Casinomeister director and founder Bryan Bailey has been running his online portal since 1998, making him one of the most well-known and trusted sources in the industry. But did you know that for the last 13 years, he’s spent next to NOTHING on marketing dollars?With Casinomesiter’s high quality content, from news and webcasts to his forums and newsletters, Bailey has no need to shell out for marketing.
Calling his content “infotainment,” Bailey explains that creativity, engagement and humour can make you successful in this business. In the latest of our CAP video interviews installments, Bryan also discusses the why trust and transparency is crucial to success in the online casino industry.
Bryan Bailey is the founder and director of Casinomeister, one of the oldest online casino information sites, established in 1998. His veracity and “player centered” philosophy has influenced most of the pioneering online gaming entities, and has proven instrumental in giving players a fair and level playing field. He is also the owner and director of GoneGambling, also established in 1998, and one of the most popular online player communities.
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Thank you for your time and we hope you enjoy our video interview.
Warren: Hey guys. I’m Warren Jolly with CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com. I’m pleased to welcome today’s guest, Bryan Bailey, founder of Casinomeister. Launched in 1998, Casinomeister is a highly-regarded industry portal and forum, purposed on providing viable information to city card players, operators, and webmasters, from dealing with unscrupulous characters. In our interview, we’ll gain some deeper insight from Bryan as he shares some of his experiences and recommendations with other affiliates and industry folks.
Bryan, thanks for your time today. It’s great to have you.
Bryan: Yeah. Not a problem.
Warren: Let’s take a quick moment and tell our audience about your history and why you created Casinomeister.
Bryan: Okay. It’s a long history. Going back to the mid1990s, and I think a lot of people know that my background really isn’t in casino stuff. I have a military background, and I was also a commercial fisherman up in Alaska for a number of years. When I finally got out of the army, I went back to school. When I was in school I developed, I guess webmasters skills, back in the mid ’90s to build websites. While I was doing this, I was teaching at the same time, I finally got Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. My main goal in life was to write a great American screenplay. Didn’t quite work out, at least not yet. While I was teaching, I was also working on the side, working for a company that was developing, actually translating websites with this company. I worked there for, I think, couple of years or so.
We were approached by some of the online casinos back in like 1997 or so, and they wanted us to translate the websites. Sure we translated them and everything. And I’m looking at these guys, I said, “You know, come on, what a joke. These guys in the Caribbean someplace. Who’s going to get these guys credit card number, whatever?” Right? We translated them. The hack didn’t even pay us. I kind of blew it off, thinking, “Nah, what a joke.” Right? This was in San Diego, by the way.
We were finally approached by a one of the land-based casinos down in southern California. They actually had a website they were launching, or had been launched and CryptoLogic. They wanted to translate into several languages. They told us, “Hey, we don’t want to really invest this kind of money into this, because there’s so many crooks out there.” And I’m thinking to myself, “Well, maybe.” But, these are the good guys right? These real land-based casinos.
I thought to myself, “Hey, there’s an idea for a website.” That’s what I was always looking for was ideas, to make something for a website. I had few other things going on. I had one for beer in San Diego. I had one for all sorts of stuff. But this was, yeah, I go ahead and make a website called Casinomeister. On the website I’d have a forum, where people can come and explain, kind of give us, I guess, their experiences on an online gaming site.
I didn’t really know anything about it. I can have like a little news section, and then I list the casinos that are good and list the casinos that are bad. This was in 1998. So I launched it and I wanted to have like German-English, because I wanted it translated like, I guess, I had a plan to move back to Germany, which I did. That’s where I’m right now. And so that’s how it started.
We moved to Germany in 1999 and by this time, the site was just starting to pick up a little bit of traffic. Maybe 100 people a day or so. It was pretty cool back in the old days. Then I found myself being arbeitslos. I was out of a job because the company I worked for was a dot bomb. This is back in 1999, 2000.
So I found myself looking for work, but at the same time my site had picked up some. I was getting some more traffic. I was able to sell some of the ad space on the site. And I think I was first affiliate for a couple of the programs, like Inner Casino and the Sands of the Caribbean. So I thought to myself, “If I put 100% of my effort into the site, I can make it work.” That was in 2000, and from there it worked. So that’s how I got involved with the whole industry, I guess you might say.
Warren: So Casinomeister been around though probably for, sounds like 12, 13 years?
Bryan: 13 years.
