When you’ve been in the iGaming industry for as long as Randy Layman has, one would think that you’d become a bit cynical and hard-edged.
That’s not the case with Randy– he genuinely seems like the nicest.guy.ever
, who truly values the friendships he’s made in the industry over the years.
Don’t mistake his sweet demeanor and charming Southern accent, though. This is one guy who is serious about SEO, and has the chops to back it up. In this video interview with CAP CEO Warren Jolly, Randy, who’s managed such sites as www.winningpoker.org
, serves up some real, concrete advice to getting your SEO on the right track. You do go back and read all of your pages to make sure they’re updated, current, and read well, right? If not, you need to hear what Randy Layman has to say about SEO and his thoughts on the biggest mistakes that affiliates make– including some mistakes of he’s own that he’s made.
About Randy Layman
Randy Layman is a seasoned affiliate who got his start in iGaming during the Moneymaker boom in the early 2000s. Since then, Layman has gone on to run major sites, from WinningPoker.org and TopCasinoBonus.org, to Internet Poker Bonus and and beyond. While running his own network of sites, Layman served as Poker Affiliate Manager for Simian Play (aka Rakeupdate) and started Online Poker SEO
as a consulting site. As if all of this weren’t enough, Randy is a proud husband and father of six– and an advocate for online poker in his home state of Arkansas.
Announcer: This CAP video interview is sponsored by the next biggest launch in online gambling. Want to learn more? To find out more and register for a chance to win one of five iPhone 5s and get special access to a premier gambling affiliate network, go to CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com/Invite or just scan the QR code on your screen. Thanks, and enjoy the video interview.
Warren: Hello, everyone. It’s Warren Jolly, with CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com. I want to welcome you to today’s interview with Randy Layman, who happened to be a very well-known and respected poker affiliate. I have actually known Randy myself for quite a few years, and have seen him and his business evolve. Randy began his career in affiliate marketing, like many of the other poker affiliates, specifically, playing poker during the Moneymaker boom.
Randy has worn many hats in the industry, which we’ll get to a little bit later, but today we will chat about Felt Media, a company that Randy owns, which specializes in SEO, marketing consulting as well as web design and site development. He’s even known to do a few political campaigns, which I will let Randy elaborate about, as well. For now, Randy is really focused on developing web apps and software that helps webmasters increase their conversions and have more control over their websites. Randy is here today to talk a little bit about what his experiences have been in the industry and what’s made him successful. Randy, it is great to have you here today.
Randy: Thank you, Warren. It’s great to be here.
Warren: You have had a really seasoned and impressive career in iGaming that has spanned many, many years. Just to start out, can you tell our audience a little about your history as an iGaming affiliate, as well as your own personal background?
Randy: Sure. It started, like a lot of affiliates, back in the Moneymaker boom. I started playing some poker, watching a lot of poker, and got really into poker. I joined a couple of poker forums and played a lot of poker. I worked in the corporate world for a good part of my life, doing legal work, consulting, regulatory, and compliance-type stuff. I am just one of those guys that always wanted to do better and find new things. I’m not really a handy guy, I am not a handyman-type guy, I cannot build a birdhouse, for crying out loud. I wanted to find a hobby I could do, so I got into a little bit of web design, using Lycos, Tripod, and things like that. Really easy, point and click stuff.
The more I got to playing poker, the more . . . I had some friends at that time. I used to have a forum called RidgePoker.com, back in the Moneymaker days, that was one of the largest, most active sites for a poker portal-type thing. I got to know the owner a little bit, and I realized there was a lot of money in that. I’ve got a pretty big family and extra money is always good. I started looking up ways to make a poker site. I had won quite a few decent-sized tournaments so I had a lot of friends that played poker, so we started talking about poker strategy and that kind of thing. Eventually it evolved into building a website with tournament poker, cash games, and sit-and-gos and it just grew from there. A lot like most poker affiliates, I started as a poker player.
Warren: What was the first website that you launched?
Randy: It was a site called RidgePoker. A lot of people on the forums and stuff called me Ridge. The place where I live, I live up in the Ozark Mountains and everybody around this area calls it The Ridge, so that is how I came up with that name. I built that site out, of course, I did not know a lot of what I was doing, I just did the best I could. I tried to make a decent design and focused on the content.
