Player poaching is one of those tolerated, but ethically dubious, practices that’s existed as long as casinos, of any kind, have existed. Technically, there’s nothing illegal, or even immoral, about one affiliate doing anything it takes to grab a player, that’s what businesses do.
White hat poachers, if you will, operate in the open, offering good deals to players with full transparency in their business practices. Black hat poachers on the other hand conduct their business in the shadows. Often times, their players don’t even have an idea that their latest casino move is costing someone else a lot of money.
So let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of player poaching in the iGaming world.
How Poaching Works
How you define player poaching may have a lot to do with which side of the transaction you’re sitting on. If you’re losing players to a competitor, you probably think that they’re poaching your players. If you’re the one getting players, you probably see the practice as a legitimate sales and marketing technique.
No matter how you view it, here’s how poaching usually works. An affiliate will combs poker rooms and online casinos in search of high rolling whales who are dropping big bucks. He or she contacts the player and offers them better bonuses and other incentives to switch to his affiliate partners.
But here’s where things get shady.
Poachers usually require their new players to clear their cookies before taking advantage of their new, great deal. Of course clearing the cookies clears the way for the poacher to seal the deal on a new conversion while the original affiliate loses out. Again, nothing illegal, but definitely shady.
When casinos poach players, it’s generally referred to as shaving (though that’s not the only type of shaving). In this scenario, existing players are offered new deals from casinos that involve clearing cookies and basically starting a new account. The old player disappears off the affiliate partner revenue rolls and the casino keeps the player.
Unlike poaching from another affiliate, this form of poaching is sometimes a violation of terms and conditions.
Pros of Poaching
If you’re not uncomfortable with moral gray areas, player poaching is a great way of grabbing new players. After all, when they’re already playing, you know they’re definitely going to be depositing.
Marketing and advertising is expensive, but poaching is very cost effective. After all, someone else has already done most of the leg work to coax the player into conversion, so poaching is practically free.
Downside of Poaching
So what’s the down side to player poaching? For starters, you’re taking advantage of another affiliates’ hard work and, for all practical purposes, you’re also stealing money out of their pockets. There’s a decent chance that the original affiliate may have enticed the player with bonuses or rebates that came out of his or her own pocket.
In many ways, a poached player is like a spouse you’ve stolen from another man or woman. If that player didn’t mind leaving his original deal for your deal, there’s a good chance he won’t mind leaving you for someone else either. Players are very aware of poaching and are more than happy to play one affiliate against another.
Poaching adds a dash of instability to an industry that’s got plenty of instability already (thank you Department of Justice). It also increases the incentive for other affiliates to recoup the cost of their own lost players by poaching from you.
We’ve pointed out that there’s nothing illegal about player poaching and many affiliates simply see it as the cost of doing business. But just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right thing to do.
How do you feel about player poaching? Share your thoughts with us on our Affiliate Scams and Warnings Forum.