Amsterdam Affiliate Conference 2017: Casinomeister Decadence Report

So, where should I start? Should begin with the email I received from the rogue operator of Affiliate Edge – wanting to have a meeting to find some common ground? Or should I begin with my search for a hotel for the first time far from the Red Light District? Nope, no leather-men hotel this time. Or should I start with the road trip to Holland? Yep, road trip it is.

And it was a relatively short one. You see, the Amsterdam Affiliate Conference (or AAC) was scheduled smack dab in the middle of the summer holiday season. Some Einstein move (yes, that is drenched in sarcasm) – which screwed over many a folk. It’s crowded, expensive, and finding a hotel at the last minute during high season sucks. So my wife and I made the best of it – after a week in Dresden (my pilgrimage to K. Vonnegut’s actual Slaughter House #5 completed), we decided on a few beach days. Yes, Holland has beaches. And they ain’t so bad.

Actually, I was rather surprised. We lucked out on a couple of cloudless sky days. White fine sand, half empty beaches – much like California, the only thing missing was proper surf. But I really can’t complain – it was only about a five hour drive from the house – and it was awesome.

So yes, I spent a few days chillin’ on the beach near Bergen ann zee. What a nice way to prep one’s brain for the upcoming conference.

The AAC is aka the “super show” for casino operators, advertisers, and webmasters. Back in the day, like 2002, these conferences were rather small. About 200-300 delegates, and the webmasters were mostly self employed sole proprietorships. These conferences from the days of yore were filled with unexpected gossipy events – there was always some sort of issue, dastardly rogue casinos, evil affiliates, forum meltdowns, many of which were egged on by portal wars, and other overly dramatic online activity.

Today it’s different. There are no longer the portal wars of thiscasinosucks, ezyboards, and winneronline. No longer the fallouts of GPWA and CAP. Those days are gone – it looks like I’m the last man standing when it comes to all that. So yeah, the industry has changed – many of the early webmasters are either gone, or have consolidated into something else.

Voice from the pastAmsterdam trek 2006
There’s something about listening to Kraftwerk and riding on an Inter City Express train in Europe. I was chillin’ listening to my iPOD; “Numbers” popping off in my head while updating a new section at Casinomeister on my laptop. The section isn’t quite finished yet; it has to do with how to spot roguish elements of an online casino. Something that players need to be aware of.The weather was fresh, mildly chilly; a thin jacket was essential. The scene – Bavaria: rolling farmlands, vineyards and forests breezed by in a blur outside my window while I thought about you my dear reader – yes, you. It’s because of you that I venture to places like the Casino Affiliate Convention in Amsterdam. This is where I am able to collect information first-hand and meet the people who operate online casinos or their marketing personnel. And I have the chance to hang out with fellow webmasters and share ideas and problems. These conferences are the meat and potatoes of running a website like Casinomeister. Meeting face-to-face with people in this industry is really a good thing.

Tuesday arrival – found our hotel in the museum quarter – far, far away from the red light district. Boo hoo for me. And we had to park for three days, so that is another story in itself. But we were able to use the Park and Ride option at the Olympia Stadium park-house – where it is 1 Euro per day. It’s VERY complicated to do it right. Make one mistake and it’s about 40 Euros a day. If you need tips on this for any future trips, just ask and I will fill you in.

Anyway, the car was parked – my wife was off to downtown, and I headed to the pre-conference drink session at the Strandzuid. This was far from the official conference hotel, and I whined about this earlier, but it was actually brilliant. Lots of new and old faces. I met the team behind the new CasinoMax – these are the folks that for years ran the award winning Club World Casinos. In November 2016, there was a hostile takeover and those casinos went seriously rogue. So if you are still a player of those casinos, you should bail and join CasinoMax – you will be getting the same treatment as you had before. Their review is here: CasinoMax Review

Also ran into the brilliant team behind the L&L group of casinos (All British Casino, All Irish Casino, etc.). Yeti Casino has just completed its trial by fire in the BBF section, so it is now deemed an Accredited Casino st Casinomeister. Congrats to them.

