Šimon Vincze, Head of Sustainable & Safer Gambling of Casino Guru, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Šimon Vincze describes Casino Guru as a source of honest casino reviews and a database of online casinos; they inform rather than promote, they focus on visitor satisfaction, and they never push their visitors to gamble. He speaks about some of their projects, including the Casino Guru Academy, the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative, the Complaint Resolution Center, their educational content, and their fair gambling codex – follow his story below.
What is Casino Guru’s story and what is Casino Guru?
From the business perspective, Casino Guru is an affiliate website with the biggest database of online casinos and bonuses offered by them. We specialize in objective reviews that help users choose reliable and trustworthy casinos to play at.
However, we aim to do much more than that by following our values and trying to change the gambling industry for the better, via projects like the Casino Guru Academy and Global Self-Exclusion Initiative, as well as our Complaint Resolution Center, educational content, and fair gambling codex.
All these endeavors have to do with the values that have been part of Casino Guru right from the start. The project was started by two good friends who worked as software developers and were tasked to design and create software for online casinos. After getting to know the industry, they decided to create a website about online casinos, and used their skills to make it stand out.
They decided to base it on structured data, which is an approach that allows us to work with data and base our reviews on objective information. The first version was launched in May 2016, and now, over 5 years later, Casino Guru is one of the biggest websites of its kind on the internet.
What is the role of Casino Guru in the online industry?
With the many things we do, it is difficult to pin-point a single role, but I can try to sum up the most important ones.
Casino Guru is a database of online casinos, casino games, and casino bonuses. Being one of the biggest resources in online gambling, people come to our website looking for information.
Importantly, we are also a source of honest casino reviews, which follow a strict methodology and focus on objective data and parameters. We read the fine print, so that players don’t need to. These reviews help our visitors truly understand how reliable, fair, and safe any casino is, which is what differentiates us from other websites with casino reviews.
We aim to be the driving force behind changes that make online gambling safer for everyone. The nonprofit projects that I lead, like Casino Guru Academy and Global Self-Exclusion Initiative, strive to do just that. I really believe that both players and businesses operating in the industry can benefit from a more sustainable gambling market, and I hope that our endeavors will move things in the right direction.
What sets you apart from other affiliates and what makes your sites unique?
I would say our approach of informing instead of promoting is one of the things that set us apart. Our aim is to give our visitors the best possible information, so that they can make good, informed decisions when it comes to where to play, what games to play, how to play them, or whether they should be gambling at all. We never push our visitors to gamble. Instead, we state things the way they truly are. If we find a casino or a game to be bad, we just say it. We believe it is really important in this industry.
Our methodical approach to pretty much everything is another differentiating factor. We use fine-tuned processes for our casino reviews and their periodical updates, which allows us to remain objective, minimize errors, and produce reproducible results. Thanks to this, users can rely on the information they find on our site.
Also, I think our global presence is kind of unique. Casino Guru is available in 17 languages, which allows users from most parts of the world to access information about casinos in a language they understand. This is also present on our forum, where users can discuss issues in any language thanks to automatic translations.
What is your approach? What are your goals?
To sum up our approach in just a few words, I would say it is to do everything as well as we can and stay in line with the values that have been part of Casino Guru right from the start. With our focus on visitor satisfaction, we believe players should be able to enjoy online casino games in a fair and safe way. Being strict on casinos and pushing them to be better will benefit this goal, in our opinion.
We hope this approach and our values will help us reach our goal of becoming the world’s most visited website about online casinos. Besides the obvious business benefits, this will also help us assist as many players as possible and influence their gambling decisions in a positive way. And I would say we are on the right track.
You judge your players’ complaints in accordance with your fair gambling codex. Can you tell us more about it and about how you refine players’ safety and game fairness?
The main idea of the fair gambling codex and how we approach complaints is fairness. We always try to find the best and most fair way to deal with issues that arise between casinos and players. From our point of view, just because a casino has something written in their terms and conditions, it does not mean that it is all right.
For example, we have seen casinos state in their T&Cs that they can, at their sole discretion, decide to close a player’s account and keep all funds that were in it. Most players don’t read the T&Cs (which is why we do read them when reviewing a casino), and from a legal standpoint, the casino may have the right to apply this rule. After all, the player has agreed to the T&Cs when signing up. However, we would definitely do our best to help the player if the casino wanted to use this rule against them, as it absolutely is utterly unfair.
