GVC Holdings Reputation Harmed after Cashcade Affiliate Program Closure

Founded more than a decade ago, GVC Holdings has become one of the big players in the online gambling space. The group manages a number of iGaming brands in a number of jurisdictions. It also owns a B2B business and thus, provides other gambling operators with multi-channel gambling solutions.

February 1, 2016 was an important date in the gambling group’s history as that was the day when the acquisition of fellow operator bwin.party digital entertainment was completed. The deal strengthened GVC’s presence in multiple markets and added more established brands to its portfolio.

The group itself would probably attribute its current status of one of the iGaming industry’s big names to a carefully considered and planned growth strategy, key acquisitions over the years, and the hard work of its employees and executives.

However, we are rather curious whether there would be any mention of affiliates as significant contributors to GVC’s growth. Affiliate marketing has turned into an important, indispensable, part of the iGaming industry and it will be very rude, to say the least, to neglect or denounce this fact. But recent developments, broadly commented on the GPWA forum, show that the gambling operator discussed in this article may not be sharing this opinion.

The Cashcade Affiliate Program Closure

GVC recently closed its Cashcade, the affiliate program that had been vested with the promotion of its bingo brands. Affiliates were given last-minute notice of its decision. And there was much more to the story. It became clear that the operator was closing its existing affiliate program only to transfer it to a new platform. To many the switch to a new program may sound like a good thing, a move manifesting the company’s willingness to improve, to follow the industry’s trends.

However, affiliates did not welcome the move. Not only were they informed that they had several days to remove promotional materials related to GVC’s brands from their websites, but they also found out that their lifetime revenue sharing contracts were no longer valid. In other words, affiliates were once again stung with the realization that lifetime not always means for life in our industry.

Is this a fair treatment to businesses that have been referring players to the operator for years and have helped it build its own business? Absolutely not. And over the past several weeks, GVC has not done much to show that it considered affiliates valuable to its multi-brand business. It has provided little to no official explanation about its decision. In fact, as APCW’s J. Todd has repeatedly said in a series of videos dedicated to the topic, neither GVC Holdings’ CEO Kenneth Alexander, nor other representatives of the group’s management team have made any comments in regard to their decision.

During this year’s London Affiliate Conference, affiliates that had promoted the operator’s bingo services were eventually able to talk to GVC bingo representatives, although their attempts to have their lifetime revenue share agreements restored did not yield any positive result.

The explanation they got from the operator’s Head of Bingo was not one that demonstrated any concern with the fact that GVC was losing partners that had been indispensable part of its promotional efforts for years and even for a decade or so. In a nutshell, it turned out that the lifetime revenue sharing scheme was no longer feasible for the operator and it had decided to ditch it.

What is more, according to GPWA members and long-time bingo affiliates that had the chance to talk to GVC representatives during the conference, the company would be very selective when picking the partners it is to work with in future. Good for GVC, as big bingo affiliates have stated openly that they will no longer be promoting its brands. And to give a better understanding of how wrong GVC has gone this time, we should say that WhichBingo, one of the longest running and most popular bingo affiliates, has also been among those affected by the operator’s recent decision and also among those that will no longer refer players to a company that has shown nothing to prove that it cares about its partners.

History of Affiliate Unfriendly Practices

It is sad to see that GVC has apparently not learnt a lesson or two from the past. Although the operator and its many brands may be offering quite a pleasant gambling environment for players, some of the affiliate programs behind those brands have a very negative, roguish even, record of unfriendly practices towards their affiliate partners.

One particularly striking example of unfair treatment of affiliates can be used for the purposes of this article. In 2010, the operator decided to treat (or rather to trick) affiliates by introducing retroactive modifications to its bewinners affiliate program that were so crammed full of predatory provisions that it did not take long before it was declared rogue.

As mentioned above, bwin.party became part of GVC Holdings in February 2016. And bwin.party was formed from the merger of bwin Interactive Entertainment and PartyGaming in 2011. Prior to that, bwin was a brand that enjoyed quite a wide customer base and that could have been attributed to its affiliates, among many other things.

Going through all the predatory clauses would take way too much time, but there were several that struck as particularly shocking. In the first place, it seemed that bwin would have kept paying lifetime commissions but at the extremely low 5% rate on players that had played on its websites for more than three years.

Under the new T&Cs, an affiliate was to lose a player, if the latter had not deposited for 90 days. A quota was also introduced to affiliates. They were to have their contracts with the program terminated, if they failed to bring depositing customers within three consecutive months. Last but not least, affiliates were to lose their commissions if they failed to make online invoice within a calendar year after the commission had been credited.

The retroactive changes quickly earned bewinners a reputation of a rogue affiliate program and a multitude of affiliates simply decided to direct their promotional efforts to other, more friendly programs.

Here it is important to note that GVC had no relation to bwin at the time of the above-mentioned occurrence. However, the operator now owns bwin’s brands, and the mere fact that it has introduced changes to its bingo affiliate program in a manner that strikingly resembles an attempt to rob its partners raises many questions. And the fact that it is now associated with an operator whose affiliate program had introduced retroactive changes with the intention to rob its partners raises even more questions. Mainly ones related to GVC’s loyalty to affiliates that have been loyal to its brands for many years.

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