This is another in our series of video interviews with the movers, shakers and rockstars of the online casino affiliate business.
Today’s interview is with Christine “bonustreak”. She’s behind casino affiliate websites such as Streak Gaming and Bonus Streak.
When you watch the video, you’re going to learn about Christine’s journey from being an ex-dispatcher, stay-at-home mom of four, to becoming one of the leading and most well-liked affiliates in the gambling industry. We talk about how she got started in the business, her secrets of success, how she manages a portfolio of successful websites, and what motivates her.
Christine is one of the partners behind 14 popular affiliate sites. Two of the most well-known sites are
Jeff:We’re going to talk with Christine from Streak Gaming about her path to becoming a successful casino affiliate. We’re going to uncover how she went from making just a little bit of money to making a pretty good living from online casino marketing. Christine, I’d like you to start and just tell us a little bit about yourself and what you like most about being an affiliate.
Christine: I’m a single mother of four and the co-owner of 14 websites. I really don’t know what else to say about myself. I’m just a normal person just trying to make a living and keep thriving in a crazy industry. The gaming industry is awesome. I really love being an affiliate for online gambling. Every day is a new challenge. There’s always something interesting happening. It’s never boring. The people I’ve met, affiliate managers, other affiliates, they’re amazing. I’ve met so many people all over the world. It’s really opened my eyes up to so many different personalities, religions. It’s a very interesting industry.
Jeff: That’s cool. We’re talking less than a week after Black Friday. I know you were telling me before we started that it’s been a pretty crazy week for you.
Christine: Yes, it has.
Jeff: How do you keep things like that in perspective? Obviously, you said you do this because you’ve got a family and you really like the flexibility of online marketing. Something like this requires such rapid response. How do you keep it from becoming all consuming?
Christine: Over the years, I guess, we’ve gone through similar situations. 2006 was a major milestone in this industry as well. I guess making it through that has helped us deal with this current situation. In 2006, we saw several successful affiliates toss in the towel and just say, “I’m done.” At that time, I talked with my business partner and we decided that we’re going to stick it out, make it through the hardships, and keep going. That’s what keeps me thriving. I love Streak Gaming. It’s something we built from the ground up. I couldn’t imagine not having it. Just keeping that in perspective and feeding my children keeps me alive, keeps me thriving. Sometimes I do work a lot longer than what I intend, but it’s worth it in the end.
Jeff: Cool. How did you come to the idea for casino marketing? What were you doing before then? Where did you get the idea that this was something you would want to try?
Christine: It happened when I was a housewife in, I would say 2004 is when I first stumbled upon bingo at the time. A friend of mine invited me to her house to play Moo Cow Bingo, I think it was. You played bingo for prizes. A little light bulb went off and I thought somebody’s making money somewhere down the line advertising this. So I just started digging deeper into it. I found forums that offered free casino chips. I joined as a member to the forums. Then I became a moderator for a forum. I realized, “Wait a minute, this guy’s doing it all wrong. I can do it better.” I met my business partner, Carolyn. She was a moderator at the same time. We decided this guy really doesn’t care about the players. He cares about his pocket. We need to start a forum of our own to make sure players are taken care of. That’s what started it basically. We wanted to protect players and see them sent to good, legitimate casinos.
Jeff: Cool. How long did it take you from starting to starting to make some money off of this?
Christine: Back then, it was just more of a hobby than anything and something to pay the gas bill or extra shopping money for clothes. Then I had a tragedy. I lost my husband. I have four kids, so I thought, wow, this is serious. I need to really do something with this. At the same time, my business partner was going through a divorce. She all of a sudden became a single mother. That drove us at that point. We really couldn’t go out of the home and make decent money. I was a dispatcher before I became a housewife. I knew I couldn’t come close to making the same kind of money that I could as an affiliate to take care of the family. That’s pretty much what happened. We just buckled down, worked night and day for, I would say, about a year until we really started making decent money. I’d say six months before we made $100. It was pretty tough to begin with.
Jeff: What did you do to get people to come to that site when you’re starting off? The first folks who started coming and visiting and you were developing relationships with, how were they finding you?
