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Paul Ross Tribute

“The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright”

In Lewis Carroll’s poem, the Walrus and the Carpenter, the two principle characters deceive a colony of young oysters in to lining up thinking they’re going to hang out with them for a pleasant chat. Unbeknownst to the shell-dwellers, this was all just a plan for them to become snack-fodder for our cunning protagonists.

I’m not suggesting that Paul Ross selected the Walrus and the Carpenter pub over the road from Old Billingsgate to host his bygone LAC meetings with affiliate managers out of any foreboding sense of literary-based predilection – it was simply the closest boozer. But as every affiliate manager who dodged the dual carriage-way traffic on Lower Thames Street to make it to the Walrus will testify, the reality of the meeting with Paul and one of his Punters Lounge sidekicks was anything but a tea party.

One element of Paul’s character that I’ve heard echoed since his sad passing on Friday night was his generosity. For every Jack Daniels-heavy expense receipt that was logged by the affiliate manager he hammered to land the commission deal he wanted, there were ten stories of how ‘Sir Puntalot’ had served to help within the community he had built – the first betting forum in the UK – and the industry in which he worked. Punters Lounge Technical Director Stephane Travostino refers to Paul as “the most generous person I have ever met in my career”. There was material generosity, but all the stories I’ve heard of Paul really zero in on his generosity of spirit and of time.

I can speak to both. In his final months, when he knew that his time was running short, Paul was generous enough to give some of it to me, providing some of the greatest and – in a way that only Paul could do without offending – frankest advice I’ve ever been given. He went out of his way to address problems I was facing when his outlook was evidently bleaker. I can’t thank him enough for that.

The reaction to Paul’s passing has hit Punters Lounge members hard, but it has given those who so enjoyed the forum community Paul built the chance to thank him and to share their thoughts and memories.

His colleague Steve Day summed up what ‘Ross the Boss’ had built with Punters Lounge. “His enthusiasm for Punters Lounge was infectious. I’d struggled to buy into any roles I’d previously had when it came to work. Paul made it easy to fully invest in this place. He not only believed in what Punters Lounge was and should become, but he also believed in those that wanted to make it happen”.

That included every one of the forum’s contributors, who were treated to some of the most entertaining race day outings imaginable thanks to the forum’s success. I went on one of them – PL Raceday XVI back in 2013. This involved an overnight stay in Wolverhampton, a coach ride seeing the farmyard sights of the Black Country with 50 or so forum members – or as PL member ‘aliando’ calls them, “like-minded lunatics”, who had flown in from beyond the British Isles, a chilly, wallet-emptying afternoon at Ludlow racecourse, followed by an unsteadying evening at the renowned Crooked House pub in Dudley. At the centre of it all was Paul, who put on one of the most fantastic racing hospitality events that I’ve ever been to, that day. Give me Paul’s Ludlow over the Queen’s Ascot any time.

It’s easy to see why those race days attracted so many from so far and to see how Punters Lounge has grown to become one of the leading sports betting affiliate sites anywhere on the planet. One of his long-time PL sidekicks Graham Sarson shares the recipe for Paul’s secret sauce. “He tried to make engaging on the forum a pleasurable experience and likened it to going down the pub. I think to this day we still have that feeling about the place”.

Paul was especially proud of the recognition the site received being named as one of the EGR Power Affiliates in both 2019 and 2020. This pride was stooped in the blood, sweat and tears that Paul has given Punters Lounge. There were good times, but like most single site affiliates, there really were bad times. Unlike many webmasters I deal with, Paul always told you about them. He was refreshing, always to the point and ever-ready to provide advice – whether you wanted to hear it or not.

His long-time friend and fellow affiliate Danny Campbell recalls such a time. Paul forwarded him a series of emails he had been swapping with an affiliate manager. “His payments had been delayed and they were attempting to change his commission structure against his wishes”.

“Paul forwarded me the email thread and proceeded to be very vocal about the affiliate manager’s ability to do their job… in what can only be described as very colourful terms. The mistake he had made though was to copy the affiliate manager into the forwarded email he sent to me. The affiliate manager called me up. I spent 15-20 mins telling them Paul was a good bloke and must have just been having a bad day. They came close to suspending his account. I’m not sure to this day if Paul ever had to meet this affiliate manager again at a conference, but I would have loved to have been there and listened to their conversation.”

No doubt it would have been forthright and honest.

Paul spent his final months driving Punters Lounge forward. The site and the forum are better placed than ever and they will continue to be the unique betting community that Paul strove to build with such wholehearted dedication.

Graham added that “Paul was the most optimistic boss I have ever worked for. ‘This time next year’ was his favourite saying”. It is incredibly sad that Paul does not get to see what that next year brings – tragically cancer sees Paul leave behind his young son Anton, sister Kayla, his father and a community of friends hell bent on continuing his legacy.

To honour that legacy, I’m delighted to announce that there will be another Punters Lounge Raceday – or more specifically a Paul Ross Memorial Raceday – at some point soon. All those affiliate managers Paul put through their paces are welcome as part of the community – but please expect to see oysters on the menu.

My Hepatitis C Story

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For 33 years my life has taken a path it wasn’t supposed to.

Whilst that life has been extraordinary and full of immense joy and I wouldn’t change it one bit, in October last year I learned that it had been limited. I learned that the immense tiredness I suffer from – which I had put down to the normal life of a new parent running a business; that the aches, pains and lack of fitness – which I had put down to a naturally sedentary lifestyle and poor diet, all had a hidden cause found in an event that took place on 30th April 1986, when I was just two years old.

I was born with a ventricular septal defect, more commonly known as a hole in the heart. My parents sought the very best treatment they could afford. I was fortunate enough to be placed under the care of one of the leading cardiologists in the world and one of the world’s leading heart surgeons. I underwent surgery in one of the leading private hospitals in the world to repair the VSD and, to the relief of my parents, all had gone to plan. I knew no difference, of course, and annual check ups with this world leading cardiologist followed and aged 16, I was given the all clear to live a full and normal life.