Now, of course, this is an extreme example, as I am sure most people would agree that it was unfair, but there are many problematic situations in which the answer is not clear. To deal with these, we hold weekly meetings, where we discuss these situations and try to figure out the best way to deal with them. We don’t look at cases and rules only from the legal perspective, but also from the point of view of fairness and user-friendliness.
This meeting is attended by the entire Complaints team, as well as other people who have something to say. For example, I take part in these meetings to help with complaints that have to do with self-exclusion and responsible gambling.
Once we agree on the best way to proceed, we know how to deal with similar complaints in the future. If needed, we also describe the situation and our standpoint in our fair gambling codex. Not everything is described there yet, as things keep developing and take time to write up and translate, but we are working on it.
Your reviews are data-oriented, follow a strict methodology, and are not for sale. Can you tell us more about them? Does this help to make casinos fairer towards players?
Haha, I see you read our ‘About us’ page. Well, I certainly believe it does. I think that we, as an industry, need to make casinos accountable for their actions. If casinos do not treat players in a fair way, I think we need to point it out and push them to be better. And that is what we are trying to do with our reviews.
Our review methodology is set up to make our reviews and ratings completely impartial. They are based strictly on data inserted into our system by the casino review team. We go through the casino’s website, look for complaints about it, read its T&Cs in full to see if they are fair, and so on and so on. All of this is then used to calculate the casino’s reputation rating, which essentially describes the likelihood of a player (who has been playing in good faith and without any bad intentions) being paid out without any issues.
This all means that the casino needs to actually change something to get a better rating from us. If they do not like their bad review, they can remove the unfair rules that caused them to get a bad rating, or they can rectify the situation with players that have been mistreated by them and submitted a complaint. And hundreds of casinos have done that over the years.
At Casino Guru, you have a complaint resolution center. How did it start and what is the idea behind this center? How big is it?
Complaints have always been part of our review methodology. At first, though, we only searched the internet and other gambling websites for complaints about the casinos we were reviewing. Also, we kept receiving e-mails with complaints from mistreated players long before we launched the complaint resolution center.
Considering the complaints that we have seen handled by other websites and ones we have been receiving in our inbox, we realized that we could help players by launching our own complaint center and doing it better than everyone else – by looking at issues also in terms of fairness and user-friendliness. So, we brainstormed, designed, programmed, and launched it.
The numbers of complaints we receive each month have been growing pretty much constantly ever since. Over 2021, we have recorded 5,532 new complaints on our website, of which 1,631 have been closed as resolved, with a total disputed amount returned to players of $4,243,557.
Now, I am not sure about the numbers of other websites and forums that help players with casino complaints, but I think we definitely are one of the biggest ones, if not the biggest one.
You produce educational videos to give players an opportunity to learn and to help them prevent running into issues. Tell us more about it.
Yes, we do. We create educational videos about gambling and publish them on our YouTube channel, as well as on our website. There is a lot of gambling-related video content on the internet, but, unfortunately, I would say most of it is not doing a good job in terms of responsible gambling. Just search for the best slots strategies, for example, and many of the videos you will see will try to tell you that you can systematically win on slots. And that is, of course, not true.
And I am not mentioning this example by accident. We are currently finalizing our own video on slots strategies, which goes hand-in-hand with our on-site article on the same topic. We make it absolutely clear that these strategies will not help you beat the casino, but they can help you play slots more effectively and lose less in the long run. And we end that video by saying that the best strategy is not to play slots at all, at least from the mathematical perspective. We are doing our best to spread awareness of the fact that gambling should be seen as entertainment that costs something, not as a way of making money.
I personally think this gives us a slight disadvantage, as people are more likely to click on sensational content that promises huge, surefire wins, but I also think that our approach is correct. If we help at least some people understand how things really work and that gambling is not a way to make money, it will all be worth it.
And I am sure our videos have definitely helped at least some people looking for information on gambling. Our channel is currently at over 900 subscribers, and our videos are getting more and more views each month. And, as the number of videos on our channel is pretty small so far, I expect these numbers to start growing even faster once we have more video content out there.
