that it is because of the interaction that I have with my viewers. Some of them have been with me from the start, keeping me company and supporting me in good and in bad. The thing I love the most is when I get a really big win. You should see the chat when I get a huge hit, everyone goes crazy! To be able to share such moments with other people from all over the world is truly amazing. I have grown very fond of my viewers these past couple of months and consider them my friends. Some of them have even invited me to their homes. I have also told them that they are always welcome to come visit me in Malta. I am amazed and very grateful by the positive feedback and love that I have received from my viewers.

 

Playing slots for 6 hours a day, that must be expensive?

When I started streaming about 4 months ago I had a gambling budget of €12000 to spare for this project. My plan was to stream for a while during my vacation but I actually made €7000 in profit the first week. The next week I won a decent amount aswell and it just kept on going! Overall it has been very profitable for me even though I have always had the odds against me. I must admit that some weeks has been really bad and I have lost large amounts of money but it has always turned around. The biggest win that I have had in my life is €6812 and it was on a bonus game in the game Montezuma and that actually happened live on Twitch.

 

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Was twitch your first encounter with the affiliate scene?

Yes it was and I actually got the idea from one of my viewers during the stream. A lot of people were asking about the casino I was playing on and wanted to play themselves. That certain viewer that is now a good friend of mine told me about affiliation and said that I should definitely get an affiliate link for the stream. I contacted the casino and they explained everything to me and I signed up to their affiliate program. Apparently anyone can be an affiliate and it was surprisingly simple to start.

Now when I know more about affiliation I have plans to take it to the next level and improve the stream as much as I can. Perhaps in the future I might be able to stream when I gamble full time and have it as my main source of income. I have been working with construction my entire life and to be able to make money on what I actually enjoy doing is like a dream come true.

From affiliate Network to operator

Edward, tell us a bit more about your experience in the gaming scene. From consulting to operators, to running an affiliate network, and now running the brand Codeta.

I have been in this business ever since 2002 and started off on the operator side of things and one has to say the early days of igaming in general. Back then the opportunities were both very big in terms of reach, but also limited in terms of the market place itself and various legal obstacles to take into consideration. Not because the law was extremely clear, on the contrary, most geo-markets had outdated laws but no one knew how to interpret them into .com-terms.

It was a very innovative time back then, where the winners were the fast-paced and innovative companies and individuals that quickly understood the massive opportunity that was in igaming (post .com-bubble). I was on the operator side of things up until 2009 (final position was at MD of Ladbrokes Poker) until I, along with my family, decided to move back to Sweden. I didn’t intend to set up a consulting company as such. As a matter of fact, the intention was purely for myself to be able to work with gaming companies from a legal perspective (again!) based out of Sweden. However, I quickly identified a need and an opportunity of the affiliate (management) background I had (as Affiliate Director of PokerRoom.com and also PokerStars.com) as all igaming companies were still desperate for customers and the ones that could surely provide them? Affiliates. And I know them. So I started to hire people with similar background and similar unique network of contacts within the affiliate industry. Quickly operators started to appreciate our way of business, which is basically a brokerage, rather than running a network.ed2-1

The difference being that we broker a deal between affiliates we know and operators we know (to be suitable for the same affiliate). Once deal is done, affiliate gets introduced to the operators affiliate program and management. Hence, full transparency and the relationship with affiliate is being handed over so not solely relying us getting involved. Affiliates appreciate our expertise in the market place, ie knowing what brands to trust, which brands converts well in certain markets and also able to cater to their requirements in terms of price, material and customer management. Since we have grown into a substantial player on the market, we have also become a force within it. So for instance in case of a situation where an operator don’t do right for themselves versus the affiliates we have referred to them, we are able to put pressure on them.

It has happened a couple of times, most recently with 10bet/Comfortlink-brands not doing right for themselves and paying what is owed. And now they are paying the price for it by having basically no affiliates in the Nordics promoting them, all due to greed. If there is anything I certainly know from being in this industry for 14 years, is that it is a still a small one and your biggest asset is your reputation. If you are willing to gamble with that, you are most likely looking at a short career within it as the most accurate description of our industry is “what goes around comes around”.

Now, ca 14 months ago, I finally decided, after watching on the sidelines for too long, that it was time for me/us to set up a proper brand. What I believe we did very differently from other (casinos) is that we did hell of a lot research not only so much regarding the market (place) as we felt comfortable knowing that, but into consumer insights. Once we had done that, we decided what we wanted to do and how; Codeta was born and so was our positioning; to become the leading global table games casino

 

We were told you are the majority shareholder in this up and coming brand. What makes it unique? Combined years of experience?

Ihre Consulting and associated co-founders own some 60% of Codeta, whilst external investors owns the other 40% stake in exchange for €2m in investments.

Our positioning and ambition of becoming THE table games casino. I would actually go as far as saying that actually having and stating a positioning is unique. Perhaps with the exception of LeoVegas (and having stayed true to their positioning of being THE mobile casino, at least until the diversified into sports…), we are unique.