To my parents, further relief. To me – carte blanche to do what any teenager in the 1990s did… drink to excess whenever I could get away with it. University followed and then a career in an uber-thirsty industry. It’s safe to say the drinking mantra really held true.

From my mid-teens, my ability to recover from physical exercise got progressively worse. I suffered from foot, knee and then chronic back pain. Several attempts at personal training courses and marathon preparation ended in failure as they destroyed my body and spirit. Just an unfit, overweight so-and-so who couldn’t stay the course, I told myself. A failure…

On 18th October 2018, I learned that the failure was not mine. Several weeks prior I had been laid up in bed with unusually severe joint and muscle pain – similar to those experienced with bad flu, without the headache – and – rarely for me – I sought the doctor’s help. Blood tests ensued and I was referred to a consultant haematologist via my private medical insurance on the basis of suspected haemochromatosis – a condition that sees your body keep too much iron in the blood, leading to joint pain. A further benefit to my private medical cover was more extensive tests. Whilst away on business in Lisbon, I received a call from the consultant saying that, whilst I didn’t have haemochromatosis, the tests had thrown up a surprising result.

I had Hepatitis C.

She went through common causes of the disease, all tied to person to person transfer of blood:

a) Ever shared a needle whilst partaking in drugs? No.
b) A visit to a low-brow tattoo parlour? No.
c) Homosexual sex? No.
d) Did your mother have it whilst you were in utero? No.
e) Do you share razors or toothbrushes with anyone? No.
f) Ever had a blood transfusion? Hmmm. I don’t think so, but I did have open heart surgery in 1986…

In the 1970s and 1980s, the NHS in the UK bought blood product from the United States. Large groups of paid donors were used (as many as 60,000 per batch, and including prisoners and drug addicts); it only required one infected donor to contaminate an entire batch, which would then infect all of the patients that received that material.
It took an incredibly extensive research process for me to determine whether or not I was given blood product during my surgery – fortunately I had the time and wherewithal to know who to speak to. My medical notes were not clear, but I had been told, by cardiologists practicing today and in yesteryear, that in all probability, whilst a transfusion was unlikely, I would have received blood product – product which private hospitals sourced from the NHS – as part of a cardiopulmonary bypass, which was routine for the surgery at the time. Eventually, this was confirmed by perfusion records held by the private Harley Street Clinic, where I had undergone surgery in 1986.

Hepatitis C is a virus that can infect the liver. If left untreated, it can sometimes cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage to the liver over many years.

I have had it for 33 years.

I visited a consultant hepatologist who confirmed the diagnosis and performed a fibroscan on my liver there and then. The anxiety I felt during this was horrendous.
I have fibrosis of the liver.

Fibrosis is the formation of an abnormally large amount of scar tissue in the liver, causing it to not function as it should.

On a chart of a healthy liver and a fully cirrhotic liver, my liver is just beyond halfway bad, but not life threatening for now. In my head, utter relief – I had a second chance. The reality is I have liver disease. No alcohol, an improved diet and fitness regime were the orders of the day, but the fatigue will ensue until such time as my liver recovers. That may never happen, even with lifestyle improvements.

The course of treatment for the strain of Hepatitis C I contracted was relatively straightforward, in spite of some major headline side-effects, which I fortunately avoided. 3 months of tablets through the NHS – thankfully, as the rack rate price of these pills in north of £30k if living abroad. Compared with the treatment available just 5 years ago, the process is relatively painless.

I am now 99% sure to have been cured of Hepatitis C, but I have been internally scarred for life – physically and emotionally. Knowing the happy existence you have lead has been hampered through errors made by someone or a group of people, who may very well remain nameless, is a far harder pill to swallow.

What is truly shocking though is the lack of public awareness; of public warning.

And so, as we approach World Hepatitis Day on Sunday 28th July, rather than commenting on this post or giving me sympathy (please don’t!), all I ask for is for you to share this post. It may save someone’s life.

Hepatitis C is a silent disease for most people. I was so lucky to have identified it when I did. Diagnosis is a simple blood test and the treatment, for most, is really straightforward, so don’t be afraid to go and get checked out. Whilst those who have used intravenous drugs or have had dodgy tattoos have, on the whole, been identified and cured by the NHS, I urge anyone who underwent any form of invasive surgery – even privately – in the 1970s and 1980s in the UK to demand a test from their GP, even if you have no obvious symptoms. Note – this applies even if you had surgery in a private hospital. If you or anyone you know receives pushback to this, I urge you or them to write to your/their MP to demand a public health warning is issued prior to the result of the ongoing Infected Blood Inquiry and any conclusions and recommendations it makes, which may still be a year or two away.

My life is not as it might have been. I have used the words ‘fortunate’ and ‘lucky’ many times in this post and that holds true in the life I have lead particularly as I am now improving in health. The same may not be true for millions of people in the UK and worldwide who don’t identify this disease in time. Please, please, please – no sympathy – just share this post to help find the missing millions and rid the world of this illness.

hep stats.png

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Progress?

The Rooney Rule is a hot topic making its way in to English football. Without wishing to disparage its obviously honourable endeavour of affirmative action and equal opportunity, I am going to suggest that we amend it for the gambling industry. Yes, we ought to be doing more to attract women and minorities to our industry, but there needs to be an appeal for them to come. As things stand, we are in a PR shithole and that is largely thanks to the hard work of what appears to me to be a growing minority of dickheads who make dickhead decisions, which they likely do with the agreement of dickheads around them, such as:

which, for some reason quite inexplicable to the Dickheads at Fruity King Casino, landed them in hot water.

They weren’t finished being Dickheads yet though:

“ProgressPlay obtained a response from the brand operator, who believed that the tweet was by no means derogatory towards women. The brand operator stated that the image along with text “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig” was not derogatory towards women and that the link to them was meant to refer to the TV show, in which the women in the photo appeared in, as a low quality programme. Therefore, the text referred to the show and not to the women themselves.”