Christine: It was a forum and it was a community. My business partner and I were very popular with many gambling forums. Way back then, it was something called EZ Board. We had a lot of followers that followed us when we opened our own forum. From there, we just did SEO. I, at the time, took on all of the, I guess you could call it, social media, just getting the name out there. Our reputation is what attracted a lot of people. Players would see that we worked hard for the players. They would tell their friends and family. It just started building up from there.
Jeff: Cool. When you got to a good level and you started to make money, how did you push it to really break through? You talked about that six-month period. What were you doing? How did you keep ramping it up to keep improving?
Christine: Educating ourselves as much as possible. A lot of reading, a lot of learning, and a lot of determination. Finding a niche in the market was the biggest breakthrough, I think. I think if you want to become an affiliate, you need to find your own little special niche in the market and develop some kind of a branding. We came up with Streak Gaming as a brand. We just ran with it from there. Basically, a lot of reading and learning.
Jeff: At some point when something like this is new and you’re starting to get results, there is still a little bit of self-doubt in everybody. I’m sure you knew lots of people who had regular jobs and they must have been wondering, “Christine, what are you going to do with this? How are you going to make this work?” What was that moment for you when you lost the self-doubt? Was it reading something specific? Was it somebody who set an example? Were there a series of events?
Christine: For me, personally, it was, like I said, when I lost my husband. My dad is a big inspiration. He came to me and he said, “You need to get yourself together and make something of what you’re doing.” He just gave me the strength to realize that I could do this. Just knowing that there will be players out there making deposits into shady casinos, it kept us moving. Somebody had to look out for players. They still have to. Especially right now, as you said, with Black Friday happening, there will be so many shady poker programs coming up. People will go and spend their hard-earned money. Sometimes they are scammed and they won’t get that money back. Knowing that I can be there and I can help people, that keeps us going. That was the drive.
Jeff: That’s an awesome feeling to have. That must have really motivated you. At what point did you go from one site and success to starting to run multiple sites?
Christine: In 2006, when the whole UIGEA went down, we realized we had to not put all our eggs into one basket. We had to branch out and hit the European market as hard as we could. We started just learning all we could with SEO. We started geotargeting Europe. That took building other sites so we could do a ring fence of links and just build upon all of our sites. Basically, we just wanted to make sure that we had a big . . . it’s hard to explain, but we wanted to have a ring circle of sites that would all link within themselves so we could do our anchor text. It’s all SEO purposes.
Jeff: Was that successful? When you launched a new site, were you immediately getting traffic and page rank off of it as a result, or did it take some time?
Christine: Not immediately. We were learning a whole lot. We still are learning. SEO changes every single day. Thankfully I met so many wonderful friends that are my competition that advised me and took me under their wing and helped me learn what’s right, what’s wrong, what should I do here, and what should I do there. It’s ever learning still. You definitely need to make sure that you have a really good foundation with your sites. I’m learning today still that the more sites you have, the better it is.
Jeff: Can you talk about that a little more?
Christine: I’m not a tech. My business partner does all the technical stuff. If we want to build upon Vegas Technology and start having a lot of traffic for Vegas Technology casinos, we’ll build a website that will list all of their casinos. From there, we maybe want to list all the slot machines that Vegas Technology offers and have slot reviews. We’ll have a site for that, that will link upon the Vegas Technology first site. Basically, we just learned that you need to have a lot of websites out there.
Jeff: What are you most successful in? What verticals? Obviously the forums, the content model that’s working best for you from everything I know about your sites. Are there new verticals out there that you’re looking at in addition to the ones that you are successful at? There are a lot of questions there. Let me go back. What are your most successful verticals? Are there things out there you want to try that you’re not playing in right now?
Christine: I would say online casinos is the most successful. I’ve tried sub-affiliates, and that’s not really worked well for us. I’m looking at poker right now. I’ve been dabbling with poker a little bit for about six months, I guess, just contemplating do we want to get started in this. We really just thought no because there was no money in it. But now, it’s a new game. It’s a level playing field now. We’re thinking okay, yeah, we want to hit this up right now really hard. That’s what we’re trying now.
