In this interview industry veteran and co-founder of StatsDrone John Wrigh talks about iGaming in Canada, the licencing of provinces and why affiliates have been investing heavily.
My background in iGaming
I’m from Toronto and stumbled into iGaming almost by mistake. I got my BASc in mechanical engineering specializing in robotics. I thought I had a bright future ahead of me in AI and robotics but I got sidetracked. I had a friend who was doing professional gambling and he encouraged me to join his card counting team. From that it lead to playing online including casinos, poker and sportsbetting. My logic at the time was if I try it and it doesn’t work out, I’m adding another $500 onto my $40,000 debts from university and I can always find a job. Right?
I got started and never looked back. It has provided a means of travelling the world where I only needed a laptop. That also opened the door to affiliate marketing and creating websites. I then worked as an Affiliate Manager for a few years before going fully into affiliate sites. My main speciality in the iGaming affiliate marketing space is B2B in that I focus on affiliate program reviews and coaching affiliates. My work in coaching affiliates would involve helping them pick the right niches and giving them all the tips they need to be successful. What I didn’t enjoy about coaching would be affiliates wanting to take advantage of my time and not reward me for it. Despite the work, I still gained valuable experience that is directly benefitting me today.
StatsDrone is the future
In the past few years I’ve been transitioning into SaaS software for affiliates. At the moment we operate in the iGaming space but have aspirations to move into all other avenues of affiliate marketing. That actually means I am moving back into my roots of engineering where I’m finally going to work in Artificial Intelligence.
StatsDrone was launched late 2017 and we have been building our tools for affiliates over the last 4 years. The company has been bootstrapped mostly from affiliate sites with emphasis on referring affiliates to affiliate programs. Our current site focuses on our affiliate stats tracker which aggregates data from all your iGaming affiliate programs. This summer we’ll be launching some ad tools and I won’t share more on that other than to wait for some announcements. We are really excited for the future and you can find more info on our StatsDrone website.
The licensing of Ontario
Everybody is excited about the iGaming in Canada! There were outside factors that accelerated the licensing of markets in Ontario and that will no doubt have a domino effect for the rest of the provinces in Canada. It does help that the neighbours down south in the United States made the first move. That was the same playbook in regards to cannabis.
Covid has most likely accelerated many US states to adopt licensing to generate more state revenues. Ontario is no different and the rest of Canada is certainly looking at Ontario to see how everything rolls out. Just to be clear, the provinces have had their own licensed online casinos in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia but they were monopolies. So what is different now? Online gambling is getting even more normalized than it has ever been before. If you watch an NHL hockey game, it seems like half the ads are for casinos and bookmakers. It used to be an abundance of car commercials but we know the automobile industry is struggling with supply and the supply of online gambling is almost infinite.
Which provinces to move next?
When it comes to leading the way, it has been the provincial gaming authorities that have started things off in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. The Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation (OLG), the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) and Loto-Québec have all had online casinos and online sportsbetting for many years. I expect Quebec and BC to be next where the rest of the remaining provinces will take their time getting organized. It is far from the situation in the United States in waiting for states like Texas, Florida and California to get in the game.
At least for now you can expect everyone to wait to see how successful it is for Ontario no different than when New Jersey went online. Although both countries are very different in many ways, I think you can treat both countries like alliances in the world of online gambling. When BetMGM starts spending big money in America, those ads find their ways to Canadians so it only makes sense for these US facing brands to want to cover more of the continent. Both countries are moving in the same direction.
I do see Bet365 making a big push globally as they are considered the #1 bookmaker in the world. There has been a real interest in Jake Paul’s dabble into gambling with his BETR project. It had little marketing budget behind it and is now one of the dominant players in the space. Based on the discussions and feedback from iGaming NEXT in New York City, it seemed that most people agreed that online gambling is in its infancy in America. iGaming in Canada will have its growing pains but the future revenue will be staggering.
Recruitment for iGaming in Canada
Recruitment is key to success! I see Canada as having the same problem as in the US which is there are a lot of jobs but not a lot of skilled people. It only reflects on how new the industry is in North America. If you want to hire a Head of Affiliates with iGaming experience, there is a good chance that any resume you’ll get will be someone in Europe or the United Kingdom.
I personally think that some of the better affiliate managers that could be hired are people with affiliate manager experience in another industry. At the end of the day, you are dealing with affiliates. If you had access to my inbox for all my iGaming affiliate accounts, you would be dumbfounded that some of these people have jobs in the first place!
If you don’t believe me, create a casino affiliate site in half a day on a weekend and watch your inbox. You’ll see some of the worst outreach messages and when you are signed up to many programs, you’ll get just as bad treatment from these affiliate managers. Now it isn’t to say they actually treat you bad, but when I have 2000 affiliate accounts and they are all asking for #1 placement, guess what, it ain’t happening unless you want to pay a flat fee for it.
What is worse in my position, I have affiliate program reviews so I refer webmasters. Nothing annoys me more when I explain this and they keep asking for which geos our players come from. I guess they don’t want affiliate traffic where that could lead to more affiliates with even more players. There are numerous companies offering training and I believe these affiliate manager training courses need to be given to more people and pushed out more.
The future of affiliates in Canada
At the moment it doesn’t seem like iGaming affiliates need licenses like they do in many US states. Licenses are big obstacles for many affiliates and for now it doesn’t seem to be a requirement in Ontario although anything can change.
In the past few years, I’ve talked to many affiliate groups that have invested heavily into Canada and I expect that trend to continue. I can’t think of a big affiliate group that doesn’t have some dedicated Canadian sites. Some of the up and coming affiliates are also looking at this market. At some point I think it might become a little saturated but we can say with Ontario opening up the markets, conversions could be higher. I say higher because now we see significantly more TV ads for gambling and it is hard to look anywhere without seeing iGAming.
I think this bodes well for Canadians wanting to get into online gambling. There is plenty of room for more people and the advantage for Canadians is no different than someone being a casino affiliate living in the United Kingdom. You know your markets, you know what brands your players see often, you know the payment methods, etc. Also if you want to run a domain with a .ca extension, you kinda need to be Canadian to do that. It certainly gives a slight SEO advantage.
I’m totally focused on StatsDrone which is an affiliate stats aggregator and everybody knows I like to build innovative tools and systems that will benefit affiliates. There are plenty of new affiliates entering the iGaming market with new ideas and products. It’s exciting because at the end of the day, we all must accept the fact that we live in a time when there has never been so much change. Some affiliate sites will become obsolete if they don’t innovate or adapt. We must all do this in ourselves for skills and development.
It keeps me on my toes for sure.
Please connect with John Wright on Linkedin if you want more info on StatsDrone.