The online gambling industry is booming. It is a lucrative enterprise, both for those at the top and for any new businesses who are trying to make their way in this highly competitive world. When an industry is as fast growing as the online gambling industry, mergers and acquisitions become commonplace; already in 2019 Betbright has been acquired by 888, Ajjaravet by Paddy Power Betfair, and Mr Green by William Hill. The industry is quickly growing and fast paced, and as more people become interested in the idea of making some quick money online, the opportunities grow by the day.
In 2019, 888 Holdings have acquired certain assets from the Jet Management Group Limited, including Costa Bingo. It’s the latest in a long line of acquisitions for 888, but what does it mean for them and the industry as a whole?
The acquisition of Costa Bingo is a deal expected to strengthen 888’s position in the online bingo arena and give them full marketing control over a number of bingo brands. It’s an expensive acquisition; a payment of twelve million pounds will be paid upfront, with six million to be paid in the coming September.
Itai Pazner, the Chief Executive Officer of 888 commented, ‘We are pleased to announce the acquisition of this portfolio of brands which includes the well-established Costa Bingo. We are confident that consolidating these brands into our existing B2C portfolio will deliver synergies and growth opportunities by applying the full extent of 888’s core capabilities in product, marketing and customer relationship management to their operations.”
Founded in 1997 in the British Virgin Islands, 888’s first platform, Casino-on-Net, launched in May of its first year. By 2002, Reef Club Casino was born, and the company launched the 888.com brand and an online poker room. 888 made its first acquisition in 2008, with the purchase of Bingo businesses from Globalcom. This meant that their offering now included casino, poker, bingo and sports. However, they weren’t done there, when they acquired the popular online bingo platform Wink Bingo, from the privately-owned Daub Limited, they confirmed their status among the leaders of the online bingo industry. Wink Bingo was founded in 2008 and had over sixty thousand users, it also ran a number of online bingo networks including Posh Bingo and Bingo Fabulous.
These features made Wink Bingo a very attractive and lucrative jewel in 888’s crown, the acquisition of Wink Bingo certainly helped to strengthen 888’s position in the UK gambling market. According to Matt Scuffham at Reuters in 2009, ‘888 has developed new gaming products such as bingo to help offset the impact of losing half of its sales income when online gambling was made illegal in the United States two years ago. Bingo is now the fastest growing area of its business.’ Gigi Levi, the CEO at the time, commented that online gaming is seen as a traditionally male hobby, but bingo companies like Wink are able to attract many more female gamblers, opening up the business to a new area of revenue. He went on to add, ‘we like the fact that Wink is a UK focused company – we want to maintain our presence in our biggest market.’
As a company, 888 have a long and interesting history, with past ventures such as the Wink Bingo acquisition only fuelling their success. One market that 888 is trying to expand into is the American market, and in 2018, 888 holdings signed a sponsorship deal with the National Football League’s New York Jets, which was a first for an online gambling company. The deal meant that 888’s branding was shown at the New York Jet’s MetLife Stadium, and the branding was also shown during the game’s highlights on the stadium’s big screens.
888 have been expanding into the American market since launching the 888sport brand in New Jersey. Tied in with their 888casino and 888poker brands, this expansion can only strengthen the company’s hold on the US market. Furthering the US expansion, 888 took control of the All-American Poker Network (AAPN). According to Sharesmagazine, ‘the company set-up AAPN in 2013 as a way of extending the reach of its popular 888poker and 888casino online businesses in the highly regulated online gambling market across the pond.’
And another acquisition was soon on the cards this year, when along with the Costa Bingo acquisition, 888 also bought BetBright’s sports betting platform. Bought for fifteen million pounds in an attempt to consolidate control over the global sports betting market, BetBright’s offices in Dublin are to be incorporated into the 888 group. CEO of 888 Itai Pazner stated, ‘This is the third acquisition that the group has made in recent months and demonstrates the group’s commitment to its strategy: to be a global leader in the online gaming market by driving organic growth across regulated markets, supported by value-accretive M&A.’
Costa Bingo is just another instance of 888’s continuing expansion, making it one of the most formidable companies out there at the moment. If anything is to be learned from the Wink Bingo acquisition, it’s that 888’s continued success relies quite heavily on the bingo market, which seems to be growing year on year. The acquisition of Costa Bingo is only going to further cement 888’s position in the online bingo arena.