Warren: Okay. So the audience that come to Casinomeister is it, where would you say they’re based geographically? Is it all over the world? Is it mainly English speaking in general?
Bryan: It’s worldwide. I say about 30%, between 30% to 35% is from the US. And the rest are from everywhere else. About 15% UK, 13% from Canada. Then it goes on Australia, Germany, France, that sort of the thing.
The majority before the UIGEA law that came into effect, in the 2006 whatever. I called it UIGEA. It was a horrible acronym. But my traffic back then it was about, between 60%, 70% US. Since then it flipped, it’s kind of flipped within a few months. Even though the traffic never died, it just stayed steady and that was a good thing. Not UIGEA, but traffic.
Warren: So UIGEA for those who don’t know is UIGEA, which is the law that was past 2006, basically banning online gambling in the US. We’ll call it UIGEA for this interview.
So in terms of your business model for Casinomeister, what, is it flat fee advertising, is it affiliate deals, how do you monetize the site?
Bryan: It’s a mixture. It’s a mixture. Back in the old days, back, I’m talking about like in 2000, 2001. Until like 2005, 2006, it was primarily just media buy. Which means the casinos would purchase ad space, per month, per quarter, whatever. I didn’t do much affiliate, as in revenue shares sort of deals.
Warren: It’s about 50/50 you would say?
Bryan: Maybe little more affiliate.
Warren: Okay. What would you consider the major reasons, why players come back to Casinomeister and trust the casinos you promote?
Bryan: I’ve always been, a real proponent for, “Content is king.” Right? It’s a site where you come there and get a lot of information and at the same time you’re being engaged.
This site’s been around, like I said, 13 years. It’s always had a forum; it’s always a place for players to come and talk about whatever. I have a list of the accredited casinos where we have actual standards they have to meet, which protect both the casino and the players. Casino knows they need to be up to standards, and I just don’t take on anybody. Players know this, or if they don’t know it, they get a good feeling. That’s what happens when you’re dealing with the site.
There are a lot of things going on with the site, you have the news, you have the forums, webcasts, newsletters. I have three different newsletters going up. One for players, one for affiliates, and one for industry folk. So there’s lot of things going on, that’s what makes things engaging, that’s why they keep coming back.
Warren: Okay. So why is trust in choosing the right operator to work with so important in this industry?
Bryan: Well, you’re not selling shoes. Trust is a must. You’ve got to be able to trust one another. And if you don’t have trust, you have nothing in this industry. Right? This is something crucial. So if you don’t have it, you really have nothing.
Warren: Okay. So speaking of the right operators, there’s lot of the industry folks look at what you’re promoting and who you are working with. Tell us who are your favorite operators and why?
Bryan: Well, that’s kind of a difficult question because I do have a lot of really great operators I deal with. I think most people should know that I deal with these operators usually face to face. I meet these operators. At some point in time, usually during the year, before anybody get’s on site, I require to a face-to-face meeting with the operators or their representative.
But the ones I enjoy the most, I would say 32Red, Club World, and mainly because these guys are really engaged. They’re really engaged with the players in the forum, they’re engaged with their affiliates. I know that these guys do the right thing, if the time does come for them to do the right thing. When it comes to deal with the players, affiliates or whomever.
Warren: So you look at Casinomeister as providing infotainment. Can you tell us a little more about what that means for our audience?
Bryan: Yeah. Here we are now, entertainers! Casinomeister has always been kind of quirky in a way because when I first started, I really wasn’t taken it all that seriously. I just wanted to have a good time. And if you’re not having a good time, with what you do, you’re in the wrong business, really.
So I do a lot of goofy stuff. I have a newsletter going out once a week. I have some jokes going on. In the old days, I had a lot of weird stuff happening on the site. I’d have a funny ad, like fake ads, lot of fake ad contests. I had a podcast I’d put out every couple of weeks or so, with lot of really goofy stuff.
Since then it’s always been quirky. Right? I think that this also engages people. The webcast and if you haven’t caught the webcast yet, you can catch it at YouTube. And I sit there and I crack myself up. It’s fun. Same thing with the forum, we have serious things happening on the forum. We’re talking about software; we’re talking about how the games are working; how people get ripped off here but not get ripped off there.
There’s a lot of stuff happening. At the same time we’re also engaging people with fun stuff, because it’s supposed to be fun, right?
Warren: If users haven’t seen your webcast, they can watch those on YouTube, you mentioned?