Warren: How did you make the evolution from working in the legal field to just jumping into online marketing? Is it something that caught your eye from just playing poker or did you have an interest? What was your transition like?
Randy: I think it was really that I wanted to make more money, more than anything, to be honest with you. While I was still working in the corporate world, and anybody that has worked in corporate America or anywhere really nowadays, you just never feel secure in your job no matter what your position is. Even though I worked for some great companies over the years and the company I worked with last is a large billion-dollar company, I wanted to make sure that if the next major issue happened in the world, I would not be out on my butt, so to speak, and not have an income. I do not ever want to be poor again, that was my whole thing. I did the website thing on the side and did my corporate job, and the more I got into that, the more I just really thought that maybe that was what I really wanted to do with myself.
Warren: A lot of people that come to us, and that are watching these interviews as well, are in that exact situation that you were in before you made the evolution. What is the one thing that you did in the beginning, whether it was hiring someone on an outsource basis to build a website for you or learning HTML, what was the one thing you did initially that really gave you the momentum to be able to be successful, as basic as it may be?
Randy: I think reaching out to people I saw that were successful is probably the best thing I ever did. Finding people that didn’t mind giving me advice and mentoring me, and just reading everything there was on places like CAP and back at that point, Jeremy owned PartyRiches, which was a wealth of information. GPWA, forums, communities, and blog posts. It was still a small industry back then, but you could see that there was big money in it, and big CPAs. Back then, anybody in the world could put money on a poker site, it was not like it is today. PayPal, you could put money on a poker site. It seemed like a fresh, booming industry, and we all know what the boom was like back in the good old days. I think, really, just finding places to talk to people that knew more about it than me, because I really just was a poker player first, so just finding people that knew more about the business side of it.
Warren: I know you found huge value in securing mentors when you were just starting out and I happen to know some of your mentors as well, personally. Who were your mentors, where did you find them, and why were they so important to your success?
Randy: Like I said, I found them on poker forums, actually. I have told this story a lot to people that know me. Randy Ray, who has been a big influence on my life personally and professionally, I think I met him, actually, he posted on a forum wanting somebody to build some sites specifically using FrontPage, which is one of the only programs I knew how to use at the time. I did not really have a lot of HTML or coding experience, but I had a copy of FrontPage. I talked to him and I think he was offering $75. To me, at that time, $75 was some good money; I could do a lot with $75 back then. I remember when I started, $200 for a template seemed way too high, I was not making any money doing it, so I had justify spending any money to my wife. That gave me a chance to build a site, make a little money that I could reinvest, and he gave me the job to build these couple sites and told me exactly what he wanted.
I went ahead and did it, and then he came back and said, “You know, I wanted this like this, and I wanted to do this because of this.”’ I thought he was crazy at first. I was thinking, “Who the hell is this guy? I know what I am doing, I have built a site before.” I went ahead and made the changes, and then I asked him, “Why are you having it done like this?” I started doing a little research on who this guy was and it turns out he was really well-known as an SEO in the iGaming space, good consulting for PokerStars, which, to me, that just put him above everybody else I knew in the industry. I did not know anybody that worked with a big, multi-million dollar room at that time, now they are billion-dollar room. I just started asking questions, and he started just giving me some tips and clues and giving me why he wanted certain things done. Thankfully, I was smart enough at that time to shut up and listen, and then it fostered into a nice friendship past that.
Warren: Randy is definitely a great guy. What do you think your biggest successes were as an affiliate throughout the evolution of your career?
Randy: The biggest success, I would say, is some of the sites I’ve built. While they made a lot of money, the money was good of course, but actually being able to create something that helped people, people enjoyed, and creating a resource. One of my old sites, which I do not have anymore, was called BeltPoker. We built up a nice, tight-knit community there in the forums, and it’s friendships that I still have to this day even though I do not own the site. Most everybody is not so much playing poker anymore, but we’ve met up in casinos and things like that. Just over the years, building up those friendships, building those connections, that is probably the best thing I have done for business and personally, too. It is people from all walks of life, from all over the world, all different backgrounds, and it is just great to build those friendships. Some of them have turned into business partnerships and things. It is easily one of the best things that could have happen to me.
Warren: That is really nice. You have built some key relationships that you will carry forward with you for the rest of your life. That’s really impressive, actually.
Randy: Yes, absolutely.
Warren: I know you are really active in the forums and just the general iGaming Affiliate community. What do you think are the most common mistakes that affiliates keep making, and what can they do to prevent making them in the future?
