Digital marketing expert in the gaming industry, Fintan Costello, joins the show. He discusses the differences in the European and US affiliate market, and what Bonus Finder does for their users.

Show notes from Fintan Costello Interview

Ryan Knuppel: All right, welcome back to another episode of the Knup Sports Show. I’m your host Ryan Knuppel here with you each and every time. Thank you so much for taking a little bit of time out of your day to tune in, listen, maybe learn something, have a little fun with us as we talk igaming, sports betting, sports, anything in this industry we like to cover. So, thank you for being here. Today I have another special guest as always, I have Fintan Costello. Fintan is with bonusfinder.com. Fintan are you with me?

Fintan Costello: I sure am. Thank you for having me.

Ryan Knuppel: Oh, absolutely. My pleasure. I appreciate you joining me here. I can’t wait to see where this discussion leads. You know, sometimes we have interviews and things that I kind of know where the discussion is going to go. This one I’m pretty excited for because I’m not 100% sure where we’re going to be leading into and what we cover today. So, kind of excited to chat with you Fintan.

Fintan Costello: Yeah me too. I agree.

Ryan Knuppel: That’s awesome. So, give me a little background. Tell me a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, where your livings and how you kind of got into the gaming space yourself.

Fintan Costello: Oh, wow. Okay, so, as you can tell by my accent, I’m not American. I’m Irish. I live in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. And I stumbled into the gambling industry completely by accident. So, by background, I’m kind of a marketing nerd in digital marketing. I was living in Dublin at the time. And I wanted to do more digital marketing, so I just assumed I’d have to move to London where there’s a huge advertising industry and amazing advertising comes out of the UK. However, I bumped into the guys at Paddy Power, which are obviously, what they call these days the Stars Group or no, Flutter. Sorry, it’s Flutter these days. So, Paddy Power at the time, was very much the number one retail bookmaker in Ireland, and they’d been ramping up aggressively with their online presence, so paddypower.com

What I really liked about them was they were super focused on taking market share in the UK, which, for an Irish company, is actually quite unusual. Irish companies are typically quite insular. And so, it’s very rare to see an Irish company kind of go big, international.

And at the time they were working out of what can only be described as a very large barn or shed in a very rough part of Dublin in Tallaght. And so, I was pretty blown away by the guys. Super, super smart guys. I joined there to basically set up their centralized or online marketing department. I knew nothing about gambling. I literally went and bought a dummies guide to betting, and the racing post, and did a lot of research before even interviews to try and get up to speed. And then got completely sucked into the industry within like the first few weeks. In the UK., there’s a famous horse race or festival called the Cheltenham, which is jump racing. And it’s just an insane kind of four days and when you see an entire company kind of get so animated and the buzz and the energy on the trading floor and everything going on. It was just an amazing industry to get sucked into and that was it. It was one of those things. I got pulled into the industry and it’s been impossible to leave ever since. So, I’ve been bouncing around a few different companies and consultancies and now we’re working on our own stuff with bonusfinder.com, and yeah, it’s been a hell of a journey.

Ryan Knuppel: That’s amazing. That’s very cool. I love hearing that, that’s one of my favorite parts of these you know, hearing the story and hearing where people came from and everybody has a little bit different background. I think you and I share one thing in common we both love digital marketing and we both love gaming and gambling. I mean, I think the digital marketing space is a space that I dearly love and like, it’s funny, it used to be like a hobby to me. Like oh man, I love this whole area, and now it really gets integrated into your business as you start using it in other areas. Digital marketing just becomes almost like a lifestyle, right? I’m just I like this area, it’s just part of my life now, which is amazing.