What also makes us unique are:

  • Our research and consumer insight knowledge. We KNOW our customers and target group in terms of what drives them, what they want, how they want to be perceived. As important is to also know (which we also do) what DOESN’T drive them or how they wish NOT to be perceived.
  • The fact that we had the people creating our whole digital experience including website etc, participated the entire above process, so once we got into execution/production phase, they know EXACTLY what to build and deliver to the players
  • Few brands have ever started with such an experienced management-, and affiliate team

 

With so many mergers and acquisition, affiliation is becoming more and more expensive! Do you think this is still the way to go in your case? You have a lot of experience in this field.

Yes, we certainly feel an initial affiliatestrategy is suitable for us, but as you say, it is expensive and it is not for everyone. You need an even more experienced affiliate team now in order to find the value in a lot of deals, as there is definitely value out there. We will use our experience, our contacts and funding to initially get proper traction for Codeta. We will already after the summer, start doing more traditional marketing investments, in the Nordics in particular. Like previously stated, our aim is to build Codeta into a proper brand and naturally, I don’t believe you can build that brand via affiliates alone as they naturally are more focused on customer acquisition, whilst building a proper brand, you need to also do more traditional above the line marketing (as well)

 

Under which platform will you be operating and which markets will you be focusing on? Why did you go with this platform? Would you exclude working with other live tables besides Evolution?

We chose after careful research that Everymatrix provided us with the best solution so we are using their API/Platform. We will initially be focusing on the Nordics + English speaking markets (CAN, AUS etc) and then launching UK and DACH in September.

We work both with Evolution Gaming and NetEnt in terms of live casino offering. We most likely will others that we deem to provide a top-quality live casino experience. We have chosen to be very picky with live casino-providers as we want our customers and those consumers that we introduce to try out potentially live casino for the first time, to have a great experience rather than a less-than-great one.

 

Table Games. Is there a large market for it? Can you give us some numbers?

During our research-phase we did find out that there was VERY little reliable data/stats to get access to. We did manage in the end (after several months and numerous consultants/agencies involved) to estimate how big this was. I have attached a slide showing some data.

 

Was it easy raising 2M? What made the investors trust your startup? A long working relationship? Family and friends? Do you have any feedback to give to budding entrepreneurs who would like to take off with their own venture?

Considering that we/I have never raised investments before, I would say yes! We managed to secure the investment round in less than 4 weeks. The investors relied their decision on several factors, but the most important ones where:

  • Trust in my/Ihre Consultings experience in the market place
  • Our positioning and research backing that up
  • The other parties we had involved in the project that added the expertise that Ihre Consulting were less strong in

The majority of investors are friends & families, but the last couple of investors that came in (once the rumors started to go around) are from the industry and have invested more than the average investor

 

You also engaged LynxEye Brand Consultants. Has this been an integral ingredient so far?

Yes, they have been and still are. We used them to conduct the research into our target group and understand them properly in terms of what drives them (to play), what they seek, what they miss etc. Once we had that, we have worked closely with them to fine-tune our positioning and understand what we need to deliver and focus on. This is continuous work and Lynxeye is and will be a long-term partner of ours

 

You are based in Stockholm. Ever thought of relocating to other jurisdictions? And if yes, which cities do you find attractive as a base for gaming?

Yes, we are based here and will continue to be based here at least until we get our own license (we now use Everymatrix license). I also think that the more we can have the people with and for Codeta gathered under one roof, the better as our journey has only begun, as a company but more importantly as a brand. We do also use resources sitting remotely in London, Tel Aviv, Prag and Bukarest.

 

 

Why AGS? Why Tallinn?

The organisers behind the successful SiGMA in Malta are packing up and heading to charming Tallinn, in the Baltics, for two nights of quality entertainment and networking restricted to 200 quality affiliates and five operators.

Five operators will be able to host this Grand Slam together with five other brands that are not operators. We chose operators who have something innovative to offer, who are launching a new product with an edge, whom affiliates would be interested to meet.

Why AGS? Why Tallinn?

TRAVEL TIME: First and foremost because our focus will be predominantly on affiliates from nearby countries. Put succinctly a one hour flight is less likely to disrupt work commitments than a twelve hour connected flight! The venue is six minutes away from the small airport too.

COSTS: Why go on a budget in an expensive city when we can splurge in Tallinn? We’re picking the best hotel, the best restaurants and entertainment money can buy in Estonia.

DISCOVERY: The city is buzzing with tech startups and provides an ideal e-infrastructure, specifically for nearby Nordics. With ninety-minute commutes and much cheaper wages, Tallinn may provide an alternative destination for business relocation.

CONFERENCE: We are carefully carving out a number of short presentation and power panels, combined with speed dating, workshops, Q&A sessions and fishbowl sessions, with topics that will interest each and every affiliate in the room. No boring sales pitches, no self-inflating ego trips – just quality content.

ENTERTAINMENT: We’re gunning on all fronts to guarantee the right conference-unwind balance and have no doubt that our entertainment program in Tallinn will leave affiliates craving for more!

Are you an affiliate? Register today, mingle with fellow affiliates and great brands, and find out if you qualify for this unique treat.

Enjoy Making Money with our very first run of Affiliate Grand Slam!