The 888 Holdings Group, which serves as one of the iGaming industry’s biggest names worldwide, made the announcement that it has experienced another “record year” in 2021. Revenue growth for the period was reported as 14%, which it said was driven by its own expansion into various regulated markets.
The gambling giant made a post-close trading update that stated its entry into and maintenance in the regulated and taxed markets of various locations had contributed 74% of its annual revenue. Strong performances were reported for the United Kingdom, Romania, Italy and Portugal. Yet there was a partial offset of this, thanks to a decline noted in Germany.
Business to customer revenue for 888 experienced an increase of 15%, reaching a total of $934 million (£685 million), and this increase was led by growth in the casino sector of 24%. A sports betting growth of 4% was also registered, which was determined to be a result of regulatory changes on the sports betting sector. In particular, the fact that 888 had to withdraw from the Netherlands last year had a key effect. This, it said in October last year, caused it to lose around $10 million (£7.3 million).
The revenue figures from the fourth quarter of 2021 hit a total of $214 million (£157 million), which is a decrease of 16% from the figures reported in the same period of 2020. Yet 888 said that it had expected this to be the case.
Within the same update, the acquisition of William Hill International was noted. That takeover is expected to come to a close in the second quarter of this year. The £2.2 billion purchase of the company will see 888 take control of the international branch of William Hill, whilst keeping its 1,400 high street bookmaker shops in business. This allows Caesars Entertainment, which acquired William Hill last year, to concentrate on the U.S. branch of the company in its online version. It was direct about its lack of interest in keeping the UK’s high street shops itself, which is when 888 stepped in to take control of them.
Strategic Sales and Acquisitions
The 888 brand has never been one to hold back when it comes to getting what it wants. In 2021, it proceeded with making what it deemed as a “strategic sale” of its B2C and B2B bingo business. This was placed on the market for $50 million (£36.5 million), and through its sale, 888 was able to place more focus on its core B2C platform, as well as its intent to expand even further into the U.S. market.
“2021 was a year of outstanding strategic progress for 888 as we announced the transformational acquisition of William Hill International and reached an agreement to sell our bingo business to increase our focus on our B2C and US growth plans”,
said Itai Pazner, Chief Executive Officer for 888 Holdings.
“We continue to execute our plan to build a global online betting and gaming leader.”
Pazner continued by commenting on the fact that his company managed to successfully launch its SI sportsbook in the United States of America, which occurred shortly after the brand signed into a longterm partnership which allowed it to operate its 888 Sport platform in Germany under a new licence.
“I am pleased to report another year of record revenues alongside these important strategic milestones, delivering double-digit revenue growth despite a very tough comparative period”,
he continued. Pazner went on to note that the performance reflects
“the continued success of our data-driven investments and execution against our product-leadership focus”,
mentioning that it delivers ongoing improvements relating to usability, quality and safety.
Concern Grows Over Online Betting Activity
The fact that various COVID-19 restrictions have been introduced over the past couple of years have meant that many people haven’t been able to visit land-based establishments. This has prompted quite the upsurge in online gambling revenue, and 888 is just one of the several that have reported record figures in recent days.
The 14% increase in revenue that 888 noted when compared with the previous 12 months was noted by some as being quite the concern, though. Especially considering that Ladbrokes owner Entain saw an upsurge in revenue of almost 30% in the first half of 2021 from the online scene.
Additionally, Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment also posted increased revenue figures, which grew just 8% in 2020 and 40% in Britain and Ireland during the first half of 2021.
Problem Gambling Ireland, a consumer support group, has also taken note of the increased revenue figures. Barry Grant, who is the Chief Executive for the group, said that there had been a “rapid onset” relating to gambling problems at the beginning of the coronavirus lockdowns. He noted that younger gamblers, who engage in betting as a recreational activity, were at risk of “spiralling out of control”.
When sporting events stopped in 2020, the group also noted a surge in Irish online gamblers choosing to engage in gaming at online casinos. A rise in alternative betting, such as that occurring through cryptocurrency value movements, was also recorded at that time. Since the restrictions across the UK and Ireland were eased though, things have returned to a more normal situation where betting is concerned.
That being said, in both 2020 and 2021, Problem Gambling Ireland has witnessed an increase of 50% in visitors seeking help via its website.
“Bookies shops are dangerous enough, but online is a totally different animal”,
said Mr Grant.
“Online poker and casino games are the most addictive of the lot; they’re the crack cocaine or heroin of betting”.
This, he said, was due to it being available and accessible on a 24/7 basis throughout the year.
Potentially, the revenue figures for this are only going to continue increasing as well, considering that Flutter completed its takeover of Tombola for €480 million (£399 million) recently. Not only that, and it also spent around €2 billion (£1.66 billion) buying out one of the leading Italian operators Sisal, just before Christmas.