Randy: I would say probably the first mistake is trying to do too much, just trying to be a major site when they do not have the budget or experience for it. People want to jump into the market and look at a site like PokerListings, or PokerNews, or something like that, and what they do not understand is those are million-dollar businesses with large staffs, with a large budget. You don’t have to be that to make money, more than anything. If you expend all that effort even trying to get there, then you are missing out on the low-hanging fruit, so to speak. There are a lot easier ways to build a good resource without investing millions, having a big staff, or trying to be an “everything” site.
I think another issue is just trying to do too many things, and not focusing on one thing, and I have been guilty of this so many times. If I see a good domain, I will buy it and start building the site, then I start neglecting other projects. One of the best things I’ve been able to learn how to do is focus a little better on what I am trying to do and actually set goals to that. Don’t get involved in a dozen different things, because if you spread yourself around too much, you are not going to do well at anything. Some people can do that better than others, but personally, I have to focus a little bit. It gets monotonous sometimes, if you are writing 10 articles a day or constantly dealing in poker, but I keep it down to two or three projects, try to focus, and set goals for those. That is a big one.
The other one is I think people cannot believe everything they read on forums. It took me a long time to understand that. Not that people are intentionally misleading people, but you’re on poker forums, you are on the Internet, and sometimes you do not know people are just blowing smoke. Even though they have seen something that has worked and they are passing it on and it is great to give out good advice, sometimes there are some other factors in that they don’t consider. I have seen a lot of bad advice on forums, blogs, and things. Sometimes you have just got to do it yourself and test what works. A good buddy of mine on the PAP forums, MJ, he said something several times that always stuck with me; sometimes he will just throw things against the wall and see what sticks, then he will focus in a little more, and that is what you have to do sometimes. What works for my business, what works for what I am doing may not be right for you. That is a few things right there I think everybody should pay attention to.
Warren: I would have to agree with all three of those. Thank you for that advice. In terms of driving traffic, obviously, this is the biggest challenge that affiliates always have. “I have built a website, I have signed up for affiliate programs, I have written content. I have done everything I need to do. Why am I not getting any traffic?” I would like to ask you, Randy, first of all, what methods did you deploy to drive traffic? I know SEO is a big one for you. Is there anything else besides that? How did you make it successful for yourself? Again, if it was SEO or any other forms of traffic-driving, what was it that really helped you get that going and be able to drive the depositing players into the rooms?
Randy: To me, traffic is one of the easiest things to do. I’m not talking 10,000 visits a day or even 500. What I have found, dealing with clients and dealing with friends in my own sites, even back when I didn’t know what I was doing at all. I didn’t have a problem so much in getting a little traffic, 20, 30, or 50 visits a day, it was converting that traffic. The best thing to do for traffic, and everybody knows this, is content. What happens a lot is people get into that rut and they see PokerNews doing poker news articles and they see strategy sites doing strategy, and you have got to do something a little different. There is a lot of recycled content on thousands of poker sites, so you need to find your own little angle and what works for you.
For example, while we do do some strategy, reviews, and things like that, I like to do top-10 lists, top-5 lists, three mistakes that every poker player makes, or five reasons to avoid playing some kind of game. They know exactly what they are getting in the title and you give them 3, 5, or 10 things to do. Things like that tend to get shared more on sites and they tend to get people reading them more, more page views. Everybody has reviews, everybody has got bonus pages, and everybody has got all that kind of standard, generic stuff. If you can find something a little bit interesting, a little bit unique, that is going to help you build more traffic.
Warren: Really, predominantly for you, it is been SEO as a strategy, and I think you mentioned social media, as well. Are those are the two things you’ve used? Did you ever do any paid media, like PPC or media buying, or was it predominantly SEO and social media?
Randy: Not for gaming. I started post-PPC, back when everything first started going. I heard these great stories about people being able to do paid clicks and things like that. I never had a chance to do a lot of that. When I started, even though I was working in the corporate world, we did not have a lot of extra money, so I was always working on a minimal budget, so I never did PPC. Even when I started social media, it really was not the thing it is now. Facebook was not even a blip on the map back when I started. MySpace was there, but maybe I was just too old for MySpace, I don’t know. I never got into MySpace much. It is really just good content, sharing on forums and stuff, and telling my friends locally about things. A lot of my family was into poker, we had our home games with a lot of my friends and everybody was watching it on ESPN. You are talking the height of everything, when you said poker people knew what you were talking about ESPN and Texas Hold ‘Em-type stuff. Just really doing some content and things like that is really where I always built my traffic.