Fintan Costello: Yeah, like I had two weeks off, took two weeks holidays two weeks ago, and kind of coming back you know, it’s that classic kind of summer holidays you come back to work afterwards. And I couldn’t wait to get back because I realized this, you know, particular doing what I’m doing right now, it is such a lifestyle. And it’s what I do. It’s always a cliche, you know, do what you like, and everything’s easier. I do feel like I’m in that really lucky position right now where I’m enjoying it so much. You know, we do a lot of work, a lot of hard work. a lot of hours and stuff but I really don’t mind. And that’s amazing. And so, I’m very lucky with that. Yeah. And obviously it’s easy when things are going well as well.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, it’s a very good spot to be in. I mean, as an entrepreneur and a business startup, business owner, it’s not always easy. We all know that. I mean, there’s always challenges, there’s always things to do. But I think when you look at the flip side, and for those of us that have been in other areas and done other things, you know, wouldn’t have it any other way. And I think it sounds like you’re in a really good spot now with Bonus Finder and some of the things you’re doing now. I’d love to hear a little bit more about the now. What’s going on? You talked about bonusfinder.com. Is that your only project? First, give us more about Bonus Finder. Tell me what it is and why it came about.

Fintan Costello: Sure. So, for Bonus Finder, we’re really focused on helping people play with more. So typically, you know, when you look at play, when you look at, say online gamblers just keep that as a definition, there’s lots of different types of players. So, you’ve got your super high-end VIP guys who want VIP managers and very particular games and they’ve got what they want. And then at the other end of the spectrum, you’ve kind of got the arbitrage type, bonus abuser type players. And they’re kind of typically the two extremes. And then you’ve got the rest, which are the more casual, look, I’ve got $20 I want to have some fun. And I want to maximize my $20. So, it’s the real kind of casual core player, which makes up 80-90% of the database for most operators.

We’re really focused on these guys. So our mission and the way we’ve kind of designed the website and the filtering systems and how we present the brands, is really about helping people figure out, based on their budget and their game type and what they want to play and what they want to bet on. We’ll help you find the best possible bonus for that. And we’ll present it in a really, really easy to understand way. You don’t really see it too much in America right now because the bonuses are actually quite simple. When you look outside of the US, if you look at, say, the UK or Sweden as good examples, there’s typically a bonus bundle. So, it’s your first deposit, you’re going to get 100%, your second deposit, you’re going to get 50%, your third deposit you’re going to get…so you’ve got all these complicated deposit values and percentages and wagering requirements and that have deposit free spins, no deposit free spins. It’s actually incredibly complicated for a user to look at a headline from an operator and kind of figure out what that actually means.

Our system does all that work for you. So, you say, right, I want the best possible bonuses for $50. Or I want the best possible no deposit bonuses or the best possible maximum bonuses or whatever it is that you want. And then our tool will basically figure that out. And again, as an affiliate, it’s a cliche to use travel as the example, but it’s like, you know, you go to booking.com and you say, I want to travel to Paris, I want to go these dates and I want this, this and this. So, you can kind of give your order criteria and then they’ll show you what’s available. We do that from a gambling perspective. So, we’re quite neutral. And it’s really by presenting the data and the facts to the user and people love us. It’s hugely popular. We get a lot of returning traffic, our conversion rates through operators, because people have really spent a lot of time considering the offer and what they’re looking for, is fantastic. So, players are happy, operators are happy, and as long as we keep providing value, added experience to the user, I think long term we’re going to be okay too.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, I agree. I think you have a nice, slick kind of clean design on here too. Sometimes I think some of these sites get really messy. I mean sites that I’ve designed as well, they just get really jumbled and a lot going on. I mean, this one looks very clear. As you go out and look at bonusfinder.com, kind of very clear, precise, kind of gets you to the spot you want to get to. So great job with that. I think you did a good job. Is this your first time being in the affiliate space, like being an affiliate yourself. I mean, is this your first project? Or have you done others? Or have others going on as well?

Fintan Costello: So, just under design. There’s an amazing team who do all the design and product design and stuff. So, they’ve got to get all the credit for that. I’m definitely not the designer. You shouldn’t let me design anything, as there’s an amazing team to take care of all that. So yeah, so from an affiliate perspective, I’ve worked as an operator, and I have worked as a consultant, I have worked as a consultant for affiliates. So, I’ve actually helped some of the biggest affiliates in the world fix marketing problems. But this is the first time I’ve ever actually worked as an affiliate myself. And I’ve actually been an affiliate manager, so I run the affiliate management team at Paddy Power. So, I’ve literally done everything but this. And so yes, I think this finally kind of ticks off that box as well as industry completed. The only thing I haven’t done is the launch a slots game.