It’s quite clear these muppets are trying their best to act like Dickheads. The fact that they can’t accept that, in reality, they truly are Dickheads, is beyond me. Some more examples of the Dickheadness:

These clowns should have their casino switched off ProgressPlay…
————————
and then of course there was this – the Dickhead market leader:


(note this was the action of a dickhead affiliate and not Casumo)

So I urge all recruiters, agencies and hirers alike to adopt the Dickhead Rule alongside any equal opportunity efforts. Yes you should interview them, but only to reinforce the fact that they are dickheads and have no place in the industry we love. They should then be placed on an official Dickhead List (let’s white label the technology behind GAMSTOP #DICKHEADSTOP). Whittle these dickheads out and build a more attractive place for all sensible people to work.

Finding our humanity in the face of terror

The emotion one cannot help but feel is pain with every terrorist bomb that explodes, but I have to say the overall state of my mind is confusion on how we deal with the mass migration of people to Europe from Syria. The humanity in me says of course: the suffering these people are enduring is beyond compare. Care for them both emotionally and physically before their lives are taken either by the violent arm of Islamism, in its name or by the ironic bombs that will rain down on them in retaliation (or provocation, depending on where your confused mind sits).

But, it is evident that in opening up our hearts and homes to refugees, there is a clear and present danger that infecting their hapless throngs is a group of cancerous, verminous vultures preying on the very essence of our humanity. A cancer eating away at our emotions shifting us away from all that is right, all that is good and all that offers our generation the opportunity to prove that we are truly are the first generation citizens of the world and in to the clutches of self-preservation, isolationism, border entrenchment and right wing extremism of our own that echo the state of the world 80-100 years ago.

That is not a world I would like us to be again.

The terrorists are out to destroy the world we’re in by imposing so-called Islamic State’s hardcore interpretation of Sharia law. Their view is that there will come a Judgement Day. It is certainly too far fetched to envisage Western ideals and all other forms of religion ever being in the appalling position where this would become reality, but I will say this. The day of judgement is nigh. It will not be a pitched battle somewhere in the Syrian desert, but in the hearts and minds of each and every one of us. Do we continue in the pursuit of making the world a better place or do we shy away from it to supposedly protect ourselves?

It’s easy to look to the politicians we elect (or don’t in the case of the EU) to take care of this dilemma. However, they as human beings are posed with the same complex battle of emotion and the tried and trusted pillars of our democracies and constitutions are designed around rational thought, not emotions – and this is allowing for the rise of the Trumps, the Le Pens and the Petrys in countries where the learnings of the lessons of the past really should be entrenched in the conscience of citizens. The rise of the ‘us and them’ bandwagon is a victory for ISIS. It validates their atrocities and will only serve to create more. I already find myself wondering why I emotionally care more about a bomb that goes off in Brussels or Paris than I do about one that goes off in Turkey. I despise this feeling and it is a feeling that islamic extremism has placed there and I want it gone.

There may be no negotiation we, or they, are prepared to entertain – and it may be in this case that the only solution is an escalation of hostilities on the ground to push ISIS’ momentum back to where it was in the last century. However, we should be doing that in the name of the world, not nations. We should be doing it in the knowledge that in doing so, we will only foster that hatred of the West and all it stands for among Islamic extremists, whether they are above or below the ground for the foreseeable future. But let’s make it ‘The World’ rather that the West and let the world stand for good.

So, the answer is this. Embrace the refugees in their millions. Facilitating this will not be easy or at all comfortable. It will cost money. Money you have either earned or are entitled to. It will mean refugees taking homes built by national taxpayers, for citizens of that nation. It will mean them benefitting financially at the initial expense of those who unquestionably need that support locally. Frankly, this embrace will suck for many millions of people across the world – it may very well leave many homeless and hungry. It will not stop the terrorist bombings in the short term, or forever, so we will have to sacrifice non-military lives to make this happen, which is beyond frightening. And all of these arguments will be driven home by right wing politicians until, I’m sure of it, they are elected to lead some countries to provide further validations of extremism. But it will make the world we live in, both emotionally and physically, human again and it is that essence that must remain in all of us or else, frankly, what is the point? What do we fundamentally leave behind for future generations?

Demonstrate the love and the warmth that we are fortunate enough to have in the part of the world which we are lucky enough to inhabit. Shake off the effect of terrorist bombings. Move forwards, not back.

