Bonus’ parent company, Catena Media, announced that it has formed the Responsible Gambling Affiliate Association (RGAA) with five peers in US online gambling media. The new trade organization brings these competing media networks together to seek ways to make regulated online gambling in the US safer and more sustainable while supporting our industry partners.
As the Managing Editor for Bonus news, I was excited to hear about the creation of the RGAA because responsible gambling is a topic dear to me and the rest of my team. I think I speak for everyone at Catena Media when I say that we work in this space because we believe it’s possible to make a positive difference in the gambling industry as an affiliate.
The RGAA website, which launched today, features the following mission statement:
We champion responsible gambling marketing and advertising practices, make it possible for gambling affiliate companies to influence sensible regulation and protect consumer best interest while effectively serving the market.
Catena Media CEO Michael Daly commented:
The US gambling market is swiftly regulating, and affiliates are vital to the overall industry. Catena Media is proud to be a founding member of the RGAA, an association committed to promoting responsible, positive wagering experiences through legal, regulated operators.
The Catena Media network comprises dozens of sites. Aside from Bonus, some of the most notable sites in the network include:
- PlayUSA and the rest of the Play sites (PlayNJ, PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, PlayCanada, etc.)
- The Lines
- Legal Sports Report
- Gaming Today
- 3 Down Nation
Joining Catena to form the RGAA are five other substantial affiliate networks:
- Better Collective
- Gambling.com Group
- Oddschecker Global Media
- Spotlight Sports Group
Together, these six companies own most of the outlets you’ll see publishing content related to legal and regulated gambling within the US.
Responsible Gambling & the Bonus News Team
For the Bonus news team, helping to support Catena’s goals within the RGAA will largely mean continuing to do what we’ve been doing, only more of it. Responsible gambling was already a cornerstone of our coverage and has its own news category.
Each of us specializes in our own subtopic of responsible gambling. We settled into these niches based on our other interests and individual talents.
Robyn has been taking the lead on responsible gambling research. Recent examples of her coverage include looks at novel treatments for gambling disorder, like psilocybin mushrooms and Ozempic, and connections between problem gambling and other physical and mental health issues.
Heather has a marketing background and is a people person, so she focuses on interviews and responsible gambling messaging efforts. Recently, she’s spoken on the subject with Keith Whyte of the National Council on Problem Gaming and FanDuel’s Alison Kutler. She has also looked at New York Senator Joe Addabbo‘s online casino effort through the lens of responsible gambling and the latest messaging campaign from the Michigan Gaming Control Board.
As the site’s News Managing Editor, I help my writers with their stories and contribute my own content as time allows. I have a background in math and science, so I like to focus on numbers. I have, for instance, done deep dives into statistics for Pennsylvania self-exclusion and problem gambling helpline calls—the latter over at PlayUSA rather than here on my own site.
I’ve also been collaborating with other parts of the Bonus team to build content for our Casino School. This is still a work in progress but includes lessons from me educating gamblers on the math and psychology of gambling and how to avoid common problem gambling pitfalls.
Some Transparency Around the Affiliate Model
Internet-savvy readers may already understand how Bonus and other affiliate marketing sites operate. For the sake of transparency, though, here’s the business model in a nutshell.
We provide a tremendous amount of content to readers for free, including news, reviews of online gambling sites, tips & tricks, bonus codes (thus our name), etc. To be able to do that, we monetize traffic by including site signup links on specific pages—mostly the reviews—and collecting money from operators when our readers sign up using those links.
I mention this because it may not be immediately obvious how directing users to online casinos and sportsbooks is compatible with being a force for responsible gambling. But here’s the thing: Someone searching for online casino reviews probably intends to sign up for one. Compared to advertising, organic search marketing is less about increasing demand for a product and more about brand choice.
Meanwhile, there are two types of gambling sites targeting US players—regulated sites in the states where they’re legal and the offshore black market. The latter are far less safe, both in terms of account security and responsible gambling practices.
Affiliates like Bonus, the rest of the Catena Media US network, and the other affiliates forming the RGAA only promote the legal sites. But there are other affiliates driving players to those dangerous and illegal offshore sites. A big part of our mission—and that of the RGAA—is to push those unscrupulous black market affiliates out of the search results.
Moreover, an informed gambler is a safer gambler. Google and other search engines have been doing a great job updating their algorithms in recent years to filter out low-quality sites. Twenty years ago, the affiliate marketing space was filled with spammy, misleading sites. Those affiliates get buried these days.
So now, more than ever, affiliates need to employ honest experts and bring you high-quality information to rank well in searches.
In short, the incentives for an affiliate outlet in 2023 are very much aligned with delivering honest messages about responsible gambling. And that’s becoming truer by the day.
What Affiliates Can Do For Responsible Gambling
In that spirit, Catena Media got together with other affiliates—who are normally our rivals—to create the RGAA and become better at this part of our jobs.
These are still the early days for the RGAA, with the first order of business being to select a president for the organization. So, it’s perhaps too early to talk about specific initiatives the RGAA will undertake. However, it has sketched out five pillars that make up its overall mission. Some of this, I’ve already alluded to above.
- Promoting Competitive Markets
- Industry Education
- Consumer Protection, Empowerment & Choice
- Advertising Codes of Conduct
- Responsible Business Practices
There are a lot of parallels here between what the RGAA aims to do in the affiliate space and what the American Gaming Association is already doing on the operators’ side of things.
The legalization of online gambling has been a state-by-state affair in the US. Not every state opts for the same model, and some, unfortunately, have elected to award the entire market to a single operator, often in partnership with the state lottery. To lawmakers, the appeal of that is keeping a larger share of the revenue for the state. However, lack of competition is bad for the consumer.
Competitive markets force operators to offer better products. That, in turn, makes players less inclined to turn back to the black market. Operator competition also forces competition between affiliates, which means more information on our sites and less room for black market affiliates in the search rankings.
In doing our jobs, affiliates—especially the news teams—acquire a deep understanding of the industry and the consumer. That gives us an opportunity to educate users, policymakers, newcomers to our space, and even the gambling industry itself. This is crucial in the US, where legal online gambling is only a decade old nationally and a far more recent concept for many states.
Finally, solidarity with others in our space allows an opportunity to commit to codes of ethics and best practices together. Every affiliate has its own codes of conduct, but a policy can only be so effective if there’s only one company adhering to it. Establishing those policies industry-wide makes more sense, and if affiliates are proactive, we have a better chance of getting them right than if we wait for outside policymakers to impose them.