Amid all of this “What Am I Doing Here” applesauce, I made a decision recently to stop trying to operate as an affiliate to poker sites. Not that big of a deal, in the grand scheme of things. But since this issue is perhaps of interest to some, I thought I’d talk about why.
I looked into the affiliate programs shortly after starting the blog last spring, and like a lot of other poker bloggers decided to go ahead and see if, perhaps, doing so might generate a little extra cabbage. Besides, the banners and flashing ads seemed to pretty up the place real nice. Made it look more like some of the other poker blogs I’d been perusing, in fact. So why not?
I signed up for several and dutifully followed the instructions for adding the banners and links. Whenever I happened to mention one of the sites in a post, I’d conscientiously add my personal little “a href” linking to the site. I started receiving regular emails from the sites telling me how much I’d made each month ($0.00). PartyPoker even sent a nifty black baseball cap, identifying me as one of the team.
Anyhow, after fussing over this for several months I’ve decided to leave the affiliate table. A couple of reasons pushed me to make the decision. One is that (for me, anyway) trying to squeeze out an extra buck or two this way just doesn’t seem worth the trouble. There are those who have certainly made significant $$$ this way (especially the large, corporate-owned sites that generate a lot of volume for the poker sites), but most of us are simply providing advertising for little or nothing in return.
The fact is, anyone coming around to read Hard-Boiled Poker is probably already playing poker online. Many have made this observation, of course -- Bill Rini wrote about it over a year ago in a well-argued post on his blog. Iggy (a.k.a. “Bonus Code IGGY”), probably the most prolific and successful (private) affiliate ever, also echoed this point when he appeared on the now-defunct Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio podcast back in late July. There host Cincinnati Sean referred to Iggy’s success in this area and asked him if he had any suggestions for those wishing to get in on the fun. Iggy’s main advice to us wannabes was for us not to get our hopes up. “Think about it,” Iggy explained. “Who reads poker blogs who isn’t playing on PartyPoker . . . ? There’s not a whole lot of money in it . . . [for] humble little poker blogs.” That’s the truth Ruth.
The other, more significant reason that I’ve chosen to drop out of the affiliate game is that it seems fairly clear that UIGEA makes affiliate programs illegal for us Yanks. As Amy Calistri pointed out a few weeks ago, “Affilates are totally screwed as they may be the only ones the new law can actually reach out and touch.” Amy refers here to part (c) of section 5365 (“Civil remedies”) of the UIGEA -- the part that talks about how federal agents can force ISPs to block access not only to online gambling sites, but to sites that link to online gambling sites. ISPs will be responsible for “the removal of, or disabling access to, an online site violating section 5363 [i.e., an online gambling site], or a hypertext link to an online site violating such section.” (I also thought out loud about this possibility in a post back in October.)
In his commentary on the UIGEA, professor of law I. Nelson Rose explains how American affiliates “can be easily grabbed,” should the feds desire to do so. “This [jurisdiction] includes sites that don’t directly take bets, but do refer visitors to gaming sites,” argues Rose. “If the affiliate is paid for those referrals by receiving a share of the money wagered or lost, it would not be difficult to charge the affiliate with violating this law, under the theory of aiding and abetting. Being a knowing accomplice and sharing in the proceeds of a crime make the aider and abettor guilty of the crime itself. The federal government could also charge the affiliate with conspiracy to violate this new Act.”
Incidentally, what are the poker sites saying about their affiliate programs’ legal status? I read an interesting post over on Shelly’s Hella Hold ’em blog where she had written Full Tilt Poker to inquire about the legality of its affiliate program. Click here to read FTP’s response to her question, and Shelly’s thoughtful reflection on why FTP is being more than a little disingenuous. Inspired by Shelly, I thought I’d write my sites to get my own explanations. Never heard back from Party (no surprise there -- they’ve never once responded to any of my emails). FTP sent me the identical “We are not in a position to answer specific legal questions” letter they sent Shelly. PokerStars was likewise timid in their response, stating simply that “we cannot offer any legal advice per your own particular situation.” To each site I sent a note asking to cancel my affiliate account.
Notice I haven’t said anything about “my integrity as a blogger” affecting me here. Can't say I suffer any significant ethical crises when it comes to hawking sites or selling ads. Tend to agree with DuggleBogey on this one (see his post about the subject). Since it is paid for, I’ll continue running that ad up in the right corner for Interpoker, a site on which I once played (and which I enjoyed) but from which I am now banned (as are all U.S. players). In fact, the way the law is written I can continue to post links to Interpoker since it is not “an online site violating section 5363.” (Thus I can advertise only for poker sites on which I cannot play! Ironic, yes? And/or moronic.) The same logic would apply to posting ads for PartyPoker, although given their crummy support I am frankly no longer inclined to do so. (By the way, did anybody else hear JohnnyBax railing about Party on The Circuit the other day?) So I’ll keep selling ads -- if asked -- but only for products I can actually recommend. I suppose my mercenary tendencies only extend so far . . . .
Which reminds me. Anyone want to buy a PartyPoker baseball cap? 100% cotton! Adjustable sizing! Like new, I tell ya . . . !
Labels: *the rumble