As sports betting and other types of online gambling become widely licensed, taxed, and regulated in the United States, the affiliate marketing industry is undergoing a similar transformation.
This guide provides an introduction to what betting affiliates are, what services they provide and the legal requirements they have to fulfill in order to provide compliant marketing services to sportsbooks, racebooks, casinos, poker sites, and lottery operators on a state by state basis.
Note: this page is undergoing a significant upgrade. Stay tuned for updated information.
This guide is structured beginning with an introduction to the best betting affiliate programs followed by explanations of states in which online gaming affiliates legally operate, and will conclude with tips for those interested in getting started or learning more about what services affiliates provide.
Legal Disclaimer: Some of the following discussion touches on state and federal laws that impact legal betting in the USA. We will share what we know about the law, but we should warn readers that we are not lawyers and nothing on this page constitutes legal advice. We are confident and well-researched on the subject, but readers should speak with an attorney for qualified legal advice.
Best Betting Affiliate Programs
There are affiliate programs for gambling sites of all types. This includes sports betting, online gambling in a growing number of states, plus horse racing betting, daily fantasy sports and even games of skill in even more states.
Ultimately, your success depends on your ability to engage with your readers and transfer to them your excitement about the topic. If you choose a niche that doesn’t interest you, you will have a hard time making a serious go at the business.
Reputation is an objective criterion that is important to consider. Work long enough in the industry and you will experience a whole range of good and bad experiences with affiliate programs.
The worst programs have been known to retroactively change terms and conditions and I suspect some have even purposely failed to track conversions that were sent in good faith.
BettingUSA.com will not be listing any untrustworthy affiliate programs on this page. All firms listed on this page are reputable operators, in addition to holding proper licensing in each jurisdiction in which they operate.
Sports Betting Affiliates Usually Require Licensing
Sports betting affiliates can currently promote in the markets of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia. States that are in the process of opening up the market to affiliates include Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, and Tennessee. We will discuss the affiliate landscape in each of these states in more detail shortly.
In most regulated states, sports betting affiliates are required to register or license their operations before deals can be made to promote legal sportsbooks.
Not all states with legal sports betting are viable markets for affiliates. Why is that?
For the most part, only states that have established a competitive marketplace with multiple sports betting providers competing for business provide the right environment to make affiliates a worthwhile expense from the operator’s point of view. Sports betting operators with a monopoly have little incentive to manage affiliate programs when there is no competition.
This also applies to states with unfavorable gaming laws.
For example, some states such as Nevada require in-person registration at a land-based casino. This limits the geographic reach of affiliates as well as complicating how referrals are tracked.
Some states only allow retail sportsbooks. Others (such as Oregon, New Hampshire and Rhode Island) have a single operator that holds a monopoly over the market. These factors significantly diminish the value provided by affiliates.
As affiliates ourselves, we believe a competitive sports betting market leads to more value for the customer.
Daily Fantasy Sports Affiliate Programs
DFS affiliates do not need to be licensed and can promote to most US states. Daily fantasy sports (DFS) is a quickly growing industry with a lot of room for growth.
The DFS industry has matured since the early days in which you couldn’t watch a football game without 20 fantasy site advertisements, but there are still plenty of new fans to introduce to daily fantasy sports every year.
Competition among daily fantasy sports sites is fierce, so affiliate programs are highly invested in working with marketing partners to drive new signups.
Start-up DFS sites also tend to lean heavily on affiliates as a cost-effective marketing method to compete against the more established operators. Because affiliate commissions are only paid after real money customers are delivered, smaller operators can forgo expensive traditional marketing campaigns and instead rely on affiliates to shoulder the burden of spreading the word.
One of the advantages of working as a fantasy sports affiliate is a nearly complete lack of regulation.
Federal laws specifically exempt fantasy sports from anti-gambling legislation and there are no licenses or background checks to operate as a DFS affiliate. Furthermore, because state laws are mostly friendly to real money fantasy sports operators, there is a wide reach for potential customers.
Horse Racing Betting Affiliate Programs
No US state requires affiliates to be licensed to promote horse racing betting. Online horse racing betting is also exempt from most federal anti-gambling laws. Some state laws do prohibit betting on horse races so the reach here isn’t quite as wide as what you get with fantasy sports.
However, even if you live in a restricted state, there is nothing stopping you from working as an affiliate and referring players who live in accepted states.
Online Poker and Casino Partners
Like sports betting, affiliates who promote online casino sites and gambling apps generally have to be licensed. Currently, licensed affiliates can work in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The West Virginia and Michigan markets are expected to open in the coming year.