Ryan Knuppel: Maybe next!

Fintan Costello: Maybe next. Well, I don’t know. It’s tough. I’ve helped somebody do it, but it is very tough. Because it’s all about distribution. And yeah, so this is the first time as an affiliate, I’m absolutely loving it. It’s a very different business model, and it’s really interesting as an affiliate. It’s really interesting to see the industry from this perspective, particularly outside (the US) because obviously within the US, it’s quite difficult to get within the legal US space. It’s quite difficult to license. So, there’s only a handful of operators per state. It’s very jumbled, and it’s quite strict. Outside of the US, so if you look at people operating under say, a UK license or a multi license, and it’s actually very quick and easy to get to market, and so there’s a huge amount of startups in the space. And you know, we must get probably 10 emails a day from new brands that are launching, looking to work with us. So, as an affiliate, it’s quite interesting to see. Yeah, it’s crazy. And some of them like, okay, the difficulty is because they’re brand new, it’s very difficult to know are these guys going to be in business in six months-time?

Ryan Knuppel: Sure.

Fintan Costello: So, if we’re working off a revenue share model, which we do, it’s like US,

we really need to kind of weigh up these kind of pros and cons of like, well, how long are these guys going to be in business? Do they have actually any retention experience? Can they keep the customers once they’ve got them in? Are they giving good experience? Are they taking responsible gambling seriously? Are they good actors within the space as well? Is this somebody we’re happy to go play with ourselves? So, the filtering process of who we work with

is actually quite laborious and a lot more work than I anticipated. I thought it’d be quite simple, and then I’ve just had my mind blown. Wow anybody can launch a brand. This is crazy.

Ryan Knuppel: I think you hit the nail on the head. You know, a lot of people do think the affiliate life is the easy way, right? It’s, I’ll put up a site, I’ll throw up some ads, I’ll throw up some links, and I’m good. No, I mean, it’s, gosh, there’s just a lot that goes into the affiliate lifestyle and I’ve been servicing affiliates, we obviously do content creation around this space. So, we’ve been servicing affiliates for decades, for 15-20 years and so I understand this space probably as good as anyone around and man there is a lot that goes into it. It’s not as simple as doing that. And then you got to worry about your rankings and your traffic and because obviously, without traffic, there’s no clicks. Without clicks, there’s no revenue. Without revenue, there’s no business. So, it’s a good business, but it’s a challenging business, so I commend you.

Fintan Costello: It is because the barriers to entry are so low that anybody can start say a website or a Twitter account or a Twitch stream or come up with something completely new, right? It’s the beauty of affiliate marketing. It’s why I love it so much is because I wouldn’t say anything goes, but you’re always looking at, well, what’s going to work? And what’s the next trend? And am I positioned right? Because the barriers to entry are so low. Like, there’s definitely two kids working in the bedroom somewhere with business in a few years. Sorry that’s going to happen.

Ryan Knuppel: Yep

Fintan Costello: And if I take things for granted and don’t keep evolving, and from the operator’s perspective, you know, obviously, they really like us right now because we’re sending great traffic and we’ve got good partnerships. But if we stop sending traffic and somebody else can send them traffic, the brand loyalty to us isn’t exactly that strong. So, the wild from the outside the affiliate, Instagram, hashtag lifestyle looks amazing. The realities of it are, it can be quite stressful.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about the, you’ve mentioned a couple times now the differences between kind of the US market and maybe the European market. I know from an affiliate side, you mentioned that barrier to entry. I do think that barrier to entry in the United States is definitely harder. Like you said, the licensing process is tedious. Maybe you have to become a vendor and each day there’s a handful of books that go through this long licensing process. Give me some other examples of maybe the differences or similarities that you see between European gaming industry and what’s going on here in the US.