Warren: Did you write your content yourself in the beginning, or did you have writers?
Randy: Yes, mostly me. My wife helped a lot; she actually has been playing poker longer than me. She grew up playing poker so she has just always been into that stuff. I remember the first time I ever played poker was on Paradise Poker and she stuck me $50 on there after I watched Moneymaker. I said, “Hell, I could do that,” and she stuck $50 on there for me and I think she got a $50 bonus, and I did not hardly mess with the Internet at all back then. I went to play later that night and she had lost it all. It started from there and I ended up playing on Paradise.
Warren: Let us touch on SEO just really briefly. You have managed to rank for some pretty competitive money terms around PokerStars, I know, as well as Party Poker. This is obviously a really competitive side of poker SEO, a lot of affiliates are trying to rank for these, what we call money terms. For those of you watching, who do not know what a money term is, essentially, really the keywords that convert into depositing players at a high ratio. If you rank for a term and it is not driving depositors, it really does not do you a whole lot of good as an affiliate.
One of the things you mentioned, Randy, is you have never really spent a lot of time or money on link building, which I find really interesting. A lot of affiliates try to go get links and that is what they obsess about. You focused on SEO with your elbow grease, the content creation, and any social media you have done. Tell me why you decided not to do link building or ever focus on it, and what were some of the results you were able to achieve?
Randy: As I said earlier, I never had a big budget. Even if I wanted a bunch of links, I couldn’t afford it when I first started. I did link exchanges and every once in a while I would find a link or I would write an article for a friend on their site and get a link back, that is more of the link building stuff I did. I have never really had a big budget for link building. While it’s an important factor, I think especially now, and we might get into that a little later, but so many links are just being devalued and have no value at all. I still see a lot of people wasting a ton of money buying links that are not doing them any good. Links are good, if you can get good quality links, great. It is just such a narrow, narrow market right now to find links.
Warren: Rather than buying links or going out and acquiring them through link exchanges, obviously, for you to be able to rank for these money terms that are highly competitive you were probably getting links organically. How do you think you were able to get those links just coming to you?
Randy: One of the ways was, as I said earlier, writing some kind of unique content; ‘Five Ways You Can Make an Extra $100 a Day Doing This,’ or something like that. If you can find some unique content like that or some link-based content, it tends to get linked more. We did a series on Poker Stars’ Double or Nothing Tournament games when they came out, is a good example. We did an eBook, 10 articles, and did a whole email campaign with it. It did end up getting a lot of natural links from Two Plus Two, different blogs, other affiliate sites, forums, and things like that. That was all organic; we didn’t pay for any of that.
One day we wrote something and it was really game-specific, something really focused that people were into. I don’t think they do the Double or Nothing Tournaments anymore, but we still get a lot of traffic for those terms and a lot of people are signing up from the eBook and things like that. If you write good content like that, you will actually get some natural links. I hear people say, “You can’t get organic links in the gaming industry.” It’s not easy but, really, it is not easy in any market, but if you can write some good content, you can get some natural links and those are a lot more powerful than your paid links and things of that nature.
Warren: It sounds like you are almost obsessed about creating high-quality content that made you different from all your competitors out there, which a lot of people tend not to do. Good to hear that. You were talking about some of the terms. Just out of curiosity, what were the highest traffic terms or maybe the most competitive terms you ranked for? Could you share a couple of examples with our audience just to understand the results you were able to achieve?
Randy: Probably a common one would be “PokerStars bonus code,” or “PokerStars marketing code.” A lot of PokerStars and Party terms like that. I want to be clear because I have had a lot of people say, “You are just bonus code hunting and poaching players,” and things like that, but it really was not the intent initially. It was really just trying to provide every . . . if you have got a site like PokerStars that is super competitive, but a lot of people still play there, you have got to find some different angles to go at it. I have seen sites that are just built around specific rooms like that, that have 50 articles, and it is basically targeting every single term like that. That is a way you can bypass the whole having to link build and get some of that low-hanging fruit, is to try and hit the oddball terms. A good example would be the PokerStars radio. Believe it or not, I started to get a lot of searches for “PokerStars radio bonus codes.” I don’t even think they have a radio bonus code but once I saw searches for that we wrote an article and included, “This is your PokerStars radio bonus code,” and it converted like crazy.
