March 10, 2000 was the catastrophe day at the stock market of high-technology companies. The NASDAQ fell more than by time and a half in hours. In the following days, a devastating wave of bankruptcies swept the USA and subsequently the other countries of the world. This day went down in history as the dot-com bubble. The dot-com collapse.
The primary reason of the crisis was simple. Dilettantism. The Internet was an object of special interest of computer savvies in the 80s; during the 90s, it became widespread; and was overextended. Numerous investors of an increasingly growing number of internet-companies couldn’t realize one thing. Internet is only a business tool. Internet in itself is not a recipe for success. No website offering restaurant food delivery service will make the restaurant successful if it offers low-quality food. No millions in investments will make a website successful without the will, enthusiasm and fanaticism of its founder.
Today, we witness an unprecedented growth of a bubble on the online gambling affiliate market. The new bubble, like an enormous vacuum cleaner controlled by a mad cleaner, is pulling in once well-known affiliate brands, destroying their idea and usefulness for a player for the sake of a doubtful idea of making profit in the short run. And even this profit is a matter for disputes. What is known for certain is that the new bubble has almost destroyed all fair and independent information sources for the players.
Good affiliate / bad affilate
Mediation on the online gambling market, affiliating in other words, is a rough business. Most players see affiliates as casino companions. The reason for that is transparent as it is; the affiliates’ earnings are a percentage of money lost by the players. We are not speaking of poker affiliates and Asian partnership program affiliates where affiliate gets his percentage of money wagered by the players and sometimes even percentage of money won by the players.
Unfortunately, this approach is justified in many ways. The reason is that the affiliates are focused on high profits. These are affiliates who offer different strategies without risk of loss, fake reviews, and other dishonest ways of engaging players in the game.
But not all affiliates are like that. Many affiliates do what they do not only for money but because they like to play and they enjoy the world of gambling. Unfortunately, they are in minority.
RIP old affiliate websites
Wizard of Odds – the website was created by an expert casino game developer. This unique website used to publish upright mathematically-proved playing strategies and 100% fair information only.
Legendary LCB – LatestCasinoBonuses – the website originally was created by a player for players to guide them in the complicated world of casino bonuses and sometimes even to help them gain advantage over casinos.
Fair and incorruptible AskGamblers – the uncompromising website which used to defend players’ interests and struggle against crooked casinos. The website which was making the gambling industry better.
And many, many others…
To our great grief we have to state that many of these websites don’t exist anymore. RIP. Some of them are affected by this process more, some of them less. But all of them are infected to a certain extent. What we can see under formerly well-known brands are zombies hiding behind the old names, the vampires whose main objective is to suck deposits out of players having preliminary pumped them with, let’s say, not fully accurate information. Gambling is a rough thing.
This mutation has become possible due to the notorious mad vacuum cleaner absorbing fair affiliate websites and turning them into factually subsidiaries of not totally fair casinos and producing an insane bubble of soap and fraud in output.
Let us introduce affiliate Catena Media group; the affiliates of new formation; currently, one of the most powerful affiliates in the world. Today, the group owns such once independent and well-known brands as AskGamblers.com, LatestCasinoBonuses.com, WizardOfOdds.com, Sbat.com, PokiesIA.com, LiveBetting.se, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com, LatestBettingSites.co.uk and many others. Catena Media is a public company. They are planning to become #1 in the affiliate world.
The bubble is blowing up
The founders of an affiliate website PokieslA.com had every reason to be fond of themselves. Created only in 2015, the website is focused on grey markets of Norway, Sweden, Finland and even greyer Japanese market. The gambling is not fully legal in these countries. In any case, mediatory service routing traffic from these countries to offshore casinos and sport betting companies (in exchange for the percentage of loss of delivered players) can’t be called by any means white and transparent business with long-lasting goals. That’s why the deal when the website making only €100.000 per year was sold for €5 million (4-year recoupment) made its owners so happy.
The 4-year recoupment deal looks absolutely normal and even successful for offline business but quite risky from the point of view of any person who knows at least a little about online gambling business. From our point of view, the purchase of the website with a 4-year recoupment looks very, very risky in the world of unpredictable search engine algorithms and in the grey area of uncontrollable gambling markets.
More information on this deal is available at http://www.igamingbusiness.com/news/catena-media-acquire-pokiesiacom
The only one way to cover the cost of a purchase of this kind is by turning this website from a fair information resource to a commercial squeezer with the only purpose to drive players to casinos by all means. It doesn’t matter whether this casino or a betting company has negative reputation. A visitor of these websites should leave only as a player and to one place – casino or, at least, betting company. Are there any complaints against this casino? Does this casino have unsolved problems? It is not a big deal. Catena Media and its AskGamblers team will do whatever it takes to conceal this information.
Who are they, the creators of the bubbles?
We dare say the answer is not Catena Media management, meaning that they only risk with their money. Officially, Catena Media is a IPO-certified public company. Though, it is certified at a second-rated stock market Nasdaq First North focused on capital issues of small European companies. But the composition of stockholders is more than impressive. Thus, according to the financial reports of late 2016, 11 biggest stock holders of the company control 70% of stocks in total. The other 30% are in free circulation and shared among smaller stock holders. It is them who are partially financially responsible for the acquisition of new affiliate websites. Another part is those who will dare to lend money to Catena Media. We will cover this matter below.
To keep the game going the bubble should be big
From our point of view, it appropriate to draw parallels with the subprime crisis of 2007-2008 in the USA. In that time, managers of various governing funds invested vast sums (not theirs but investors’) in high-toxic stock shares. When the bubble burst, the investors were left with nothing, and managers saved what they had had and even gained bonuses. The only difference between the great investment gambling addiction and a casino is that the players gamble not with their own money. It is not the outcome but the process which counts. While the game is going the company management stays afloat. The longer the game is going, the more money they make. If you haven’t got that yet, the game here means the non-stop process of acquisition of new and new affiliate websites.