Fintan Costello: So, I think from our perspective, we’ve really focused on the US licensing process itself. We’ve tried to make that a core part of our business. We actually got our sixth license on Friday, so we’re now licensed to operate in Tennessee. And obviously I don’t think any sportsbook even have a license yet. But when they do call me, and we’ll sort something out. So, we’ve got all the licenses that we can get, and, and it’s definitely been a culture shock.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah.

Fintan Costello: Because you think of like, as a non-American, you think of America as a country, but it’s actually, you know, lots of little countries. And every state’s got its own thing. It does feel like every state, when they launch a licensing process or trying to, you know, they all copy from each other, but then they ask three or four more questions that nobody else has. And so, you just end up with an even more complicated, you know, so one state might want five years worth of residential history. Then the next state wants every place I’ve ever lived since I was 18. And then the next state wants credit card statements for the last 18 months and bank statements for the last three years. And so, you just end up with this kind of mission creep of more and more and more and more. And luckily, I’ve had a very boring life. I’ve always paid my taxes and I’ve never been in trouble. So, it’s actually relatively straightforward for me. Which, maybe it’d been more exciting if I lived a better life.

Ryan Knuppel: That’s for another podcast. We’ll get into that.

Fintan Costello: (Inaudible). But what you’re seeing in other markets is, so if you take probably Sweden and the UK are the hot topics at the moment in Europe, where the UK historically was the leader in online gambling, so they, you know, they were one of the first to issue licenses, it was a very permissive regime. You could basically just be sensible, there were some advertising codes, responsible gambling codes, but you could just kind of get on with it. As an affiliate, there was no, and there still isn’t, any licensing requirements. So literally anybody can become an affiliate in the UK. What happened then was, you know, when you kind of let a million monkeys at a million typewriters, you’re going to get Shakespeare in some instances, and then you’re going to get stuff that you’re really not happy with in the other instances. So, there was some affiliates who probably push things too far and were doing things that they shouldn’t have been doing and this has kind of created a bit of a backlash and a clamp down by operators who had to take on more responsibility for the marketing that their affiliates were doing. And in a lot of instances, they didn’t really know who their affiliates were, more what their affiliates were doing. So, we’re kind of seeing this kind of tidal wave of change happening in the UK where, for the first time, affiliate licensing in the UK is becoming an actual conversation. And I’d much prefer it because what’s happened is because so many operators now in the UK have been fined for various breaches, the due diligence they’re putting in place to just sign up for an account as an affiliate is the equivalent of applying for a license in the US. So, I’d much rather just apply for one UK license, have my license, give the license number to an operator and open an account and get going. Rather than having to fill in 300 different applications for 300 different brands or whatever it is we’re going to do. And so, I do think even though the US process, it’s a state by state level, and it’s moving, but it’s not as good as it could ever have been.

It’s still actually, I think, a better way to do things ultimately than what we’ve actually got now in the UK. And then in Sweden, it’s in a way, I suppose that the difficulty for operators is no politician is ever going to lose votes for being seen to be tough on gambling. So, if you’re a politician, what they’re looking at Sweden is things like limiting how much you can deposit with operators and creating like a central database to kind of monitor how much you’re depositing across brands. They’re talking about time limits, so kind of you can only gamble between certain hours. And they’re really trying to, so they went from a situation where there was a state monopoly, but then there’s a big kind of gray area in the law. So, there’s a lot of brands, they introduced licensing, brought everybody within the fold. And now all of a sudden, they’re kind of pumping up lots and lots of restrictions.