That evening we were treated to an awesome meal of curry by Simmo! – it’s the Balti House where we have gone for years. There were eight of us to include my wife, some of the usual suspects, and forum member Dunover who was lucky enough to bump into us earlier in the day.

Simmo was celebrating his new project, Rightlander. This is an ingenious tool for webmasters to track all of their affiliate links – it collects screenshots of all of their referred to landing pages. So if you have referral links on your site that are going to a 404 page, or something totally dodgy, this is the way to track these links. You can check out this tool here: Rightlander – Landing Page Monitor For Affiliates. If you sign up, please tell ’em I sent ya. 🙂

Day one of the conference:

I was surprised by the large turnout. There were a lot of folks – mostly suits. Just goes to show how for this industry has come. And everyone was sacrificing their July summer holiday to be here in Amsterdam – wow.

I was attending “incognito”. Since my wingman Max wasn’t there to deflect rogue intrusions, I was listed as a representative of Crapbonuses.com. Brilliant move by me. Read on…

Funny thing happened at the Midaur Casino stand. I was moseying by and the casino reps caught my eye, “Are you an affiliate?” they asked. I said yes, (they didn’t recognize me) and I exclaimed that I had just done a recent review (which can be found here: Midaur Casino Review). Their eyes widened when they saw my badge for CrapBonuses.com. I went on saying that there is a chance I would bring them on – but that there was an issue that I just couldn’t remember at that moment (it was a 5K withdrawal limit per month). It was then I remembered that I was not wearing a Casinomeister badge – so I explained. They looked relieved. A bit of nervous laughter there. Moving on.

I mentioned that the new operator of Affiliate Edge wanted to meet up to find if there was some common ground to agree on. This baffled me. What common ground? As reported in our rogue section, we have absolute proof that they are unethical to the highest degree. They have shaved my fellow webmaster Ted Loh’s account – this account I was monitoring for his family since he left this mortal coil in 2010. Yes, they are taking money from a dead guy’s family. Not to mention loads of other affiliates who have noticed their players being detagged. I have a feeling that Affiliate Edge’s days are numbered. If you are still an affiliate there, you need to move on to something a bit more promising – like Legend Affiliates.

Anyway, I tripped around the conference area for most of the day. There were some really good SEO presentations – these were “standing room only”, except for the first couple of rows. It’s like high school sometimes – no one wants to sit in front. “SEO strategies in the real-time Penguin era” was quite good. I got the tail end of it – and most I already was aware of, or it doesn’t apply to Casinomeister since it’s already an established site. But then…there is crapbonuses.com that needs a make-over.

Getting started as an affiliate now is hard. Gone are the days of a sole proprietor slapping together some pages and getting some traffic. It’s teams of people with resources – financial and technical – that are the new affiliates. Proper search engine optimized pages and tactics are a must. And sometimes this is delegated to internal teams of code-heads. There are not too many people going it alone these days.

Passed by Breakout Gaming’s stand. This is a relatively new casino that may be promising. They have a wide selection of casino games – over twenty software providers, no withdrawal limits, but no live chat. I have written a review to include some awesome winner screenshots from some games I’ve never tried before: 888Dragon, Down the Pub, and Beowulf. You can read the review here: Breakout Gaming review.

That evening was spent at Shabu Shabu sushi with the folks from Legend Affiliates. It’s an all you can eat sushi place in Rembrandt Square – which is pretty good. But a warning, the service is not so great – mostly stressed out college kids who aren’t trained too well. But what the hell – it’s all you can eat sushi, and we got our money’s worth. I think most everyone was awestruck on how much sushi my wife can chow down. She just kept ordering – we couldn’t stop her. We were going to finish the meal with an espresso, but decided to get coffee elsewhere. Nod nod – wink wink.

Voice from the pastAmsterdam trek 2004
The following day was another eventful one. I was scheduled to speak on “Ethical Concerns of Portal Operators” and the core idea was why and how to protect yourself from casino scams; mainly focusing on the why.Here are a couple of points that I made: The bottom line for most people in this industry is to make money. But when failure or scandal occurs, it’s usually the result of a profit driven philosophy. A prime example would be the Pirate vs Hamptons casino (worst player experience 2004), where the casino operator would rather lie and cheat a player than realize what a goldmine good public relations can be.The bottom line should be the player, and to cater to the players’ needs (safety, dependability, honesty, fairness). Without the player there is no industry. If the operator of Hamptons had subscribed to this train of thought, he would still be in business, RTG would have NOT gotten the black eye that it did, and the player would have been a much happier camper.