More Skype Fun with Dodgy Data Thieves

[18/09/2015 07:10:36] gambling.traffic: Hi Tom Galanis, I’d like to add you as a contact.
[18/09/2015 07:14:43] Tom Galanis: Tom Galanis has shared contact details with Gambling Traffic.
[18/09/2015 12:19:34] Gambling Traffic: hi
[18/09/2015 12:19:38] Gambling Traffic: how are you?
[18/09/2015 14:12:31] Tom Galanis: well hello there!
[18/09/2015 14:13:18] Tom Galanis: I’m in the mood for some top quality action, so I guess it’s your lucky day
[18/09/2015 16:03:03] Gambling Traffic: wow
[18/09/2015 16:04:52] Gambling Traffic: which country you are looking to target?
[18/09/2015 16:05:56] Tom Galanis: I’d do anything for good UK action at the moment – and I mean anything
[18/09/2015 16:06:14] Tom Galanis: So hard to come by
[18/09/2015 16:06:34] Gambling Traffic: Ye we have UK targeted database for gambling
[18/09/2015 16:06:46] Gambling Traffic: how much volume you are looking for test?
[18/09/2015 16:06:47] Tom Galanis: How big are you?
[18/09/2015 16:07:23] Gambling Traffic: we have approx 900k for UK
[18/09/2015 16:07:33] Tom Galanis: Jesus
[18/09/2015 16:07:36] Tom Galanis: Right
[18/09/2015 16:07:48] Tom Galanis: I could just about take that!
[18/09/2015 16:08:05] Gambling Traffic: can i see your landing page?
[18/09/2015 16:08:13] Tom Galanis: I assume we are talking dirty here?
[18/09/2015 16:09:10] Gambling Traffic: No we have some partners to they have UK gambling db i told you total
[18/09/2015 16:09:36] Tom Galanis: Clean/Dirty, I don’t care really – that’s so tempting
[18/09/2015 16:10:10] Tom Galanis: Before we talk price, safety is my prime concern
[18/09/2015 16:10:15] Gambling Traffic: We can do the following segmentations: geographical (zip-code, area, city…) psychographic (affinities, interests) and socio demographic (age, gender, marital status.Affinities/Interests we can separate in: finance, sports, travel, fashion, health, technic, online gaming.
[18/09/2015 16:10:26] Tom Galanis: Are you willing to offer any guarantees?
[18/09/2015 16:10:34] Gambling Traffic: Yes
[18/09/2015 16:10:45] Gambling Traffic: we can provide you OR guarantee
[18/09/2015 16:11:19] Tom Galanis: I assume the STI score for the data comes in low
[18/09/2015 16:11:43] Tom Galanis: Have you been with any of the big boys?
[18/09/2015 16:12:22] Gambling Traffic: yes we are working with 888.com primegaming
[18/09/2015 16:12:38] Tom Galanis: Ooh yes – they’re big guys
[18/09/2015 16:12:52] Tom Galanis: Were they happy with the results?
[18/09/2015 16:13:42] Gambling Traffic: we provide our OR guarantee and my clients renewal campaign always
[18/09/2015 16:13:58] Tom Galanis: Must be great to have regular clients
[18/09/2015 16:14:09] Tom Galanis: How long do your clients tend to last?
[18/09/2015 16:15:00] Gambling Traffic: recently with Prime gambing last July
[18/09/2015 16:15:19] Gambling Traffic: and we are going to test with 888 this months too
[18/09/2015 16:15:32] Gambling Traffic: Creative is not ready for 888
[18/09/2015 16:15:32] Gambling Traffic: now
[18/09/2015 16:15:47] Tom Galanis: You want to get them going – once they start, they may not stop
[18/09/2015 16:16:12] Tom Galanis: Well there’s several scenarios we can look at
[18/09/2015 16:16:32] Tom Galanis: I’ve got clients who would chew you off for the right price
[18/09/2015 16:16:37] Tom Galanis: So how much are we talking?
[18/09/2015 16:16:44] Gambling Traffic: you want to check i dont have any problem
[18/09/2015 16:17:12] Gambling Traffic: because we are maintaing our relationship with client not money
[18/09/2015 16:17:20] Tom Galanis: I’m sure you’re negative, but we’ll look to protect ourselves without a doubt
[18/09/2015 16:17:34] Gambling Traffic: we want to work with long terms relationship
[18/09/2015 16:17:38] Gambling Traffic: not one time
[18/09/2015 16:17:53] Tom Galanis: I’m all about that sort of commitment
[18/09/2015 16:17:55] Gambling Traffic: NP

[18/09/2015 16:18:07] Gambling Traffic: I understand that
[18/09/2015 16:18:20] Gambling Traffic: can i see your landing page?
[18/09/2015 16:18:34] Tom Galanis: That’s a bit forward
[18/09/2015 16:18:42] Tom Galanis: Hang on
[18/09/2015 16:20:41] Tom Galanis: http://www.grindr.com/download-grindr

The Regulated US iGaming Market needs Affiliates to thrive

A shade over 2 years ago, Nevada became the first US state to legalise online gambling (poker). Since that time, we have seen the first legal poker site rise and fall, New Jersey and Delaware follow the Silver State’s lead, with the former accepting play on online casino games, and we’ve participated in an unmelodious collection of regulatory debates in states such as California, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts lobbying for, and against, iGaming legislation.

We’ve seen billionaire-funded attempts to roll the market back to UIGEA, or worse.

But most of all, we haven’t seen a lot of players.

We have to look at New Jersey in particular here. Plain and simple, you’re going to see Nevada or Delaware struggle to reach critical mass offering poker alone, even with player pooling just around the corner. Online casino requires less need for a tight ecology, but volume is still essential to ensure margins kick in effectively and true month-on-month growth can occur.

Comparing NJ with the Nordics

New Jersey has a population of almost 9 million – a shade under that of Sweden and very nearly twice that of Norway. The Nordics offer arguably the greatest micro-melting pot of player knowledge, value and conversion rates of any region on the planet, with player value of an online casino customer 75% greater than that of the established UK market.

Whilst EU law has allowed unregulated brands to advertise in Sweden and Norway’s National Government Pension Fund has billions of Kroner invested in offshore gambling, operators are restricted in a far greater sense in the way they can market to potential customers than licensed operators in New Jersey… with one exception.

The humble affiliate.

The portal owner, the email marketer, the blogger, the Facebook tipster, the forum moderator, the PPC whizz, the new-fangled app builder all represent the glue that has put Sweden and Norway on the iGaming map, driving heavily-critiqued competition – and consequently product and market understanding of the Nordic casino player.

It’s a glue that is sorely lacking in New Jersey. Hell, the way the market looks, a webmaster won’t even get a sniff at it for an ounce of financial stimulation.

It isn’t too hard to become vendor registered as an affiliate in New Jersey. This would see you sit on a relatively strict CPA deal, and you may garner enough traffic to get something prepaid arranged, or some other form of media-based deal.

But to sit on a revenue share deal, that’s an altogether less appealing process – a process that includes full ownership character appraisal demanding things ranging from your finger prints to your toddler’s savings account details and the need to bring in legal advice to get things done “cheaply”. Not the end of the world for many affiliates, but here’s the:

Million Dollar Question

Why would bother with the rigmarole if you can earn more money by sending money to unregulated online casinos?