Affiliates interested in promoting legal US poker sites have a similar market to work with. Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are currently live, with Michigan on deck to launch.
During the online poker boom, affiliates were earning large commissions by referring customers to offshore poker sites that were in violation of US law.
Poker and casino affiliates operated with impunity for years because there were no clearly defined laws that made it a crime to act as a mere affiliate for an offshore poker site or casino. That changed in 2014 when the state of New Jersey announced that it would consider prosecuting US-based affiliates who continue to work with unlicensed sites.
The industry is far from dead, though. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Michigan have all passed laws to legalize online poker sites, online casino games or both.
We should also note that online poker and casino games are heavily regulated in the United States. It is more complicated to become a poker affiliate in New Jersey, for example, than it is to get involved with promoting daily fantasy sports or marketing racebooks.
Licenses need to be applied for to advertise US gambling sites as a CPA marketing affiliate. Affiliates interested in revenue share are required to undergo greater due diligence – typically involving background checks that include fingerprinting and extensive financial disclosures.
States that License and Regulate Gambling Affiliate Marketing
In general, most US states (Nevada and West Virginia as the possible exceptions) that have legalized online sports betting, casino or poker require an affiliate partner to hold some form of license.
At the same time, regulators are not currently requiring gambling affiliates to register or license operations when promoting horse racing, daily fantasy, or lotteries.
It is also very interesting to note that some states offer all of the markets mentioned above but continue to license for example sports betting affiliates but not horse racing affiliates.
Complicated and overlapping federal gambling laws and inconsistencies in state policies are why that is the case.
For full disclosure, BettingUSA.com acts as a licensed affiliate in NJ and IN. PA/MI/CO applications pending.
|Licensing Required||Licensing Not Required||In the Process of Licensing Affiliates|
|Pennsylvania||West Virginia (not required for CPA; required for revenue share)||Colorado|
New Jersey Gambling Affiliates
In New Jersey, prospective affiliates must acquire a vendor registration number in order to promote legal gambling or sports betting sites on a flat advertising or CPA basis.
Acquiring a vendor registration number incurs no cost to the affiliate, but a licensed gaming operator must submit an application on behalf of the affiliate.
For example, an affiliate could approach the Caesars Casino affiliate program and request to join. If accepted, Caesars would apply for a vendor’s license on behalf of the affiliate.
The affiliate would then be given a Vendor Registration Supplemental Disclosure Form to complete and submit to the NJDGE directly. This only needs to be done once. After approval, the affiliate would be added to the Active Vendors List and may work with other operators without re-filing.
If you’re interested in revenue share, you need to get an Ancillary CSIE license which requires significantly more information about the affiliate and incurs a non-refundable $2,000 fee.
- Promoting on a flat fee or CPA basis: affiliates need a vendor registration number
- Promoting on a revenue share basis: affiliates need an Ancillary CSIE license
The NJ gambling affiliate licensing process originally confused so many operators and markets alike that the NJDGE released this form to clarify the rules regarding affiliates and sub-affiliates.
Useful NJ affiliate licensing links:
Pennsylvania Gambling Affiliates
Registering as an affiliate in Pennsylvania is similar to NJ, as are the market options, but the application is quite a bit more complex. There are two licensing models in Pennsylvania, one for CPA and one for revenue share agreements.
In both cases, affiliates are required to get fingerprinted and go through an extensive background check.
Affiliates who wish to promote PA sports betting and gambling sites must apply to become a registered gaming services provider using this form. This comes with a $500 application fee, an additional fee of $60 for each direct and indirect owner of 10% or more and a $2,500 registration fee (renewable every 5 years).
Registering to become an approved CPA affiliate in Pennsylvania is a much more in-depth process than doing so in New Jersey – not to mention more expensive.
Affiliates who wish to apply for licenses to promote PA gambling sites on a rev share basis must become a certified gaming services provider. This involves a more in-depth and expensive background investigation than what is required to promote on a CPA basis.
Becoming a certified gaming services provider involves filling out three forms
- Gaming services provider application
- Gaming services provider holding company form
- Personal history disclosure form
Rev share affiliates must also pay larger fees:
- $2,500 application fee
- $500 for each of the applicant’s holding companies
- $1,000 for each key employee or principal
- $5,000 initial licensing fee
Useful PA affiliate licensing links:
Indiana Betting Affiliates
Indiana licenses sports betting affiliates for CPAs through a simple application, criminal background check, and a $500 application fee.
