Jan Kovac, head of product and co-founder of Casino Guru, assesses a booming affiliate sector, the rise and rise of live streaming and targeting fledgling markets.
CasinoBeats: The affiliate market is currently booming and the future for the sector looks bright, what makes Casino Guru different from the other protagonists in the industry?
Jan Kovac: Casino Guru was started by two software developers in a country with almost no significant igaming presence. You could say that these two factors significantly affected the project’s DNA. Meanwhile, many of our competitors have their roots in marketing.
This introduces a tendency to push for as many conversions as possible, which we see in the industry so often. Our approach is different. We genuinely want to provide our visitors with true and accurate information, rather than feeding them shallow content and pushing them into playing. ‘Informing instead of promoting’ is one of our core principles and I hope our visitors appreciate this approach as much as we think it’s beneficial to them and to the entire industry.
The lack of any meaningful igaming presence in our country also had the added effect. We couldn’t source anyone from the industry or our competitors. So, we designed everything related to Casino Guru ourselves and on our own terms. When comparing our company to other industry players, I often use the analogy of comparing a shark to a dolphin – they may look similar at first glance, but once you take a closer look, you will see that they are two completely different beasts.
“I see how fast this niche is growing and I believe it will continue growing in the future”
Casino Guru is full of unique methodologies and sophisticated algorithms. We pride ourselves on employing creative and innovative people, able to think out of the box and design innovations to deal with issues, rather than just copying what others do.
Just our casino review team consists of over 14 well-trained reviewers that follow our review methodology to make sure each casino is reviewed the exact same way. We work with testers from all around the globe that help us make sure that everything we present to the visitors is truthful and relevant to them, regardless of where they are from.
And that’s important, as the Casino Guru website is currently available in 15 languages, soon to be 17. As far as I know, there aren’t many projects (if any) that can say the same.
I hope this will all prove to be an advantage in the long run.
CB: Live streaming and recorded video content has become a huge part of affiliate and fan sites over recent years, allowing players to follow and become immersed with games and the affiliate operators, do you think this type of ‘influencer’ led affiliate marketing will continue to grow?
JK: I see how fast this niche is growing and I believe it will continue growing in the future. However, I only have a marginal interest in the area and prefer to watch it from the sidelines, so my predictions may be a bit off. While it looks like a promising avenue to explore and develop into a project, it would go against our DNA.
At the moment, our team is comprised of software geeks, math wizzes and data analysts, not players and would-be ‘influencers by occupation’. And I think that videos full of amazing wins may create unrealistic expectations in the viewer, potentially being a contributing factor in the creation of a problematic gambling habit.
“Compliance is quite a tricky subject”
CB: Compliance is understandably a hot topic all around the gambling world, with a number of high-profile cases fanning the flames and heightening the subject awareness. How does Casino Guru position itself on compliance and keeping players and your users up to date with the latest information?
JK: Compliance is quite a tricky subject. Especially so for a project that operates on a global scale in 15 languages. As you could imagine, it is essentially impossible to keep track of every legislation change in every country around the world. Luckily for us, we are not an operator, but more of an informational website, so we can afford a bit more of a leaner approach. Nevertheless, we are of course doing our best to stay compliant with legislation.
We put special care into tracking any changes of legislation in our countries of interest. Outside of that, we are always ready to make changes and amendments if an authority contacts us with a specific request. But we don’t have a multilingual compliance team, which would track changes in legislation across the 100 countries in the world.
Having said that, the story is completely different when it comes to player safety. That is a topic universally relevant around the world and one of our top priorities. We put a lot of effort into honestly and fairly assessing casinos and their reputation.
We make sure to plainly explain any terms related to bonuses and write everything in a plain and straight-forward way, which doesn’t encourage gambling in any way. We try to help players with any issues they may have run into with casinos in our Complaint Resolution Center. We are also preparing many more projects in the responsible gambling field, so stay tuned for that.
“Machine translations have made leaps and bounds in quality”
CB: You recently announced the launch of your onsite forum which features some extremely advanced functionality allowing any user, from any country, speaking any language to converse seamlessly on the same platform and across the same threads. How is this possible and how has the forum changed the way your site is being accessed/ used?
JK: Machine translations have made leaps and bounds in quality in the recent years. When we saw how much progress was being made, we couldn’t help ourselves and decided to try and develop something really innovative – not only for the world of igaming, but also for online forums in general.
Our proprietary forum system removes the language barrier between our visitors, allowing virtually anyone from any part of the world to talk to someone from a completely different part of the world. For example, a Serb that only speak Serbian can talk to their Chilean friend, who only speaks Spanish.
I was a little concerned about the system working correctly, but so far the project has been a great success! Our forum automatically recognises in what language you wrote your post and translates it to all the other languages. When browsing the threads, the system offers you either the best matching translation or the original, if you can understand it.
And you can set your preferences – which languages to translate and which to leave in the original form – in your account settings, to make the whole experience as seamless as possible.
“Personally, I think that esports betting is here to stay, just like esports in general”
I hope this system can help us create an interconnected global community of casino players. The initial numbers are looking positive, so I’m quite optimistic about achieving this goal.
CB: The gambling landscape is becoming ever wider, most recently the emergence of LatAm and Africa as potentially huge markets has moved the horizon even further afield for operators and game suppliers alike, how are you, as an independent source of online casino information, expanding your coverage and appealing to these fledgling markets?
JK: To be honest, we are not actively targeting these markets at the moment. But our internationalisation algorithms work well for most countries, so we have our foot in the door, should we change our minds. The majority of people from LatAm and Africa use either Spanish, English, Portuguese or French as their main language on the internet. Our system incorporates all of those, except for French.
Of course, specific places in LatAm and Africa have their own dialects which differ from the original languages, but it shouldn’t be to such an extent that they can’t understand the gist of our content. Most of the written content on Casino Guru doesn’t change much in terms of meaning between languages.
What really changes are the lists of casinos and the bonuses they offer. For the LatAm and
African areas, these changes are completely reliant on our algorithms. But for the bigger markets, we always at least try to hire local testers to see if the casinos chosen by our algorithms work in those countries and whether they are the best fit for them. In the cases when they don’t, we update our data and make some manual adjustments.
In general, we can’t compete with a good, specialised local site. But if such a site simply doesn’t exist, then Casino Guru is a good second choice for visitors from those countries.
CB: The global Covid-19 pandemic has forced major changes on the gambling industry, most notably enhancing the focus on esports and virtual sports. How has Casino Guru embraced this change of perspective to a new betting stage and do you think virtual sports has a place in the future of betting?
JK: Our entire company is exclusively focused on casinos, so we don’t really do anything with sports or esports. Personally, I think that esports betting is here to stay, just like esports in general. Many kids from the younger generations grow up playing video games, rather than playing outside or participating in sports. It’s only natural that they have an interest in watching something closer to what they grew up with. But that’s just my layman’s opinion.