History of 888 aka Casino on Net
What is 888
888, develops and manages a wide range of products that are developed in-house. These products are then spread out among the many white label and proprietary managed sites that are linked to 888.com. The company has also signed lucrative contracts with other groups to have its brands spread even further across the internet. The group powers online casino and poker sites, and is licensed and regulated by the Government of Gibraltar.
The Early Years
888.com was established when the online casino industry burst onto the scene in the mid-1990’s. This was the time that companies were popping up like mushrooms, offering gambling services with technology that was never seen before in the market. While many of those companies never saw it past the first year, 888.com managed to stick it out to become one of the largest groups in the world.
888.com started out as Virtual Holdings Limited in 1997, and was established in the British Virgin Islands by two set of brothers, Avi and Aaron Shaked and Shay and Ron Bet Yitzchak. The group managed to get its foot in the door of the industry almost at once, when its subsidiary company in Antigua managed to obtain a gaming license. 888.com thus shifted its core management, as well as its technical and payments staff to Antigua, together with all its gaming servers and support functions.
In May of 1997, 888 Holdings was ready to launch its first quality product – Casino-on-Net, which became one of the most popular online casinos around and has, to date, served over 13 million customers.
Random Logic Limited Creation
In 1998, 888 Holdings created Random Logic Limited, in Tel Aviv, Israel in order to provide research and development (R&D) and marketing services to the group. The business development team of Random Logic Ltd. uses diversified channels to offer the group’s products to new users. The aim of this arm of 888 is to use a multi platform through new technologies and media to reach as many new markets as possible.
Pacific Poker Launches
By 2002, 888 Holdings was well enough positioned to launch its second brand, Reef Club Casino, which debuted officially in June that year. It was in this year, too, that the 888.com brand was born, and became the flagship website of Cassava Enterprises, an 888 Holding subsidiary company. 888.com essentially encompasses Casino-on-Net and the first poker offering connected to 888.com, Pacific Poker.
Pacific Poker was launched to serve the growing demand for quality online poker rooms and focuses exclusively on different variants of this game, as well as a number of other card games. Pacific Poker offers free poker, as well as poker for real money and is compatible with Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh.
2002 also saw the establishment of another marketing office – this time in London – known as Virtual Marketing Services. The aim of this new office was to source offline advertising in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Move to Gibraltar
The turning point in 888’s operations came in July 2003, when it obtained a gaming license from Gibraltar through its subsidiary Cassava Enterprises. Once again, 888 was ready to move and in a move akin to a military operation, shifted its gaming and deposit servers, as well as its customer support center to the island from Antigua.
By this time, Casino-on-Net was a huge success in the industry and at the end of 2003, 888.com launched version seven of this site.
In 2004, 888 was ready to try different mediums to reach an increasingly picky online gaming community looking for ways to expand their gambling experiences. In August, the group launched a pilot program for skill games under the domains 888.tv and 888.info.
A betting exchange was next on the list of 888’s expansion policy, and this was realized in August 2004 with the launch of Betmate.com. The betting exchange site was limited to non-US players only. Betmate.com is operated by Global Betting Exchange, a publicly trading company registered in Ireland.
888 Launches on the LSE
888 Holdings was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2005. At the time, the Chief Executive of 888, John Anderson said that he believed it was time to merge all the group’s commercial interests and start taking steps towards increasing the value of the company. In September 2005, the group completed a successful first offering of its shares and was admitted onto the stock exchange.
In the same year, 888.com was voted the Best Casino Operator of the Year and Best Overall Online Gaming Operators. The judges who awarded this title said: “888 is more responsive to its members’ requirements while ensuring its games remain innovative and 100% secure. Its member support is also impressive with a 24 hour service via chat, email or telephone in 11 languages.”
Merger with Ladbrokes?
In 2006, 888.com entered into merger discussions with one of the United Kingdom’s largest sports betting groups, Ladbrokes. While the groups almost reached a final contract signing ceremony several times, they were forced to admit in April 2005 that they were parting ways. The groups said, in a joint announcement, that because of recent changes of tax laws in the country, as well as fears of legal persecution by the United States government, an amicable agreement had been reached not to continue discussions.
888 and the UIGEA
In October of the same year, 888 Holdings announced that it would not offer its services to players from the United States, following the introduction of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).
The US Department of Justice demanded that 888.com hand over all its profits made by gambling activities in the United States in the years leading up to the UIGEA – a sum that would mean almost $120 million for 888 Holdings. As of late 2009, no agreement has been reached between the two sides and 888.com still refrains from operating in the United States.
888 Continues to Expand
In March 2007, 888.com bought Globalcom, the leading online bingo company, for a staggering $43.4 million in cash. Immediately, 888Ladies was launched, focusing on 75 ball and 90 ball bingo and becoming one of the top sites in the online bingo industry.
A year later, in March 2008, 888Sport.com was launched, offering wagering options on a large variety of sports including football, cricket and rugby. Novelty bets are also offered on local television programs. The site offers its services in a number of European countries, including Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
888 is a major contributor to the expansion of sport in the United Kingdom and was the main sponsor of the Middlesborough Football Club from 2004 to 2007. The group also became the main sponsor for the World Championship of Snooker in 2006 after the signing of a five year contract. Unfortunately, the partnership between the two bodies came to an end in August 2008.
In June 2008, 888 signed a unique distribution and marketing partnership contract with Sportech Plc which saw the option of promoting Sportech’s principal business, the New Football Pools across 888’s entire gaming database.
At the end of 2008, 888 Holdings further expanded its bingo operations to incorporate three new bingo networks – two in the United Kingdom to complement its existing seven in the UK market, as well one in the Spanish bingo market for the first time.
888 Launches Dragonfish
In 2009, 888 launched its Business to Business (B2B) division, Dragonfish, with the express purpose of helping the group deliver online results. Dragonfish’s Total Gaming Service allows partner sites to optimize their player experiences and benefit from a wide range of services, including marketing, operations, e-payment and much more. In September 2008, Dragonfish signed an exclusive agreement with Tsogo Sun Gaming Group, one of the largest entertainment providers in South Africa, to provide the platform for its move into the online gaming sphere. “This partnership is the first of many targeted at regulated markets, where Dragonfish’s partners operate under local licenses and enjoy the benefits of such regulatory arrangement,” said Gabi Campos, the Managing Director of Dragonfish, at the time of the signing of the agreement.
In September 2009, Dragonfish signed a lucrative deal with Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment to deliver its poker and casino software to the group’s first step into the UK online gambling market and to support its WSOP and Caesars Casino brands.
888 continues to develop relationships with a wide range of companies in bid to diversify its platform for the millions of players who seek out its services. A classic example is its relationship with Cryptologic, one of the leading internet casino and branded gaming software groups in the world. In 2009, the two groups expanded their relationship with the introduction of five of Crypto’s games onto the 888 platform.
Today, half of 888 Holdings is owned by the Shaked brothers, while the Ben Yitzchak family owns around 11%. The current role of Chief Executive is held by Gigi Levy. Below is a screenshot of its continued growth via Google Trends traffic.