Bojoko is an award-winning online casino affiliate that has dominated the UK market since its launch in 2017. But now it is making a play in the fast-growing US market via Bojoko.us. We sat down with Joonas Karhu from Bojoko to learn more about what the company has planned for the US where it has recently launched in West Virginia and Michigan, and whether the market has lived up to its potential so far.
You have been live in the US market for many months now. Has it lived up to expectations or has it proved to be more challenging than expected?
From an affiliate’s perspective, the intent that players have is quite universal and that is to find a gambling site that has a solid offering from bonuses to payment methods, is reliable and preferably is peer-reviewed. Of course, it needs to be marketed by the affiliate in a way that players want to engage with the brand and what it has to offer. This is the same in the US as it is in other regulated markets around the world.
In terms of being more or less challenging than anticipated, prior to making our entry into the US we expected the process of applying for affiliate licenses to be paperwork heavy and laborious. But we have been pleased to discover that this has not been the case with regulators in each of the markets we are currently live in – New Jersey, West Virginia and Michigan – very welcoming and committed to making the process as smooth and seamless as possible.
What have been the main challenges faced and how have you overcome them?
It is better to consider the US as 50 countries instead of one. There are tremendous differences between states in terms of legislation and compliance, as well as what each operator offers to players in terms of brands, bonuses, payment options, etc. The Bojoko platform was not initially built for such a complex setup, so we have had to rethink and rebuilt the site’s infrastructure almost from scratch. This was ultimately an excellent exercise for us because we hadn’t undertaken such a thorough audit since we launched in 2017. I also believe it puts us in the driving seat to succeed in Canada which will undoubtedly take a similar province-by-province approach as the US.
You recently launched in West Virginia and Michigan – what are your plans for these states?
When we launch into any new market, we spend the first few months gathering data to better understand what the local quirks and player preferences might be in terms of what they look for in the online casino brands they want to play at. We also want to make sure that we are providing the information that players in that state/market are seeking while also allowing them to browse and choose the brands that best match their preferences. From this, we can then improve our offering in each state and this is exactly what we are now doing in West Virginia and Michigan. Ideally, we would scale Bojoko with the same technical template across the US and beyond, but we know we must be flexible and localise for each market if we are to succeed.
How do you think these states will stack up against the likes of New Jersey and Pennsylvania?
I will give you a direct answer to what is a direct question. I have no idea. It is still very early days for all US markets so we will just keep having to collect and analyse data and see how it all plays out in the long term. That being said, we believe that all regulated online casino states have tremendous potential and that is why our plan is to apply for and secure licences in each.
Are you localizing Bojoko to each state? If so, what does that entail?
I began my career working in the Finnish market, first working with the Finnish monopoly operator Veikkaus and then moving abroad and working with big international companies active in the Finnish market. One of the most important factors in the market that separated growth companies from laggards was localisation. How well a brand could localise, in as micro-level as possible, made all the difference and I think it will absolutely be the same in the US. That is why at Bojoko we will continuously analyse states on an individual basis and work tirelessly to localise to the most micro level that we can.
How are you using your experience in the UK and other markets to guide your approach in the US?
The combination of explicit and tacit knowledge that our 15-person team has learned over the years will help guide us towards success in the US. The many trends and changes the team has seen in player preferences, as well as in terms of regulation and compliance, give us the experience and understanding needed to take on the US market and come out on top. We have always believed in regulation, licensing and compliance, and know exactly how to work within the rules while still providing a valuable product and service to players. I believe this is what sets us aside from other affiliate organisations.
Do you still believe the US will be one of the largest – if not the largest – legal online gambling markets in the world?
For me, there is no doubt about it. Sports betting has been the biggest focus for companies so far in the US, but I think over the years this will shift towards casino which is historically a more stable and profitable vertical for operators. The US market is only just getting started and I for one cannot wait to see how it is going to unfold. Of course, Bojoko will play a key role in helping players find the best brands for them.