If you can get some of those terms, I hear too, a common misconception is that everybody in the world has a PokerStars or a Party Poker account and they’re not worth promoting, that is simply not true. I know just a couple of years ago, or just within the last year and a half, you have got to keep in mind I sold a lot of my sites earlier in this year, but at one time I was getting 20 to 30 sign-ups a day for PokerStars and more, sometimes, for Party Poker. That’s a lot of new players coming in. Is the market saturated? Sure. There are still a lot of players wanting to play there, there is new people playing poker every day.
Warren: That’s really insightful. Thanks for that. In terms of just SEO in general, I know part of your business at Felt Media is consulting and you work with some companies on the SEO consulting side. What has that taught you, in terms of that experience, and also, what advice can you share with other casino/poker affiliates as it relates to Google Panda and Google Penguin?
Randy: Consulting for different affiliate companies, poker rooms, and things like that is just an awesome experience because you get to see it . . . Anytime me and you poker, I always learn something I did not think of, did not know about, or would not have thought of otherwise. Working and talking to different people like that is just a great way to find new angles on things. You always have to be constantly learning. If you put the blinders on today and do not learn anything for a month or two, you are going to be way behind on the game. That is in any market, not just the affiliate market or the gaming market. Whether it’s dating, fitness, you name it, things change rapidly on the Internet. I am sure all of y’all know that, but it is something to keep in mind. What was the other part of your question? I am sorry.
Warren: That is alright. As far as it relates to Google Penguin and Google Panda, obviously, your key forte is SEO and you were working with other companies on SEO, as well. What can you say about Penguin and Panda that other affiliates may not be thinking about or may not realize?
Randy: I think the common theme of it all is Google’s intent was to push out some of the garbage sites, some of the sites that we’ve all built that are just geared toward the search engine for one reason or the other. I think it hurt a lot of webmasters. I did have some sites affected and I did have some friend’s major sites affected, it was a real kick in the pants to a lot of people. It’s not perfect, the algo changes weren’t perfect, but the overall intent was to focus a little more on quality and less on just the keyword-stuffing-type things and the low-quality content. Really, while there were a lot of people affected, there were a lot of people that weren’t super affected by it. If your whole intent when you are building a site, if you keep asking yourself, “Is this a good page? Is this what they are going to be looking for? If somebody comes to my site looking for an honest PokerStars versus Party Poker comparison, does this give them the information they want?” If you just ask yourself those questions while you are writing that page or if you’re approving that page, if you have writers, just be an honest critic of yourself and your sites. Keep that in mind and be harsh on yourself sometimes.
I have written content and I have had my wife read it and she will say, “This is junk.” She’ll come back and edit it and fix it. I need that sometimes because I know what I can put that will get by with the search engine, but sometimes I do not think, “Am I providing concise information for the user and really providing something that needs to be there, other than just another generic page, because I think I have to have another review or I have to have a bonus code page?” We all get into a rut sometimes. We just put our blinders on and say, “I have got to have 10 room reviews up, 10 bonus code pages, 10 promotion pages, and a deposit page.” Sometimes you just need to look at it and say, “Is that really the quality I want to put out there?”
Warren: In summary on that, on both those updates, what is the one thing you would say every affiliate should be doing, as it relates to these two updates, to prevent their sites from getting either hit or damaged by the update, in terms of the SERPSs or to be able to recover if they have already been hit?
Randy: I think I can give you two big things that I have seen, and I have seen it work well. I think the biggest thing is going through your old pages, re-reading them, making sure they are updated, making sure the information is current, and make sure it reads well. Then the second thing is to date your pages. I see a lot of people still not doing that. If you update a page, somewhere on that page you should have ‘updated on this date,’ because Google does see that. We know a couple years ago, they were moving towards real-time search results, they wanted to give up-to-date information. They were pulling Twitter data, which I know they are no longer doing, they got their own thing in place now.
They want to look at pages and see if this page is from five years ago, five months ago, or five days ago. If you update a page or you create a new page, date that page. Even if you make just a small revision, you need to make sure it is got an updated date. It is a simple thing to do and it tells you when you last updated it and also search engines. Not just Google, but Bing, and all of them look at that, and users look at that. They do not know if that information is current. So if you have got a page with some information, as a player, I want to know; how valid is this information? When was it last updated? That is a couple simple things right there, just go through your content, make sure it is updated, and give the date.