This is the very crux of the ongoing UIGEA fallout that WILL keep regulated operators behind the curve until it’s resolved. Since 2006, offshore operators have relied almost unilaterally upon affiliates to acquire players. Here you have a classic chicken and egg scenario that probably weighed heavily on the Pennsylvanian legislator’s pen as he drafted a recent bill that would see a would-be affiliate need to stump up – cue Dr Evil – ONE MILLION DOLLARS to obtain a license to promote regulated poker.

The tangible association of the affiliate with illegal online gambling is there. Offer a viable alternative, even an incentive, to break those ties and, just like that, the problem of the offshore casino or poker room disappears for good.

Devil’s Advocate

For the sake of those not as intrinsically involved in marketing channels and budget as I am, let me throw some facts your way.

Google

Facebook

Amazon

eBay

are all affiliates. They receive revenue in return for advertising and selling products or services. The inexactness of existing legislation, or its interpretation, in New Jersey that permits pre-paid advertising on sites like NJ.com or sports sponsorship deals bwin.party has with the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils displays a commercial naivety at best.

Newsflash: these commercial arrangements can only happen if they achieve a return on investment – ergo their very existence is dictated by player losses and any renewal or continuation effectively sees the recipients earning out of players’ pockets. I’d love to see Mark Zuckerberg send his fingerprints to the DGE if we’re doing things “properly”.

One might argue the ins and outs of what is proper when it comes to the regulation of advertising, in particular online. The bottom line is stringent regulation stifles growth – not just for affiliates either.

Affiliates create Market Knowledge

A late-2014 survey conducted in New Jersey indicated that under 10% of New Jerseyites even knew online gambling was legal, which ought to be bonkers considering the plethoric nature of billboard and television advertising the moment you land at Newark or cross the Hudson from Manhattan.

But for me, it’s not bonkers. The advertising, I’m sure very well thought out by brand managers and agencies, pushes brand and price heavily – repeating the successes of software partner brands in Europe. The issue is there is zero differentiation on product and consequently zero in terms of tangible comparison for the customer. What’s more, there is zero requirement for the operator to improve product or service delivery. It’s a turn off of the highest order, made infinitely worse when a customer does come to research ‘regulated online poker’ or ‘regulated online casino’ product in the Garden State, the independent resources ranking highest still push offshore, unregulated brands.

The DGE, via complaints from New Jersey’s handful of fully licensed affiliates, has formally forbidden any affiliate operating using a vendor license (our friends on the low rate CPA) from advertising regulated brands alongside the shady, higher earners.

What’s an affiliate to do?

The choice is simple. Earn more now by ditching the regulated brands and see what happens in the future. Affiliates, particularly those still operating as one man bands, tend to be from the “make hay whilst the sun shines” school of thought. Unlike the rest of the industry, they’re not the sort to sit back, play by the rules in the hope that a panacea is delivered out of the stresses and strains of state-by-state lobbying and bill redrafting. Regulators may well be irked by this approach, but they only have themselves to blame.

The solution is simple. Give affiliates FREE access to the market, let them do what they’re good at – namely independently appraising good and bad practice of online casino and poker operators for the greater good of the playing public, providing the substance to branding and becoming the glue the burgeoning regulated US iGaming industry needs to make targets stick.

Regulators – welcome affiliates with open arms and in one foul swoop you’ll expedite the demise of offshore gaming, build market knowledge and create the critical mass your licensees yearn for.

Gambling Domains for Sale

A client is looking to sell off his sizeable list of gambling domain names. In bulk, a selection of these could be handy for building up a link network, but the odd one is likely to pose more value to an affiliate looking to expand their site portfolio, or get started in the game.

Any offers on one or any of these fine URLs  – contact me at tom at gameon dot im?

Domains for Sale

allonlinebingogameforcash.com
baccaratbettingstrategy.com
bestcrapswinningsystem.com
bestgameonbingo.com
bestonlineblackjackgames.com
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Random Cammer adds me to Skype

[09/12/2014 13:43:16] cozy.skirt8: are you online
[09/12/2014 13:43:24] Tom Galanis: Tom Galanis has shared contact details with cozy skirt.
[09/12/2014 13:43:47] cozy skirt: hey
[09/12/2014 13:45:07] Tom Galanis: hi
[09/12/2014 13:45:28] cozy skirt: hey.., how are u?
[09/12/2014 13:45:41] Tom Galanis: good – you? Do I know you?
[09/12/2014 13:46:09] cozy skirt: well im trying out thongs, you sound nice lets have sum fun…
[09/12/2014 13:46:40] Tom Galanis: Bit forward. How do I sound nice, you just added me?
[09/12/2014 13:46:45] Tom Galanis: I am actually psychotic
[09/12/2014 13:47:12] cozy skirt: my camera is turned on.. . wanna take a peek? Ill show you but dont tell any one, ok?
[09/12/2014 13:47:27] Tom Galanis: take a peek at what?
[09/12/2014 13:47:42] Tom Galanis: It’s dangerous letting people you don’t know look at your camera
[09/12/2014 13:47:55] Tom Galanis: I can use it to hack in to your hard drive whenever I like
[09/12/2014 13:47:57] cozy skirt: im going to give you a cam invite, all ya have to do is Accept, ill show u
[09/12/2014 13:48:04] Tom Galanis: You wouldn’t want that
[09/12/2014 13:48:15] Tom Galanis: I could put anything I want in there… dodgy photos and what not
[09/12/2014 13:48:27] Tom Galanis: Risky business
[09/12/2014 13:48:30] cozy skirt: you don’t need a cam to see me 😉 im basically naked right now, my nipples are soo hard
[09/12/2014 13:48:50] Tom Galanis: I can get your a refund on your PPI
[09/12/2014 13:49:20] cozy skirt: this is me go here http://bit.ly/1zkyP4X and click on join (Accept invite)
[09/12/2014 13:49:23] Tom Galanis: You should update your URL tracking system
[09/12/2014 13:49:48] Tom Galanis: I clicked the link. I’m currently uploading a trojan virus to your computer which will replace any face or body part you display on your webcam with a photo of Jimmy Savile
[09/12/2014 13:49:54] cozy skirt: its 100% free, it’s just for age verification reasons.. keeps the children out. hehe
[09/12/2014 13:50:18] Tom Galanis: Yeah, sadly for you I’ve just rerouted my IP through the local primary school
[09/12/2014 13:50:25] Tom Galanis: So that’s you fucked
[09/12/2014 13:50:29] Tom Galanis: And not in the way you want
[09/12/2014 13:50:40] Tom Galanis: Selling sex to kids is bad news
[09/12/2014 13:50:50] cozy skirt: just get ur login when you clic Accept Invite here http://bit.ly/1zkyP4X , hurry im wearing no panties.. im so hot
[09/12/2014 13:51:03] Tom Galanis: Maybe turn the aircon on
[09/12/2014 13:51:37] cozy skirt: ok once you are in my cam room go 2 private with me so we can chat just me and you
[09/12/2014 13:52:09] Tom Galanis: Yeah, it’s just a shame for you that it’s not just me though isn’t it
[09/12/2014 13:52:50] Tom Galanis: You know, for the number of times you must have to do this in a day, you could actually bring some good to the world
[09/12/2014 13:53:14] Tom Galanis: It’s fucking tragic