Bryan: Yeah. Go ahead and search for Casinomeister or go to Casinomeister direct link to go over the site.
Warren: Okay. And how many different type of beers have you featured on your webcast so far?
Bryan: Quite a few.
Warren: You seem to be quite the connoisseur.
Bryan: If you live where I live, northern Bavaria, you’d be doing the same.
Warren: I guess, I agree. How does your complaint system work and how effective it is in general, really?
Bryan: I’m sorry, didn’t hear you what?
Warren: How was complaints system, how does it work? How effective is it generally? I think you call it Pitch-A-Bitch, if I’m not mistaken?
Bryan: Pitch meaning a complain, and pitching is something like you pitch a story, trying to sell it. Same thing, Pitch-A-Bitch, you’re complaining, right? That’s what we call it—PAB system.
We’ve been doing this for a good 10 year or so. Max Drayman he’s my Pitch-A-Bitch Manager now. And he’s been doing that thing, for about 4 or 5 years.
It’s really quite effective. We deal with probably several hundred every year. There’s a section on the side that actually list all the Pitch-A-Bitches that we’ve had. And I think it is quite effective. This is for members, and what this is, is like, if somebody has a complaint about a casino, something legitimate, right?
They can come in, they join the forum, and they can actually Pitch-A-Bitch.They submit a complaint. Max, he gets the complaint and he’ll contact one of our casino representatives. Or if we don’t have a casino representative in the forum, I have massive list of people that can deal with these sorts of situations. We have about 200 representatives in the forum for him to deal with.
So it goes pretty quick. Most cases like these are resolved. Every once in a while we’ll have a case, where the casino decides, to speak to the hand sort of thing. Or they just don’t want to deal with it, deal with the player whatever. And so we’ll set up a warning system. Warning system, Max posts a warning in the forum; I’ll post it in the Rogue section, in the original casino Rogue section, right? This is the way of warning players about certain situations.
It’s not a way of . . . some people think we can blackmail casinos to do whatever we want. It’s not like that. It’s completely all out in the open, how we deal with these people. If a casino does end up getting into the Rogue section, there’s a way out. I’ve made this clear to everybody, that if they want to get out, they go to what’s considered the probation period, usually 60 to 90 days, where there are no complaints, and they resolved everything, they’re out of there.
So this works out for everybody. And also player really make decisions on where to play, where not to play also. Keep the operators inline, pretty much. Sometimes you don’t know there is a problem until it actually surfaces. “Hey, we’ve got a problem here.” And so it’s really a good thing and works out for everyone.
Warren: Okay. So you acquired GoneGambling.com not too long ago. Another portal that’s been around for a long time, I think at least eight, nine years if not longer.
Bryan: They’re 13 years.
Warren: Okay. 13 years. There you go.
So what is the future hold in Meisterland? I mean will we see more of this kind of consolidation? Are you looking to kind of build a portfolio? What’s the future here?
Bryan: That’s just it, I mean, I just try to stay on the path. I have GoneGambling now. That’s another community. Casinomeister have a lot of information on the site, and to add other community to that is quite important.
GoneGambling has a community as well, but it’s more of a Disneyland of online gaming. I did acquire it and it’s great, it’s really a fantastic site, has a lot of potential for it, and so we’re just kind of staying on the path.
The future of Casinomeister, mainly we had a mission statement from the get go. To provide information for online gamblers to be able to make decisions for themselves, make smart sense. And we stay with that.
Warren: Alright. You spend basically nothing to generate traffic to Casinomeister and GoneGambling, a little bit. How do you get your traffic, on a consistent basis?
Bryan: Again, it’s where you’re engaging people. And Casinomeister, like I said, been around for 13 years, and I’ve never spent any money doing any marketing. I did spend some, years and years ago. I spent like $50 a month on the goto.com, years ago. I don’t know what it was. But anyway. That was it.
We really rely on the viral effect, I guess, viral marketing. People coming in because they hear about it, it’s always been that way. Organic is the same thing. It’s really word of mouth, and it just pretty good.
Warren: So you saying having something unique that people want to talk about and share with others, that’s been the strategy that you deployed at a high level.
Bryan: Yeah. If you are able to engage people and you have a niche, or an audience you’re speaking to. And Casinomeister pretty much speaks to everyone. I have operators there, I have affiliates, I have players, non-players also. All sorts of people.