So, what they’re actually doing in Sweden is the restrictions are getting to such a point. And we’ve got the data that shows actually the gray market or the black market in Sweden is actually growing rapidly now. So, operators are limited in terms of the bonuses they can offer to Swedish players. But if you’re an offshore brand targeting Sweden, you can still do whatever you want. So, Swedes are actually looking actively, search trends are huge, they’re actively looking for non-regulated brands to go back to it again. Because they know they’re going to get a better experience. So, it’s kind of seeing the pendulum swing completely the other way where the rules become so strict that you actually create basically, they got rid of the black market. And then they’ve literally just created it again in the space in less than a year. And it’s only going to get worse. And so, I think and obviously in the US the offshore market is still a huge, huge, huge part of business. And I think that is the biggest argument for regulation, and likely licensing is the best way to take care of that. Which is why I do think the state by state approach of having to partner with land-based casinos and operators and stuff, I think ultimately that’s probably not the best idea because it does limit choice and limits competition. And I don’t think that ever wins in the long term. But as a short-term process to get licensing in place and kind of normalize things and get a structure in place. I’d much rather a slow and steady approach then kind of a big bang and then trying to reel things back once you realize things are out of control.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, that’s some really amazing insight. I love hearing kind of some of that I maybe don’t have my head wrapped around what’s going on in the UK all the time because I’m so focused on what’s going on here in the US, that when I hear stuff like that, it makes my eyes open like yeah, I totally understand how it can kind of, I don’t know how what to say, but like it can bite you. But you know, you put too many regulations on there and then all of a sudden people are turned away from what’s going on. So, there’s a fine line there between how much regulating you do in this industry. And so hopefully the United States is taking notes. Or each state is taking notes. I know we make that comment all the time that we are living in 50 different countries here, and it’s insane. But hopefully, they’re kind of taking notes and seeing some things that have went wrong elsewhere and can maybe make it better here. But I don’t know. It’s going to be a long road. I mean, there’ll be a lot that changes over the next five years, I’m sure.

Fintan Costello: Yeah, I agree. I agree. I think gambling is such a core part of American identity as well. It’s such a cultural thing in the US. And I think that that’s something that I think for outsiders looking in gets completely overlooked in terms of how ingrained it is, even though you know, it’s not legal in a lot of states. Still how ingrained it is in society. Which I think is fantastic. And, you know, the way it should be.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, I think there was no better, you know, testimony to that than when what we’ve been going through here recently when all the sports were kind of shut down and people were freaking out, I mean, people in the United States didn’t know what to do with themselves without sports. Not that gambling and betting is 100% associated with that, but you know, that’s a big piece of it, the fantasy sports piece and the betting on it, and things of that nature, all the things that come around sports. When we didn’t have anything going on, people are kind of like lost in life. And I think a lot of that had to do with sports. So that kind of just says a lot about what we what our culture is here and we how much we rely on sports in the United States.

Fintan Costello: Yeah, I think when you’re betting on Ukrainian table tennis, maybe we need to reassess a few things.

Ryan Knuppel: You’re taking it too far. Yeah. Exactly. Well Fintan, I could talk to you forever. I really think we need to circle back around and have another one. I don’t like to make these more than 30-45 minutes because I know you’re a busy man, you got a lot going on and I want to make sure the listeners don’t get too much in one episode. So, we’re gonna cut this off but man, I could definitely get back with you and maybe next time we’ll talk a little more digital marketing.

Fintan Costello: Let’s do that.

Ryan Knuppel: I can tell you have a lot of experience, you have a lot of ideas in all these areas and I’d love to kind of tap your brain on some of that stuff as well. So, let’s schedule another date for another show.

Fintan Costello: Brilliant. Let’s do that. Thank you so much.

Ryan Knuppel: Awesome. Well, this is Fintan Costello. The head guy over at bonusfinder.com. He likes to call himself a gentleman adventurer on LinkedIn. I love that term. It made me smile. I don’t even know what it means, but it made me smile. So, Fintan I really appreciate it. If anybody’s listening here and they want to get a hold of you want to learn more about what you guys are up to how would they do that?

Fintan Costello: Bonus finder.com is the main website. My Twitter is @fintancostello or I’m on LinkedIn as well and you can send me a message.

Ryan Knuppel: Amazing. Any last words for the audience before we let you go here Fintan.

Fintan Costello: That’s everything. Thank you so much.

Ryan Knuppel: Awesome. Well, thank you everybody for tuning in to another show here. We appreciate all of you. I hope you’re all staying safe. Hope you guys are enjoying what’s going on with sports kind of coming back here. And hey, guess what football is right around the corner. Let’s hope and cross our fingers we get an NFL season this year, and we’ll go from there. Alright, Fintan Costello, bonusfinder.com. Thanks again for joining us. Have a great day. Talk to everyone soon. Bye-bye.

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