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.
- Best Betting Affiliate Programs
- Sports Betting Affiliates Usually Require Licensing
- Daily Fantasy Sports Affiliate Programs
- Horse Racing Betting Affiliate Programs
- Online Poker and Casino Partners
- States that License and Regulate Gambling Affiliates
- What Are Online Betting Affiliates?
- Legal and Compliance Issues
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 Affiliates
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 CO, IN and NJ. PA/MI/TN applications pending.
|Licensing Required||In the Process of Licensing Affiliates|
What Are Online Betting Affiliates?
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.
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.
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.