My Thoughts on the Scottish Referendum

I’ve watched in on the Scottish independence debate in disbelief from a relatively long distance down in the South-East corner of England. I’ve never really considered myself a Unionist or a Royalist. I enjoy the best bits of being English and the best bits of being British, and occasionally, just as the next man or woman, I find it all too easy to become English or southern when fingers need (or don’t need) pointing to attribute national problems. That’s part and parcel of living in the most multi-cultural, multi-racial country in the world, a united country built in the age of empire with an ever-evolving, yet previously inconceivably strong identity that has been fostered through the most extreme adversities that came as a result.

What is clear to me is this: the United Kingdom as it was is now dead. Its demise began with the decision to devolve power to Edinburgh. This gave unreasonable, illogical credence to Alex Salmond’s petulant verbal bashing of the English. Whatever the outcome of Thursday’s referendum, the ties that have bound the England, Scotland and Wales together for 307 years (and Northern Ireland more recently) have been irrevocably cut by the actions of politicians of all party persuasions in this farce of a referendum.

The debate of freedom has centred all too much on economics. If the Scottish want to be independent it should be because there is no price on freedom; Jock Bloggs from Elgin saving £100, or €112, on his gas bill being pushed forward as the principle thinking behind his vote to stay part of the UK is the final slap British politicians can lay to the face of the once admired democratic franchise of the United Kingdom – something our great-grandfathers through to their great-grandfathers gave their lives to build and defend. As for Scotland’s Prime Minister-elect Salmond, his diatribe comparing the prospect of Scottish independence with black South Africans ending Apartheid. Well, no words are required. The relative lack of bite in the strong-willed opinion of the once infamous regional and national press and media corps hammering the way this referendum has been structured and campaigned over has been flabbergasting.

Whatever the result, the lasting fallout of the referendum ought to be for the people of the United Kingdom to wake up and redefine what it means to be British, for our politicians and our press have completely removed that from the conscience of those able to go to the polls in this, or indeed, any vote.

Vodafone – Data Roaming Nightmare

We’ve all heard about them. They’re usually found in the depths of press coverage alongside an Apprentice candidate’s debaucherous night on the tiles in Basingstoke and usually envoke a similar emotional reaction in the poor, most probably procrastinating reader. “How could you be so stupid?! When you’re abroad, everyone knows to turn their data roaming off”.

Well, let me tell you. I’ve been one of those procrastinating readers, fast to judge a poor soul’s misfortune as outright stupidity. They should have known that streaming the Best of Cliff Richard was going to cost them the earth as they soaked up the shade in their white-sock bedecked sandals on the patio of their Thomson holiday apartment in Dalaman.

Roaming.

It is now my most despised word in the OED and it’s purely down to what I can safely call misfortune and the harshest customer service I have ever received.

Some background, if I may. As a (previously) savvy internet user, whose career has been built around online marketing, I am reliant on my smart phone more than I am coffee. As a small business owner, my smart phone performs the dutiful role as my alarm clock, my address book, my personal assistant, my mobile office, my social calendar, my modus operandi for dealing with my clients, friends, wife and family on the neverending go, the twentyfoursevenness I long to escape.

And a holiday is when one is supposed to escape. Sure, I dropped a couple of working days at a conference in the middle of it, but needs must.

So there we were, enjoying the high life in New York City. On to Atlantic City for a spot of work and then the big relax on the beach in Florida. Imminent bliss.

Four hours before the flight to the Sunshine State and tragedy strikes. My iPhone 5 completely freezes up, part way through my final email composition. The buttons did nothing although I could still see calls and messages coming through. I’d lost my window on the world as fast as Samson lost his hair. Horribly tragic, I know, but that’s how it felt. I’ve often considered myself addicted and this actually felt worse than the 24 hours after I first quit smoking, so it must have been true.

About 26 hours had passed by the time I was next connected to WIFI for long enough to resolve the freeze. The Apple forums told me the best solution was to install the latest update of iOS – 7.1.1 for the record. I connected my iPhone to my MacBook Pro, the iTunes message popped up. Yes I did want to download and install the latest software update, thank you very much. That should restore my precious iPhone to its former glory and keep me connected – just in case…

I sneakily check my phone once or twice during an informal dinner, so I noticed its absence. In the process of clearing the plates, I checked in on the download/install. It was happening alright, but at some point the WIFI had disconnected and the connection had switched to my apparently still operational 3G signal. Two messages had appeared on my phone from Vodafone, partially alerting me of my impending doom.

“You have now spent £270 on mobile data today”.

“You have now spent £495 on mobile data today”.

Gobsmacked, I pulled out the cable. 500 quid for something out of my control. My wife talked me through the annoyance. It wasn’t the end of the world and we’d get it sorted in the morning.

After a stressful sleep, I was iil-equipped to meet my new nemesis head on. Their combative nature hits me early on.

