...OR THE ART OF CHEATING AFFILIATES AND PARTNERS...
In this article we will be discussing how Gamesysaffiliates, a gambling affiliate program for the most recognised brands such as Jackpotjoy, Ceasar casino, Virgin and Heart (radio) managed to cheat, exploit and crush their affiliates and parners, breach their contract whilst staying clear of any legal repercussions.
First, a little history. Market-Ace was Gamesysaffiliates previous trading name until 01st October 2015. Having worked as affiliate for them for over 8 years, we can safely say that they were a very fair and competent gambling affiliate program. The partnership that we had over those years were built on trust, loyalty and fairness and we considered our relationship a good one. The deal we agreed on for Market-Ace brands (Jackpotjoy, Heart, Virgin etc.) was a revenue share for the lifetime of each player that we would generate. Their payments were always on time, their marketing tools always up to date and their replies were prompt, courteous and friendly.
When we received an email back in August 2015, stating that the program would be closed and changed to be re-branded to Gamesysaffiliates with modifications to their terms and conditions, there was no cause for concern as their track record had proven to be trustworthy and honest. Although our experience has indicated that changes made to terms can prove to be detrimental to affiliates, we naively made the mistake not to read the small prints. But, in our defence, given the way it was presented to affiliates, it comes as no surprise. Indeed, very little choice (if any) were given other thas accepting the new T&Cs. When trying to access their affiliate statistics system to perform daily figures checks and to pull their latest marketing assets, a popup window was displaying their new T&Cs without the possibility to continue any further without ticking "the agreed and accept" button. In other word, by refusing to tick the acceptance of the new terms, there would not be any access to the statistics system and meant that we couldnt check the stats, get our payments, and consequently lose all earnings from all the players generated over the past 8 years.
Little did we know that, the changes in the T&Cs would be significantly detrimental to all affiliates. Indeed, they reveal a substantial reduction in the revenue share structure and apply a vital condition where a minimum 1 new depositing member per month must be generated to maintain to newly reduced commission or drop earnings to just 1/5 (one fifth) of the current share for that month. The previous terms stated a specific percentage of the revenue of the player’s lifetime.
Our initial reaction was to obviously contest the new terms but also to ensure that the existing customers we have worked so hard and spent substantial amount of money to generate for them would not be affected by the revenue share drop as the financial impact is considerable. Surely the new terms can only be applicable to the players generated on or after the effective date of this forced new agreement. However, we were told via email, that this new structure would be applied to all our customers generated in the past or present. As one can imagine, our reaction to the news was not one of joy. Despite several emails, it became apparent that there was no negotiation to be had and the staff had received clear instructions from the top despite our years of loyalty and work for their brands. We felt truly cheated and we are pretty convinced that many affiliates suffered the same.
So what happens to the legality of such a move. We are no lawyers, but here is our take on what we see as a cunning legal cover up and plan on their part: had they made the modifications and changes under the previous program trading name Market-Ace, this could have given ways to a lawsuit on the basis that the contract with the partners was breached and deemed unfair under the unfair contract terms act 1977. However, since they announced the change one month prior to the effective date, closed down the previous trading name (Market-ace) with which the revenue share for the lifetime of the player agreement was, to create a new trading name (Gamesysaffiliates) and entity with a program based on new terms and conditions with which all affiliates had to agree and accept to effectively keep their old customers and earnings, it would be very hard to bring to justice to prove breach of contract and unfairness without substantial financial back up for a complex legal battle.
So business wise and from a shareholder perspective, this move has clearly been very thought through by cutting off important expenses resulting in an instant profit boost which in turn enrich the shareholders. Incidentally, our research has shown that Gamesys (the owner of Gamesysaffiliates) were acquired early on this year by a major Canadian holding company (http://intertain.com/#about) focused on investment and return. We have attached below a copy of their latest financial results at the date of this article providing the insight of their financial results which clearly demonstrates that their motivation was not their struggle!
The impact of the new terms and revenue structure will be incredibly hard felt by many. The move crushes hundreds of small to medium businesses who struggle to stay afloat in a very saturated and corporate controlled industry, reducing their earnings to next to nothing. Those are the very same small and medium affiliates who help Gamesys build their business and empire by sending quality traffic and customers and providing marketing exposure in the first place!
However, aside from the unethicality, injustice and unfairness of this move, the latter sends a very clear message to anyone who might want to deal with them whether being potential partners, affiliates, clients and even players: they are telling us they are willing to break promises, come back on their words and agreement, and are prepared to do whatever necessary to maximise their profit. The question is: do you want to work with them or play on their products and games knowing what they are capable of? Is this a good business move?
We would welcome any comments from anyone and in particular from lawyer on the true legality of such a move.