There is word Indiana may introduce a second licensing tier for affiliates who wish to promote betting sites on a rev share basis, but information on that end is still limited.
- BettingUSA post on IN affiliate licenses
- Indiana affiliate marketing application
- Indiana Gaming Commission sports wagering hub
Nevada Gambling Affiliates
Nevada passed legislation in 2013 legalizing online poker only. Two poker sites currently operate in Nevada: WSOP.com and Real Gaming.
Affiliates can promote poker sites in Nevada on a CPA basis without any type of license. Just fill out the application at the affiliate website and if approved, you can begin promoting. As far as I can tell, only WSOP.com has an affiliate program.
What is an online betting affiliate?
To put it simply, affiliates get paid to refer new customers to betting websites. When a visitor clicks on a referral link, or enters a unique promo code the affiliate is credited for having sent that player.
Affiliates either receive a flat fee for each new customer (CPA) or share in a percentage of each customer’s expenditures (revenue share).
Affiliate programs are free to join, although the licensing process in several states comes with fees.
The good news is it’s all fairly easy to get started (aside from licensing in some states). The bad news is you’re going to find yourself up against a lot of competition. It is widely known that online betting can be very profitable for affiliates.
This is not the industry to get into if you’re looking for a quick buck.
Then again, the same could be said for any business venture. If you want to make the money, you have to be willing to put in the work.
How much money can affiliates make?
The earning potential for betting affiliates is limited only by the number of players you can refer to gambling sites and online sportsbooks. Reputable affiliate programs make money when you make money. It’s as simple as that.
That being said, making a fortune as a gambling affiliate is easier said than done. Spamming your referral links won’t produce results and is prohibited by every reputable affiliate program, plus it’s annoying.
Getting your links in front of qualified prospects who trust you to provide recommendations is how you produce results in this industry.
I personally know many skilled affiliates who regularly bring in five figures a month. These are not big, corporate affiliates but rather small operators who know how to build websites, produce compelling content, and connect with their readers.
Some of the most successful affiliates bring in six figures a month. A select few gambling “super affiliates” and large media companies generate seven figures or more in commissions each month – some of whom are publicly traded multi-national companies.
Naturally, you can’t expect to see these types of results overnight. It takes time, dedication and experience to learn the skills and build trust.
Sometimes new affiliates can get off to a quick start and generate conversions fairly quickly. Usually, these are experts who bring unique insight and value to customers.
Most start out just like we did – by earning the occasional commission here and there, working for other affiliates, and then slowly working up from there.
If you work on revenue share commission plans, affiliates can build up a player base at multiple sites and grow your earnings as your player base grows. Eventually, you may have large amounts of players who, as a group, produce a fairly consistent monthly income.
As those old referrals earn money, you spend your time attracting new players who add to that monthly income and replace customers who stop playing (or move on to another brand).
Your personal experience as an affiliate could range from disappointing to absolutely mind-blowing. However, even if you don’t become a “super affiliate”, you can still generate significant revenue.
A few affiliates have even sold their operations to large companies such as Catena Media, Better Collective, and a few other large digital lead generation companies. Some acquisitions have run well into 8 figures for the affiliates who were purchased by competitors.
Legal and Compliance Issues
Online betting is a somewhat touchy subject in the United States. Both state and federal laws shape the legal landscape in which we operate.
Online horse/greyhound racing and fantasy sports are both exempt from federal anti-gaming laws. Those are fairly safe industries from a legal standpoint as marketing affiliates. Sports betting, casino, and poker all require licensing in most cases to provide marketing services to operators.
If you live in a prohibited state, you can still safely work as an affiliate and earn money off referrals in other states where online betting is legal (do not take this as gospel – go see a lawyer).
Note – promoting offshore gambling sites is very likely illegal. While these programs tempt affiliates with high paying affiliate programs without any oversight or licensing attached, it is not worth the legal risk and you are likely putting your customers’ funds in danger because no consumer safeguards exist.
Your business will be significantly safer and have staying power if you avoid the temptation to promote unlawful gambling sites and partner with licensed operators instead.
It’s only a matter of time before the government really cracks down on rogue operators and affiliates alike.
How can I get started?
There is no standard formula for getting started in the betting affiliate industry. If you have a completely unique idea, you’re free to start a business and try it. The downside is that you have little guidance.
Start by considering what markets to promote, what states to target, and how to generate traffic that converts those goals while also staying compliant with local regulations and completing a licensing process.