I awoke to a text from Vodafone. “Due to some unusual spend on your phone, please call Vodafone on +441635692070 before 10am (UK) tomorrow to avoid loss of service. A payment may be required.

Here beginneth the Tale of Immeasurable Woe, Brinkmanship, Stalling Tactics and Astonishingly Poor Customer Service, narrated and illustrated by the self-proclaimed misfortunate martyr, Yours Truly.

“Please Press 1 to hear your balance, Press 2 to pay over the phone, Press 3 to set up a direct debit or Hold to Speak to An Operator.

“(Hold Music), (Hold Music),

“We are extremely busy at the moment. Your call is important to us. Please wait for an operator to become available.

“(Worse Hold music)

“Eligible for an upgrade, please visit Vodafone.co.uk to find out about amazing offers on the brand new Samsung S5”.

“Good afternoon, you’re through to X, how may I help you?”

“Hi there, I received a message to call you. I think I know what it’s about.”

“OK, sir. Please can you tell me the mobile phone number it relates to?” I did.

“And your name, first line of your address and postcode”. I told her.

“Just a few more security questions to make sure you are the account holder. Can you tell me your billing date?” Err – I’m not sure. I think the payment leaves the account on or around the 24th of the month.

“OK, that’s incorrect. Can you tell me what your contract includes?” Unlimited calls, messages and data.

“That’s not quite right. Can you tell me how much your last bill was for?” I’m afraid not.

“I’m afraid you have failed our data protection check this afternoon Mr Galanis. Please try contacting us again later today”.

But… but… you asked me to call.

Ridiculous, but there was an obvious solution. I logged in to my Vodafone account to have the answers ready for the next £1.50/min call. Holy mother of God. I don’t think I’ll ever forget what I saw. The single data session, totalling 888.051MB and lasting no more than 20 minutes had cost added £2670 to my bill!

vodafone data roaming nightmare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve never dialled a number so quickly. I had to get this resolved.

I scraped through the data protection check after about half a dozen new questions were thrown my way. I detailed what had happened and asked what they could do to help me out. The brusque Northern lady I was speaking to at Vodafone had about as much a capacity for sympathy as I had for patience at that moment, although I’m pretty certain she’s carries that mantra on in day to day life.

“You will be liable for this charge Sir. Vodafone made you aware of the costs of mobile data. £5 for the first 5 MB, then £3 per MB thereafter.” I’m aware of that, thank you. What I’m saying is, the phone I have leased from Vodafone crashed. I followed the guidelines for a phone restoration I could find from Apple, and it’s ended up in this disaster. Surely there’s something you can do to erase the cost?

“Let me talk to my manager”

“(Worst Hold Music for 8 minutes)”.

“Sorry about that sir. I’ve just spoken to my manager and we can offer to reduce your bill by 10% as a goodwill gesture.” Yeah, thanks, but that still makes the bill more than £3000. Can’t you see that this was a completely accidental spend outside of my control?

“I see that sir, but you are liable for the usage”.

“I can’t afford to pay it. Can I speak to your manager please?”

“It’s Vodafone’s policy to offer callbacks from managers within 24-48 hours. Shall I arrange this for you?”

“Ok, but is there any way I can speak to someone now?”

“I’m just going to put you on hold, Sir, is that alright?”

“(Worst hold music ever)”.

“Sir, if you agree to pay £2000 now and agree to pay the remainder in 3 weekly installments, I can offer you a 10% discount, right now.” I’ll wait on your manager thanks.

“It’s a one-time offer. It’s likely you won’t get a better offer from a manager”. I’ll take my chances.

Fuming, I hit Google with a vengeance. The previously amusing tales of woe give me hope. The woman who downloaded a Neil Diamond CD in Morocco got the charges waived. The man streaming radio had his £16k bill reduced to £3k. There was hope. Ombudsman involvement had helped many a poor soul out. The advice I could find hinted that the first step was lodging a written complaint to Vodafone, so I constructed it, covering everything that had unfolded and send it via email through their system on 14th April.

Still anxious, as one would be, I kept digging, and found myself reading about roaming data caps. I recall opting into a Euro Traveller bundle Vodafone has on offer, allowing you to transfer the usage allowance you have in the UK to EU countries for £3 per day of travel. A decent deal admittedly. Had it meant I no longer had a data cap on my account? Apparently this only affects additional spend in the EU. A further desperate look at my online account shows that my Roaming Cap is in fact on. I should be permitted to use no more than £42 per month in the Rest of the World zone.

Vodafone - Data Cap Proof

 

 

 

 

 

I call back. The man I’m dealing with – Behan perhaps – was far more sympathetic and several hold music ballads later confirms that the cap had been switched on throughout my ordeal but it hadn’t been working. He asks me if I have ever opted out of the data cap for the ROW zone. I was in the States in September last year and again in March this year. I have no recollection of opting out – but expressed that it was kind of irrelevant as the cap showed as on in my account. If I’d opted out, surely it should indicate the cap was off. Vodafone alerts have a canny knack of disappearing over time, so I had no trace of opting out. Behan assured me that, if I hadn’t opted out, my bill would be adjusted to reflect the technical error in Vodafone’s capping tool. Behan also assured me my line would remain open and nothing needed to happen until the bill came through.

He was wrong. I lost signal. Using another line, I called up. After the 5 minute/£7.50 data protection gauntlet, the first lady told me that, because I’d not settled the large sum, they’d suspended my line. I was cut off. The next lady I spoke to with a delightful Indian subcontinental accent, informed me that I could set a four digit PIN rather than go through the data protection rigmorale every time. Astounded, I set it. Little did I know it would probably save me the best part of £100 over the next week. I told my tale of woe. She told me she’d unlocked the line and all would be fine within 2-3 hours.

It wasn’t. I called back, proudly informing the operator of my name and second and third digits of my PIN. It had occurred to me that I was still abroad and perhaps I would have to wait until I was back in the UK and could receive Vodafone coverage for the line to be restored. No, no. A SIM card removal and replace later and all was well with the world.