Warren: Those are great. Thank you for that. I agree, I think search engines are starting to think like user, so from a usability standpoint, those tips mean a lot, too. That is definitely helpful. I know one of the things you really focus on and that you have been tinkering around with is just testing, in terms of conversion testing or split testing. What have you done there, and what has been the craziest thing you’ve ever tested that has worked?
Randy: Testing is one of those things that can make all the difference in the world. For the first few years I was really doing websites and stuff, I didn’t test a whole lot. I put a site up; if it wasn’t converting then I would just try something else and would not really do much with the page. Then the more involved, really smart people got into affiliate marketing and the web overall and they started to come up with all kinds of testing and split testing tools, and things like that. It wasn’t too long before I saw some good score tests I could recreate and try them out, and just the smallest things make a huge difference in terms of conversions; the button color, button text, call-to-action text, and things like that. Sometimes, if you are getting traffic to a page and they are not converting, there is a reason. It is not hard to figure out what you can do different. Even just a 5% or 10% increase in conversions can really put some more money in the bank.
Some things I have done, is we have created some plugins. We are still developing a lot of WordPress apps and plugins. I am not a programmer, so I can do some basic stuff. I can do some CSS, but I am not a programmer or a designer. I needed help to be able to control my website a little bit more. We have come up with an app that lets me put up a nice call-to-action for a product or a room, and it lets me test any variation of button color, button text, and things like that. I remember for years I had “Download now” for a call-to-action in poker rooms and stuff. What I found out over the years is that inherently people distrust things on the Internet, we all know that. They really distrust downloading something from a website that they are on for the first time. Even though I was sending them to an affiliate site to download it, from their point of view, it still looked like they were downloading stuff from my site.
Changing “Download now” to “Claim your bonus now,” had a huge increase in conversions. Same with the button color, red does not convert as well as blue. Green does not convert as well as black, just little things like that that you learn. Of course, every site is different, every market is different, but split testing is just a huge part of what every webmaster should be doing. Small changes can make a huge difference.
Warren: Very helpful. Thank you. I know you mentioned earlier in the interview you have a big family. If I understand correctly, you must be a master of time management. You’ve got a family with six kids, you run your own websites, and you manage a consulting business. How in the world do you make this happen? When do you sleep? What is the system you use? Share your secret with us.
Randy: I left the corporate world a couple years ago. Actually, my last day in the corporate world was on Black Friday, April 15th, 2011.
Randy: It was a hell of a day. I really thought the whole Internet was playing a prank on me.
Warren: Could not have picked a better day.
Randy: I know. At the time I was doing consulting, I was working for a company, running my own business, and I was working in the corporate world. I was basically balancing three jobs, sleeping very little and not spending the time I wanted to with my family. We were making a lot of money, which was great, but as anybody knows, money just does not . . . at the end of the day, your kids do not really care if you have got a lot of money or not, as long as they got a roof and some toys, or if you have got teenagers, like I do, cars and things like that and they are pretty happy. It does not take too long to figure out that there was more to it. I left the corporate world and just started trying to balance everything a little better, and that helps some. Most of all, as far as being good at time management, my kids are good at telling me when we need to take a little break, take a vacation, go play a round of golf, and just do some family time. More than anything, I’ve got to say my wife keeps me grounded, on track, and focused on what is important.
Warren: Very nice.
Randy: That is the best thing in the world is having a good partner.
Warren: Absolutely. Good. Somehow you manage to make it all happen, so that is good for you. I think this is the question we were all thinking about, and I am sure you are thinking about it since you are in the affiliate space. The US market is changing a lot, there is going to be some new opportunities that are going to be arising, hopefully, for affiliates. What are you doing, Randy, to prepare for just being able to capitalize on the regulations happening in the US, for poker?
Randy: Right now it is so up in the air. I want to be optimistic that things are going to get regulated. I really think when it is regulated it is going to be regulated on a state level more than anything. I hated to see what was coming out of Nevada with the whole affiliates having to pay a few grand. I know you guys did an interview with an affiliate that got that going. I hope that at some point the government looks at trying to regulate everything for the tax benefits.
