888 Gaming (Section8 Studio)
888 Gaming is one of the best-known names in the iGaming industry, and has been developing a strong reputation for a long time.
That reputation has hit some roadblocks, to put in diplomatically, over recent years, and 888 has rarely been out of the news, with the reasons for that not being consistently positive.
Controversies surrounding 888 have done little to stop the path of success that the operator is on, and the empire they have built over the past two decades is undeniably impressive.
The History of 888
888 Gaming started life back in 1997, making them one of the very first names to make forays into what was then an embryonic iGaming industry.
888 Holdings was created by Aaron and Avi Shaked, two Israeli brothers, along with Ron Ben-Yitzeh, and built its way up to being a major player in the industry in a short space of time.
After being listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in 2005, after moving their operations from the Caribbean to Gibraltar in 2003, the empire began to really take shape, and now 888 have many sites that bear their own name, and fingers in many other pies throughout the online gambling industry.
Sports betting, casino, and bingo play are all at the heart of 888’s output, with the latter becoming more of a focus recently.
After a ruling by the British government saw the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) being reduced from £100 to £2, there was concern throughout the gambling industry over the damage this would do to profit margins.
Many operators reacted in many different ways when it came to making up for the difference this could make, while many UK brands set their eyes on the newly legalised US sports betting market, 888 focused a little close to home, on the world of online bingo.
With the mass of Brexit confusion that exists (at the time of writing) and has done in recent years, many companies in other industries are battening down the hatches are preparing for a perceived storm to come, but online gambling continues to grow as an industry, and 888 seeks to maintain its place at the forefront of that growth.
This explains why, in March of 2019, 888 acquired Costa Bingo and several other brands for £18 million. In the same month, 888 also added Realistic Games’ portfolio of bingo titles to its network.
The focus isn’t only on bingo either, 888 also acquired the sports betting platform from Irish company BetBright for £15 million, and rolled out Poker 8, its own next-gen poker platform, across its network.
Also in March of 2019, 888 Holdings announced the appointment of a new COO. Naama Kushnir is taking on the role, having previously held the positions of Senior Vice President and Head of HR with the company.
Speaking of the new role, Kushnir said:
“I am hugely excited to be taking on this new role in 888’s Operational Management team. The group has made some exciting recent acquisitions, including adding a sportsbook to its proprietary technology stack for the first time.”
However, she is joining at a difficult time, as 888 again finds itself at the heart of some controversial news.
Recent legal issues for 888 date back to 2017, with 888 being fined £7.8 million by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) which was the highest fine ever given up to that point by the Commission, after several failings were found, including over 7,000 customers who had opted for self-exclusion being able to continue betting at 888 Bingo.
Speaking at the time, the Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMR), Jeremy Wright, backed up the fine, saying:
“Any online operator that thinks it can ignore its duty to protect players should take note today – there will be consequences. Protecting vulnerable consumers is our prime concern, and it must be the priority for gambling operators too.”
It was a big hit for 888, and damaging to the operator’s reputation, but they kept moving forwards, and recent acquisitions would suggest that there was little long-term damage done by either the fine or the dent in reputation.
However, the recent takeover of BetBright has again seen 888 land themselves in hot water. This time due to bets having been made with BetBright for the Cheltenham Festival being voided by 888 upon the takeover.
The reasons for this was that 888 didn’t purchase the company’ s customer base or outstanding liability on bets.
Many customers were upset and spoke out publicly against 888, to the extent that the UKGC got involved.
However, unlike previously, the UKGC ruled on the side of 888, explaining that BetBright were at risk of liquidation had they not been bought out, so customers’ bets would have been voided anyway.
This has not taken away from the dismay of customers who thought they had picked up wins at Cheltenham and on other bets, but it seems that 888 is legally in the clear on this one.
888 have danced with controversy for some time by this point, but it is clear that the operator is going to keep trying to move forward, and they have proven themselves as more than capable of that.
With many acquisitions already having been made in 2019, and the safe assumption being that there will be more to come, we can expect 888’s name to be in the news a lot more over the coming months.
The industry is changing faster than it ever has before, trends and regulation changes are moving quickly, and 888 have proven themselves as one of the very best at keeping up with these movements, so we can expect 888 to maintain their position as one of the giants of the industry for many years to come.