Some affiliates start betting advice websites, offer picks and predictions, or build a community. Sometimes affiliates leverage existing relationships (such as your local fantasy sports league) and specific areas of expertise to find referrals.
Start a Website
I would say the easiest way to get started would be to open a website and start publishing articles/blog posts. Starting a website is easy these days. A lot of information is easily found on that subject, so I’ll keep the information provided here to the basics. Essentially all you have to do is buy a domain and purchase a hosting plan.
Free content management systems such as WordPress make publishing content fast and convenient, but complex design, tools, and features for your users will likely require the help of a professional unless you have prior experience as a designer and/or developer.
Sign Up for Affiliate Programs with Licensed Operators
Next, sign up for accounts at affiliate programs you personally trust and would not hesitate to join yourself as a player.
In the regulated markets of sports, casino and poker, most operators have a manual approval process for onboarding new betting affiliates to ensure your content is compliant and your company holds any required licenses or permits to provide services to operators.
Once your account is approved, you can log in to check stats, get tracking links and stay on top of the latest promotions.
Publish Useful and Helpful Content That is Factual
Publish useful and interesting content with the goal of attracting visitors who trust your information enough to click on your referral links. There are an infinite variety of topics you can talk about, but the one thing to keep in mind is that you should attract people who are likely to be interested in online betting.
The type of content you produce will shape the types and amounts of traffic you generate. Even more importantly, the quality of the information you provide will help you drive more traffic and registrations.
A basic example would be reviews of betting apps and websites. If someone is considering signing up at FanDuel or DraftKings, that person may first run a search for “FanDuel reviews” or “DraftKings reviews.”
In this case, you would spend the time to become an expert on the pros and cons of each brand and deliver it honestly to your readers. Write a review based on your experiences and then ask readers to sign up using your referral links and promo codes.
Side note: You can probably see the conflict of interest there. It can be tempting to write overly positive reviews in the hopes of getting signups. Don’t do that. Be honest in your reviews. It’s OK to point out flaws. You only alienate visitors when you insult their intelligence by giving a glowing review and stuffing it full of affiliate links.
Another example would be to write “how-to” articles for placing specific types of bets, making deposits, or collecting payouts on winnings. Some affiliates write betting strategy articles, provide odds comparisons, or offer picks and predictions in the form of event previews.
Many affiliates now hire journalists and focus on publishing betting news. The possibilities are endless, just be aware that it’s a highly competitive environment.
The hardest part of succeeding as a gambling affiliate is separating yourself and offering value. Other affiliates have already written reviews of betting sites. This is not a unique idea or concept.
If you decide to tackle a topic, I recommend that you write the best factual article, with your own take. Offer value to your readers that they are not finding elsewhere.
This is how you earn trust and attract repeat visitors. It also helps establish your brand as a trusted authority, which in turn makes people more willing to click on your referral links.
And on that note, be transparent about who you are and what you do. Not only is it required by FTC advertising guidelines, but consumers also have a pretty good nose for sniffing out BS.
Research the Brands You Choose as Partners
Research every gambling brand you are considering promoting. Ensure each is a good fit for your market and will provide your referrals with a safe and secure experience.
There Are No Shortcuts
The “make money online” topic is full of charlatans and so-called gurus who make their money selling you on the next big secret to success. There is no secret. If you want to be a successful betting affiliate, you need to work harder than your competition.
Domain: The name of your website – what people type in to visit your website. Our domain here is BettingUSA.com.
Hosting Plan: A hosting plan is a service in which a company stores all the information (documents, photos, etc.) and makes them available to your visitors. Someone types in your domain name to visit your website, and then your host displays all the information that your visitor sees upon visiting. Hosting plans are fairly cheap and cost an average of $120 per year. One hosting plan can be used to manage multiple domains and websites.
Affiliate Program: An affiliate program is what pays commissions to affiliates. For example, a betting website such as WSOP.com establishes an affiliate program which is responsible for tracking referrals, issuing payouts and providing marketing materials (links, ads, etc.) for affiliates like you and I. You sign up to the affiliate program, receive your marketing materials and then get paid for your referrals by the affiliate program.
CPA: Cost per acquisition – a commission structure by which you are paid a flat fee for each new player. Each referral must take some action before you get paid. For example, FanDuel requires your referrals to play in one real money contest before you earn your CPA commission.
Rev Share: Revenue share – a commission structure by which you earn a percentage of the money that each referral makes for the betting site.