Jeff: What’s the most frustrating thing about getting started with a new site? There’s the content piece. There’s the technology piece. With the forums, there’s the community building piece. What’s the biggest challenge when you’re getting started? What’s the easiest for you? What’s the biggest challenge? What do you do to overcome those challenges?
Christine: As I said, my business partner builds all the sites. I think the biggest challenge would be the right kind of content, knowing what we’re talking about and educating ourselves. As of lately, since we’re targeting Europe, it is reaching the Scandinavian market and making sure everything’s translated correctly. We have employees in those areas as well. It’s hard to manage employees that are that far. We’ve lost a couple of really good employees, I think, more because of communication problems. It’s a challenge on that aspect.
Jeff: Are there language differences? I assume if you’re working with translators, they’re translating into a native language that’s not English.
Christine: Right. Correct. It’s a challenge, but it’s been very successful. We’ve really branched out into the Scandinavian market. We just hired someone to help us with the Romanian and Italian. We’ll see how this goes.
Jeff: Excellent. How do you manage all this? You’ve got four kids. You’re a single mom. You’re running multiple websites. You’ve got a business partner and employees. What’s your secret?
Christine: I don’t know. I think multitasking. I work a lot. There are times when I’ll look up at the computer and I will see it’s 6:00 p.m. and I still have my pajamas on. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but you have to survive. I have to make sure that I’m feeding my family and taking care of employees. It’s teamwork. We all come together as a great team. It’s not me and not my business partner, it’s a team. We’re a well-run team.
Jeff: We’ve talked a lot about things that have gone well. I have two questions about things that haven’t gone well that I have to ask. Everybody’s done it. What kind of marketing did you try that just never worked for you?
Christine: I did try offline marketing for a while. That didn’t work because the casinos don’t like you leaving business cards in the bathroom.
Jeff: What happened with that? Tell me about that.
Christine: I used to leave big stacks in the ladies’ restrooms at casinos on the sinks. I finally had someone contact me and say could I please stop doing that. Also, in 2006, it just became pointless. I couldn’t do it anymore. If I lived in Europe, I still would continue to do that. The biggest learning fail was when I first started out, I would go to other forums and try to talk about my free chips or my promotions that I had. I realized people didn’t take well to that kind of advertising, and it was called spam. That was a big fail.
Jeff: Have you made any mistakes in the past year? Is there anything you’ve done really recently that you thought, “I’m really experienced. I should know better, but I’m just going to move on from it”?
Christine: I have a lot of “what was I thinking” moments. I really can’t think of any failed attempts. I try to make everything succeed that I do. I’m trying to think. I can’t really think right now of a failed marketing campaign. Some contests that I run or some special promotions that I run have not been successful. Maybe that’s due to the language barrier. I’m not too sure.
Jeff: I know Black Friday and the last week has thrown things into a crazy cycle for everybody. Are you think about a year or two, or three to fives years down the line? What are you looking to do? What are you really looking forward to?
Christine: We always think ahead, what the future might lead to and try to stay with the trends. So yeah, of course, I think every day. I was all geared and set and ready to embrace the online gambling in the States. I still think that will happen. My future is educating myself with the possibility of that happening, how do I integrate online marketing to land-based marketing, and how do I get the land-based marketing or casinos interested in our company. Those are our future plans. I plan on educating myself, meeting the people that I need to meet, and going forward with it.
Jeff: What’s your biggest motivator?
Christine: My children, making sure that they’re living a good life. I would like to retire very young. I think that everyone’s dream. I’m sure I’ll get bored. I will need to do something. I’m really looking forward to having the land-based casinos come online. That’s very exciting for me. I really want to branch out into that. I look forward to that day.
Jeff: Excellent. I do too. I think everybody involved does. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Christine: I look forward to my next vacation, because I’m very tired since last Friday.
Jeff: Where are you going?
Christine: I don’t know yet. I don’t have time to go anywhere right at the moment. I’ll be heading to Vegas the first of May for a conference and then the end of May to Dublin for a conference. I’ll be busy for a little bit. I think I will go white water rafting with my sons in July though. That’ll be fun.
Jeff: Thank you so much for your time today, Christine. We really appreciate it.
Christine: Thank you.