Black Friday hurt a lot of Americans, a lot of companies, people, and families. I am hoping eventually, the government regulators will take notice of that. I think the best thing we can all do is try to be an advocate. The Poker Players Alliance do some good things, and a lot of people gripe about them and they are not super happy with them, but if you took the Poker Player Alliance out and we are really without a voice on Capitol Hill. I think supporting the Poker Players Alliance, supporting people that advocate regulation, and I think people need to be careful not to get caught up in it.
Four years ago, in 2008, people were saying, “A poker player’s best friend is going to be Barack Obama, or whoever.” I understand their logic behind that, but I do not think we can expect the Federal Government to really initiate a whole lot of change. So far they have really hurt a lot of Americans with the Department of Justice seizures and things like that. They took a lot of money out of the American economy at a time it did not need to be, it was the worst possible time for it. What I have been doing, personally, I live in Arkansas and I have a State Senator that lives nearby us and she is a great lady. I have worked with some other political figures in Arkansas and I actually opened up that discussion with them and said, “Here is the big risk.” The big risks are not poker players losing their house or anything, anymore than they will at Tunica, Vegas or downtown LA at The Commerce or something like that. That is not the big risk, the big risk is stifling people’s innovation and ingenuity. The Internet is, I would say, easily taking over the world. There are a lot of businesses that rely on the gaming industry as a whole. Places like Vegas, there is a whole ecosystem around that, from writers to designers, consultants, marketing guys like myself, or companies like you that help review some of these programs, companies like Jeremy’s company, PAL, that helps connect affiliates with some of these operators because there is a big disconnect.
I think the best thing we could all do is talk to people on a state level and try to just make issues known. If you talk to a lot of people, they still think poker is totally illegal, it is some big, underground smoky room kind of thing. Really, it’s some legit businesses. You and I personally know people that run businesses overseas that employ a dozen, if not hundreds, of people throughout the world, not just operators, but affiliate companies. There’s a whole livelihood in that for so many people.
Talking to my local State Senator or even some of the city council people, they are blissfully unaware that so many people were affected a couple years ago when Black Friday happened. They were put out of business in the US at a time in the middle of a recession, unemployment rates skyrocketing, and national debt skyrocketing. Why not try to find a way to regulate it, and I think it would really boost the economy in the end. It is not going to fix everything, but right now every day there is payment problems with players because there are rooms that are not regulated, rooms that do not answer to anybody, like Full Tilt. We all know what happened there, UB and AP. There is a better way to do it.
While what is going on now is not perfect, I think it could be a lot better and I just think people really need to just educate people, educate players; educate everybody you know, especially at state level. There is a bill right now in Arkansas to allow some land-based casinos. There’s currently no casinos in Arkansas, legally. Tunica, which is right below Memphis, a few hours from here, is the closest place we can go and legally gamble. The Vegas casinos and the Tunica casinos keep suing these people, and this is a chance to open up some poker rooms here Arkansas.
Warren: It seems there is a lot of money leaving the local economy, either on a state level or a federal level, I think that is absolutely true. I think there are opportunities to make it a regulated market is where everyone needs to focus. Is your intention to stay as an affiliate once the market gets regulated, or are you planning on moving into other verticals?
Randy: We work in other markets now, it just depends how it goes. Right now there’s probably $20,000 or $30,000 that is stuck, whether it be Full Tilt, UB, AP, or even some companies that are still operating that I cannot get my money, being in the US, unless I open a bank account, give them a blood sample, hell, I do not even know what I have got to do. They have come up with every excuse in the world to tell us that some of these operations need to be shut down. If it is every truly regulated, they will not be able to operate like that. Just imagine, whoever is watching this, if the US market was regulated and what we do is on the up and up, and payments was not an issue, and expanding was not an issue, how many more people could you employ? How many more sites could you build? How many more designers could you put to work? How many writers could you put to work? There’s so many benefits if we could just get past the hurdle.
Warren: It seems like a topic you are really passionate about, Randy, and I appreciate your insight and view on that. Just for time purposes, we will go ahead and wrap things up. It is been a great interview having you on here, Randy. Thank you a lot for your insight, expertise, and tips that you have offered for new and seasoned affiliates alike. If anyone wants to get a hold of Randy after the interview, please send an email to interviews@CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com. Thank you for watching, and stay tuned for future interviews with industry leaders.