According to the Catena Media financial reports, its income has been steadily growing since its foundation date in 2012. Wishing not to make the reader bored with dull as ditch-water accountants’ reports, we are considering a more understandable for affiliates example. The number of new players (not just players but the players from the Western Europe, the UK and New Jersey, USA) amounted to 56.000 during the third quarter of 2016 or, in other words, about 600 new players daily. This value is impressive enough. Except for one part. This value was gained due to the constant acquisition of new and new websites which, in their turn, were turned from fair and independent sources into the websites with crooked ratings and fake reviews. I am sorry for the petulancy but I really can’t find other words for that.
The steady growth of financial performance is not the not the guarantee of success. Multiple investment banks in the USA had demonstrated impressive rates before the subprime crisis of 2007-2008. All these pseudo-successful numbers had grown at the expense of investments to toxic assets. Such investments to stock shares secured by high-quality mortgage loans used to be actual investments. However, good loans came to an end over time but not the wish to continue the race. The good loans were replaced with various trashy offers. High-quality loans were mixed with the loans issued for 5 times to homeless unemployed people without any support but still under the brands of high-quality loans. Under the same brands these loans issued to the bums were resold again marked as “the loans of responsible borrowers”. This is the simplest way to describe the subprime crisis mechanics. After all, the bubble burst bringing the biggest crisis in the history of mankind.
I urge you to watch a movie about this case, two movies to be exact:
Catena Media follows the same way pumping its costly assets with various scam. What is in common between AskGamblers several years ago and modern AskGamblers? Sadly, it should be recognized that nothing else but its name.
Why the websites acquired by Catena Media turn into toxic assets
The reason is simple. Only the founder of the website can manage it efficiently. No hired manager can do that. Catena Media is trying to solve this problem by purchasing websites under the cash + bonus scheme. Cash is paid at once, while bonus is paid after certain figures are achieved. Strategically it is a dead end. What’s the point for the former website owner who got his money and, in fact, became a hired manager in making efforts for the strategic development of the website? It makes no sense. He is not interested in that. All what he needs is to bring the website to certain figures to get his bonus for the deal. Here we come to another major mistake. Gaining maximum profit from the website and its strategical development have nothing in common.
Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, had a major problem when he started off with his social network. This problem was an army of well-wishers who wanted to get maximum profit from the website and offered their brilliant ideas how to raise the income of the website. The ideas were the following: to add animated banners, pop-up boxes, and the subscription fee. Would such measures have raised the income of the website in the short run? Naturally, yes. Would we remember Facebook today? No, as all these animated banners and pop-ups would have killed the website in the long run.
All newly acquired assets of Catena Media follow this way, the way of toxicity. Today, these websites enjoy what has left from their past fame since it is impossible to deliver fake information and be a popular website in the same time. Falseness gets obvious sooner or later.
AskGamblers – the main toxic asset of Catena Media
AskGamblers, in the day, became popular thanks to its fairness and uncompromised defense of players’ interests. Modern AskGamblers is nothing else but a commercial juicer focused on maximum profit without any future. Look closely at those who post their reviews on the website. Half of them are fake players, common Indian copywriters writing fake reviews. The style of these reviews nakes that. Sometimes, these pseudo-players are too lazy to write new reviews, so they copy the old ones and change the names of the casinos. Typically, these are positive reviews.
If a casino featured on AskGamlers brings significant profit to the website, it can take any unfriendly acts towards its players without any consequences. This is the model which was unacceptable for old AskGamblers but absolutely real today. AskGamblers always finds a reason to side with a casino. The logic of AskGamblers owners is crystal-clear. They don’t care about players’ interests. Their aim is to recoup the website in the minimum terms. (On 4th April 2016, AskGamblers was purchased by Catena Media for €15 million.) If a player provides irrefutable evidence, and the casino is not intended to deal with that (I’d mention that big- and medium-scale casinos are not afraid of AskGamblers), the claimer gets banned without any explanation.
In a word, AskGamblers which used to be fair and interesting website is dead now; it turned into an ordinary source of traffic for casinos and betting companies. Their problem is that the website will be on float until another more principle and independent analog appears. That’s what forces Catena Media group acquiring new actives indefinitely.
Pyramid of credits – fuel for the bubble
The key feature of any financial bubble is its continuous growth. The bubble can’t stay static, just the same as Catena Media has to show steady growth acquiring new assets (websites) faster than the previously acquired would die. In accordance with that, they need steady flow of money to buy new websites; the funds raised from the previously acquired websites are not enough to cover the expenses for the new websites.
The most profitable source of money in this case is open debt market. According to the registered offering memorandum, Catena Media will issue bonds with floating rate for the value of €100 billion. In case you don’t fully understand how bonds work, bond is a debt. In other words, Catena Media is planning to contract an interest-bearing debt for €100 billion to acquire new affiliate websites.
Is Catena Media worth investing?
What is the future of Catena Media? Will they be able to achieve they dreams and become #1 affiliate network in the world of online gambling? It lookds doubtful for me. The acquisiton of the best affiliate websites in vast numbers will let them raise the number of new players for some time; probably, up to very high numbers. But, in the long run, they won’t be able to manage efficiently this group of varied assets. Wage workers who treat affiliate marketing as pure business will never replace owners of the projects. The main difference between online and offline business is in its speed. One can become a leader in online business much faster than in offline. Reverse is also true. It may take not much longer for a recognized online leader to get wrecked.