Now the correct readjustment of my month’s bill to reflect the data cap did sound too good to be true, and sure enough that would prove to be the case. In the meantime, I’d become aware that my nemesis really was to be reckoned with, so I did some more work.

I tried to identify the true cost of data usage to Vodafone in the US. They need to pay a fee, albeit at wholesale prices, whenever one of their users requests usage of an international operator’s mast – hence the concept of roaming fees.

Here are some facts for you:

1) Vodafone is the second largest mobile phone operator in the world, behind China Mobile, in terms of number of connections and annual mobile revenue.

2) AT&T, the network with which Vodafone users are paired up with in the USA, ranks 10th.

3) AT&T mobile users are offered bundles for roaming in over 150 countries, including the UK. Their pay monthly user can add 800 MB of roaming data to their contract for $120 and pay an overage charge of $30/120MB thereafter. So, should they undergo the same misfortune as I did in Ol’ Blighty, they might be crying over their medium over easy breakfast on the flight home for the sake of $144, or in old money, £85.59.

4) It is therefore 32.2467578 times cheaper for a user of the world’s 10th largest mobile network to consume data on the world’s second largest mobile network, than it is for this misfortunate martyr to do the opposite.

5) In other words, Vodafone are claiming that their position, as only the world’s second largest mobile network, prohibits them from negotiating a deal that would make their data roaming costs in the US anything less than 32 times more expensive than a smaller network would offer their customers the other way around.

I can concede that costs may be higher in the States from an infrastructure perspective. I can accept that the price in the UK for a domestic or international network to access and serve data is the lowest in the world. I can accept that Vodafone’s sale of the Verizon Wireless network, AT&T’s largest competitor in the States, may have put Vodafone on the back foot.

As a commercially minded person myself, I can see that Vodafone might see the opportunity to overcharge customers on non-EU roaming data to boost profits – particularly if their customers opt in to the plan.

What I cannot accept is that Vodafone pays anything close to £3 per MB for data on the AT&T network. I’d be amazed if it’s even a tenth of that. One of Vodafone’s UK rivals, albeit far smaller, has all but scrapped data roaming charges in the USA. The Three network, at the time of writing, almosts begrudgingly limits it’s All-You-Can-Eat calls/data package to a whopping 25GB per month, available at £41 per month on a 2 year contract. In Vodafone language, this equates to £76,800 (1GB = 1024 MB, (£3 x £1024) x 25 = £76,800.

To look at that commercially, if Vodafone’s pricing is to be taken as read, Three would be out of pocket if one of their customers spent 2 years solid in the USA, consuming 25 GB of data each month to the tune of £1,842,216. (That is £1,843,200 (24x £76,800) – £984 (24 x £41).

One might speculate that Three could be taking a calculated commercial risk in offering such a deal to obtain market share – perhaps the true cost of the data is twice or even Three times the price of the contract (sheer madness)?. If one was on holiday in the States, as I was, for 16 days and racked up a not unreasonable sum of 50 MB of data usage per day (probably 20 minutes on Facebook, maybe a Youtube clip, pulling through 10 emails and using Google Maps to navigate a 10 minute walk – 800 MB in total, even if the true charge of the data to Three was threefold their return on my contract for the period (£20.50), the cost would only be 0.076875p per MB.

I understand the commercial need to keep the true cost that a MB of data costs Vodafone in the US a closely guarded secret, but I am (was) a very good customer to Vodafone. I own three lines on Pay Monthly deals at a combined total of 15 years of loyalty. I dread to think how I have lined their corporate coffers, and might continue to have done so beyond this sorry episode.

What might not be quite so acceptable is to offer any customer £2760 of credit in this day and age, in such a short space of time, without even informing them. Hardly responsible lending, is it?

With that all aside, the data cap on my account was on and Vodafone offered me no information, thanks to their evaporating SMS alerts, of how to opt back in to this IF indeed I had at some point opted out during the contract (again, no evidence put forward of this).

As it turned out, the time spent calculating all of this was not wasted.

My bill arrived over email – I’m kind enough to save them the postage cost every month – late, one assumes because of Easter. Three Thousand, Four Hundred and Sixteen British Pounds and Twenty Nine of Her Majesty’s pennies.

After returning to the UK and taking to social media at a sensible data usage rate, the @VodafoneUKHelp handle tells me that the Customer Relations team doesn’t have a phone number I can contact them on. Marvellous. I find one in a deepest, darkest forum somewhere twenty minutes of my precious time later.

I pick up my complaint with the team there. It’s not been looked at yet. I request what is called a deadlock review, where my case goes to, presumably, some bigwigs in the customer service team. If that fails, they send a letter of deadlock – essentially a big “FU, let’s see what the Ombudsman has to say about it” document. I’m told this review will take place in the next 24 hours and I’ll receive a call either offering me a New Deal or informing me the letter is in the post.

Well, FDR was obviously not on the panel, although I had to call 36 hours later after receiving no call, as promised. On three separate occasions, Vodafone have failed to follow up with a call at management level, as promised. It is only the stress this situation has caused me that has driven me to get to this point within 17 days. Vodafone don’t seem in the least bit concerned that I “owe” them £3416.29 and have cancelled my direct debit. It’s almost as if it’s nothing to them…

And that’s where my nemesis and I have got to. I’m reliant on the Ombudsman to come to my aid. So much for “Power to You”. I’ll keep you posted…

UPDATE – 7th May 2014

After all of your sharing, retweeting, commenting, advice and general support, my story was picked up by the Daily Telegraph in the UK, who used their weight to get Vodafone to comment.

Vodafone did so by waiving all roaming costs for the month and limiting my data roaming charge to €50. I have just paid the revised bill.

Thank you all so much!

The Telegraph article can be found here. It uses snippets from my blog post:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/northamerica/usa/10813260/Britons-2670-Vodafone-phone-bill-for-US-roaming-charges.html