The Casino Guru website is available in 17 languages and it has implemented a multi-lingual forum. What value does this provide?
When we were designing our forum, we spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to do it. And given all the languages Casino Guru is available in, we have decided to implement automatic translations that allow players to seamlessly communicate even if they don’t speak the same language.
And I think it does provide a lot of value, especially for people who don’t speak English. If you think about it, it is quite easy to find multiple big gambling forums on the internet. However, people who don’t speak English may find it more difficult to find an active forum to discuss gambling with other players in a language they understand. That’s where our forum excels. It breaks the language barrier and brings together players from all over the world.
And I think having these accessible communication channels is very important for many players. Besides the usual things casino players like to discuss, like their favorite slots and biggest wins, they also have the opportunity to discuss their issues with casinos and share their stories and experience with gambling, including issues related to problem gambling.
Your database contains over 3,000 casino sites. How do you keep all of this up-to-date?
It is actually over 4,000 now. And yes, it is a great challenge to keep all information up to date, but we are doing our best. Firstly, we periodically go over casinos in our database and more or less review them all over again. This means we check all the data we have about the casino and make sure it matches the reality, fixing things that have changed since we last reviewed the casino.
To add to that, many casinos contact us themselves whenever something important changes, like a new language version, new payment method, etc. Whenever we find something new, we add it to the review, but the large regular review updates happen regardless of that.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators?
I am sure there is a lot of work behind it given the size of our database and our global reach, but I must admit that I personally don’t see too far into this area of business. We have a team that communicates with operators, discusses the conditions of our cooperation, and takes care of finances.
This team is completely separate from our casino review team, which collects information about casino websites and inserts it into our database. This information is then used to calculate our reputation ratings and create our reviews.
We have set it up like this on purpose, so that our reviews and ratings remain completely impartial and not influenced by the financial side of our cooperation with any given casino.
How do you help in making online gambling safer? Your goal is to create a global self-exclusion system. Can you tell us more about it?
Many of our activities have to do with helping make online gambling safer. I have already mentioned many of those, including objective reviews, fair gambling codex, pushing casinos to be better, Casino Guru Academy, and the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative.
When dealing with players’ complaints and other issues present in the gambling industry, we have noticed that current self-exclusion options, which are mostly limited to single-casino self-exclusion and national self-exclusion schemes, do not effectively protect vulnerable and addicted players against further gambling harm.
We have seen many stories of addicted players who used national systems like GAMSTOP in an effort to block their access to gambling, but later on started gambling again at foreign operators. The issue of systems like GAMSTOP is that they are limited to a single jurisdiction, while players can easily find casinos from other countries who do not know about their self-exclusion and are willing to let them play.
Realizing we will not be able to solve this issue on our own, we have decided to launch the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative to raise awareness of the issue and look for partners who can join the Initiative and help make our vision a reality.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? SiGMA Europe, Asia, or Americas – which of these three expo shows would you likely book on your diary for 2022?
I’ve attended SiGMA Europe last year in Malta. It was my first time on this small island, and I was amazed at how it can live and breathe gambling during the event. I would definitely like to come to Malta again this year, but I am also interested in the African and Asian regions. That said, my attendance at these events will depend on the priorities of my collaborative projects, most notably the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all, business is done with people, not just companies! Your hobbies, favourite book, favourite quote, whether you are into Gaming yourself, etc.
I am interested in eSports, because I grew up playing video games and this area is very close to me. I don’t play casino games, but I do place a bet every now and then when watching an eSports tournament. With two small children, it is quite difficult to find a good opportunity to play some games myself, but I fortunately do manage to do it from time to time.
Besides work, I spend most of my time with my family or doing sports, most commonly swimming. I am a fan of stoicism, and I am currently improving my communication skills. That’s where my currently favorite quote, or perhaps a piece of advice, comes from: “Tell me the time. Do not invent the clock.”
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SiGMA Asia 2022
After the exciting set of conferences that was Malta Week 2021, the SiGMA Group plans to take the world by storm with the golden steeples of Kyiv and the snowy city of Toronto being hubs to draw the best and brightest of the iGaming world together. Our next expo takes us to cutting-edge metropoli of the United Arab Emirates for three days of networking, panel discussions and festivities. Stay up to date with the latest and greatest through SiGMA News.