Warren: Okay. So looking at other webmasters and affiliates, I’m sure you’ve seen, and what do you think is the most common mistake that affiliates generally make?
Bryan: Three mistakes. I think one mistake is the obvious, not doing your homework. It’s so simple, if you have a website set up, and you want to get into the affiliate marketing sort of thing. First thing you want to do is use Google. Google is your friend. And Google the name of the affiliate programs, the names of casinos, and not just the name but like casino plus problems, complaints whatever. And I think you can get a good feel. You also can join places like GPWA, CAP, Casinomeister to get a good feel of what’s going on.
There’s too many affiliates that don’t do their homework, they end up promoting people who work on a limited budget and they get hit by a few players and everything takes a nose dive. Affiliates don’t get paid, players don’t get paid, and the company “poof!” disappears, and show up someplace else. So that’s one area.
There’s another area, there’s a lot of players, don’t take this wrong. A lot of affiliates spend too much time on the message boards. I think if some of these guys, unless you’re a moderator, or you’re running a message board. If you’re a moderator, yeah, you can be on a message board. But if you’re not, you’re actually spending your time on somebody else’s website. If you can focus all that effort, being on other website onto your own website, you’d probably see a remarkable change in what you can do with the website.
I think number three, they underestimate that there are areas within the online gambling that they could be promoting or getting different niches that sort of the thing. There are a lot of ideas that haven’t happened yet. So I think there are a lot of affiliates should be able to go out there and really do some brainstorming.
Warren: Be innovative and stay cutting edge.
Bryan: Yeah. You see the social networking that has been going on for the last several years. If somebody would have been able to get into that deeper, I think, they could, affiliate marketing or with affiliates, they would have very good shot at something great. Right now you see a lot of the social networking going on, like Casinomeister or GoneGambling these sorts of sites, they do have a social network. We kind of like piggybacking a little off of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter that sort of thing.
Warren: Okay. Great point, especially on the message boards. I guess as a portal owner, how do you ensure your online marketing knowledge stays sharp? What resources do you use to improve your skills?
Bryan: I think a lot of it is going by my gut instinct, which is actually providing a lot of good content, providing services for the players, to keep them engaged. I think that’s where it kind of worked out.
Again going back to content is king, and of course reading the news. Keeping up to snuff on what’s happening in Europe, what’s happening in US, going to conferences. I make about six to eight conferences a year. So this is, I think this really helps.
Warren: What’s your favorite conference?
Bryan: I love London, IC, Vegas of course. It’s changed. The whole industry has changed over the last several years. Conferences used to be a lot of fun, especially down in Barcelona. The whole industry used to be, I think, more enjoyable.
Now, it’s just different. It’s matured a lot. So you have old timers like myself to go there, and we even do a lot of social networking and having a good time. You still get many more suits now, and a lot of people you never seen before. Yeah. The ICE, I love London, and of course we have the Meister meeting there every year, and the G2 meeting in Vegas, that’s fun.
Warren: Definitely. It’s good seeing you there. Who are some of the affiliates that you believe are doing the right things and why? Who are some players, who are really cutting edge and innovative?
Bryan: Well, I don’t mean to be biased. I do have my moderators, my moderators are great. People like Ian Simms, you look at his sites and he is there to, I guess to better the online gaming environment by providing a lot of really useful information. I think that’s when you get down to it, it’s the webmasters who actually provide a lot of really good information, not just for players but affiliates. There’s some value with the site. Not just banners, message board and everything else. There is a service that Ian provides. I think that’s really great.
Warren: Okay. So we’re running a bit short on time. This will be the final question.
What would your advice be to someone looking at launch a gambling portal today?
Bryan: Not all the ideas have been out yet. There’s lot of niches out there that haven’t been hit up. I think if someone is just getting into it now, it’s going to be really tough. So they really need to understand, that they are not going to be making the money that they think they’d making during the first year or so.
It’s a tough market, but there are some niches that they can get into I’m sure. Come up with some great ideas and give something to the community where people want to come to your website because you’re offering some kind of service, via information. Something going on, some kind of social, something kind of connecting people to one another. I think that would be some good advice.
Warren: Okay. Great. Well, that’s great having you today, Bryan. Thanks so much for your time and sharing your experiences and expertise with our audience.
If anyone is interested in getting hold of Bryan at the end of this interview, please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be more than happy to get in touch.
Thanks for watching and stay tuned for future interviews with iGaming industry leaders. Take care.