Exclusive: 888 and Sports Illustrated plot US joint venture
Magazine publisher and London-listed operator set to take equity stake in new online sports betting collaboration
888 is deep in discussions with Sports Illustrated over the creation of a US-facing sports betting joint venture (JV), EGR can exclusively reveal.
Both 888 and Sports Illustrated will take up an equity stake in the business under the arrangement, where EGR understands 888 will supply the technology and platform to the Sports Illustrated brand.
Talks between the two businesses are still ongoing, but a deal could be reached before the end of May, according to sources.
Sports Illustrated has been looking to enter the lucrative US sports betting arena since August 2020, when the New York Post suggested parent company Authentic Brands Group (ABG) was seeking out operators over a potential licensing deal.
The business, which has has almost four million followers across Twitter and Instagram, has also explored launching an SI Bets brand. Sports Illustrated’s website receives 40 million unique hits a month, while its total subscriber base of both print and digital subscribers numbers two million.
ABG purchased the rights to the Sports Illustrated brand from publishing firm Meredith in May 2019 for $110m, later licensing its media operations to technology and digital publishing company Maven.
A Sports Illustrated spokesperson confirmed to EGR the business would soon enter the nascent US sports betting landscape, including igaming and poker.
An 888 spokesperson said: “The company’s policy has always been not to comment on rumours and speculation.”
888poker currently powers the World Series of Poker’s online offering, WSOP.com, and is in the process of launching its upgraded Poker 8 software to New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania on desktop, iOS and Android. 888 is also behind the only interstate poker network in the US.
The operator is also primed to launch its new Spectate sports betting platform across the US later this year, having successfully rolled out the technology in the UK and Sweden.
The firm is understood to be working to a three-year expansion plan in the US as it looks to make up ground on market leaders FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM.
So far, 888sport is only live in New Jersey, but has also signed market-access agreements in Colorado, Iowa and Indiana. According to analysis by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, 888sport managed a market share of just 0.3% in New Jersey during 2020.
Discussing a potential US partnership in October 2020, 888 CEO Itai Pazner said: “It’s either going to be big media firms with strong brands that are relevant to sports or gaming, or at the other end of the spectrum, potentially significant local gaming companies that have local licenses and strong brands.
“However, these kinds of partnerships are complex, they need to be carried out in the right way and in a true partnership where both parties think alike and see the US opportunity in the same way.
“That’s not always easy to identify and therefore we will only do a deal like that if it’s the right deal for us. There is no pressing need to partner up,” he added.
In a recent interview with EGR North America, 888 US chief Yaniv Sherman revealed the firm would look to prioritize regional deals before targeting national ones due to the expense and risk involved.
He said: “I’m positive we will have some interesting conversations and potential agreements in the near and mid-term with media outlets or brands that are out there right now.
“We like to have partnerships we can utilise and leverage to create the return, that’s our priority.”