International casino, poker, and sports betting operator 888 Holdings will double its geographic footprint in 2021. Earlier this month, 888 announced it has secured market access deals in Colorado, Indiana, and Iowa.
According to a 888 press release, the company will initially launch under the 888Sport brand in all three states. The agreements also cover online gambling and poker if legalized in any of those states.
888 is currently active in three states:
- New Jersey: Mobile sports betting, casino, and poker in partnership with Caesars Interactive Entertainment
- Nevada: Online poker in partnership with Caesars Interactive Entertainment
- Delaware: Online casino and poker in partnership with the Delaware Lottery
888Sport plans to launch in three additional markets in 2021:
- Colorado: Mobile sports betting in partnership with Colorado Grande Casino
- Indiana: Mobile sports betting in partnership with Harrah’s Hoosier Park
- Iowa: Mobile sports betting in partnership with Catfish Bend Casinos II, LLC
Pennsylvania is also on deck, although 888 has not yet announced an anticipated launch date. In September, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) issued an interactive gaming manufacturer license to 888.
888’s Smart and Selective Approach
888 has been one of the slower international gaming brands to enter the US market. New Jersey is the only major market in which 888 currently operates.
888’s slow growth in the US market is not an accident. Yaniv Sherman, Head of Commercial Development at 888 Holdings, discussed his company’s US strategy with BettingUSA last year.
Sherman explained that 888’s approach to the US market is “smart and selective.” Unlike some other operators, 888 does not pursue a first-to-market strategy in the United States.
Recent 888 moves appear to conform to that strategy. 888 was slow to enter both Pennsylvania and Iowa, two markets with significant drawbacks. In Pennsylvania, those are large licensing fees and high taxes. In Iowa, it is in-person registration for mobile betting (which will expire on January 1st).
Why 888Sport was slower to enter Indiana, which is an industry-friendly state, is unclear. Sherman did explain in 2019 that some of 888’s competitors appear to have signed onto expensive market access deals in their rush to launch first in certain states.
888 Optimistic Regarding Online Poker
The growth of online poker in the United States has been slower than hoped, but 888 remains optimistic that opportunity abounds.
Online poker seemed set for rapid expansion in 2013 when New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware all oversaw the launch of the nation’s first legal poker sites that year. Progress ground to a halt for several years after the initial rush.
But momentum is moving in favor of online poker once again. Three more states have joined the list since 2019. The first Pennsylvania poker sites launched in 2019, and Michigan and West Virginia passed legislation that same year to authorize online poker.
888 is in a strong position to capitalize on the renewed interest in online poker. It operates the largest poker network in the US, with operations in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. 888 recently received an online gaming license in Pennsylvania to clear the way to launch a 888 or WSOP-branded poker platform.
Pennsylvania alone doubles the population of Nevada and New Jersey combined. If Pennsylvania joins the multi-state poker network, operators in all participating states will gain access to a much larger pool of players. Currently, 888 is the only poker site whose operations span Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and soon, Pennsylvania.