The following day was a good one. I was at the conference bright and early and made my rounds.

I continued strolling around – met one of the reps from GiG (Guts Casino, Rizk, Betspin, and now Thrills, Super Lenny, and Kaboo). The rep explained the reasons for the lack of responses in the forum for some of the issues with Guts Casino (this thread can be found here: Guts absolutely awful customer service. And it had to do with a change in management teams and a new rep. As mentioned in that thread, the lack of responses and bad service is being rectified. Hopefully, this is the last time we will have to deal with bad customer service from Guts.

Kaboo Casino wants to jump into the Baptism by Fire – so this should be happening soon.

One major thing – there is an amazing innovation coming from a new product from GiG. I was really impressed, and when this is launched, I think it may be a game changer. All I can say at the moment is that its concept involves a silent city of thieves, a distinctive casino theme and an awesome customization feature – uh, I really can’t say much more. But I hope to have our CAG members (Casinomeister Advisory Group) involved with beta testing on this.

I also ran into the casino rep for the Betting Partners group of casinos: Bodog, Bovada, and SlotsV. They were removed sometime last year for forcing their affiliates into Bitcoin, which I had issues with – not with Bitcoin so much – but with the “partner” group dictating on how their “partners” were to receive payments. The thing is, there have not been many complaints if at all for these casinos submitted in the past year. So on the player realm, things seem to be going ok.

We should be seeing them have more presence on the site in the near future.

One oddity of sorts – a casino group focused on the African gamer – specifically Kenyan and Ugandan Betin.co.ke and Betin.co.ug. Interestingly enough, they had a massive booth, but the rep I spoke to had no business cards – and their affiliate program requires you to send in your info via email. No website sign up, so let’s party like it’s 1999.

Notable absences: Paddy Power – no Guinness stand. RedBet – no stand. Casumo Casino – no stand. So I guess they were all on summer holiday.

Met up with one of the main folks behind Casino Heroes, and he outlined some plans for the future, which sound amazing. Casino Heroes is one of the gems of online casinos. You get free spins by fighting “bosses” which is pretty cool. I play there often myself and enjoy it. Casino Heroes review is here.

I met with the affiliate manager of StarGames – they also want to come back on board (they failed twice in the BBF phase for being lackadaisical), which didn’t make much sense to me since I visited their offices in the early days in Vienna, and the people I met with were pumped up and ready to go. Sometimes companies get too big too fast, and they can’t have people monitor player communities – which was pretty much what had happened here. I am looking forward to seeing them becoming more involved with Casinomeister and our members. You can read about StarGames review here.

Omni Slots is another casino that wanted a review – which you can find here: Omni Slots Review. Not to be confused with Omni Casino – which has been around since 1999, and has nothing to do with OS.

It always seems odd to me why companies come up with names that are similar to their competitors. Like NetBet when there is already an iNetBet. Or Crapmeister, when there is Casinomeister. Lack of imagination? Google searches? Or are they trying to confuse players? Who knows but them.

Met up with the new Chance Hill guys – and they just might have an awesome promotion coming up that involves beer. Keep an eye on Casinomeister to find out when, what, and where. In the meantime, please make sure you have a forum account and have signed up at Chance Hill casino already. This will be awesome!

So as the conference came to an end – and it seemed that most people did not want it to end – most everyone stuck around and I imagined that they went off to hang out with their colleagues and friends. I headed back and grabbed a meal with the wife, looking forward to an early drive back home. For the first time EVER, I didn’t make it to the infamous red light district to tour my favorite pubs, but there is always next year where hopefully my wingman Max will be at my side.

In essence, the conference was pretty good. It was missing some of the people who traditionally are there – which would have made the conference great. And if it had been held in the spring LIKE IT NORMALLY SHOULD BE HELD, it would have been fantastic.

But kudos to iGB Affiliates and Clarion events who made the conference possible. Job well done.