Sports betting industry news: Sports Illustrated jumps into the sports betting world with 888

Jay Dieffenbach

The hits – and hitters – keep coming to the sports-betting industry.

Last month, the iconic American sports publication Sports Illustrated jumped into the fray with gambling operator 888 Holdings.

The pair reached agreement to license the Sports Illustrated name for the purposes of tie-ins with sports betting and casino games, according to a Sportico source familiar with the deal.

The goal, according to SI, is to “develop Sports Illustrated online sports betting and iGaming products in the United States, including the launch of SI Sportsbook later in 2021.”

The 888 company, founded in the British Virgin Islands, launched its platform and first proprietary product, Casino-on-Net, in May 1997.

Though the SI name is new, this type of arrangement is not.

Sports betting and media partnerships continue to increase

Prominent gaming companies and popular sports media brands are acting on the prospects of a bright future. The media company, obviously, is key for providing its legacy reputation and the usually massive library of content; the gaming companies, having already existed in the booming sports betting space, offer the significance of tech and infrastructure.

Recent partnerships include Stars Group and Fox (Fox Bet) and Penn National with Barstool (Barstool Sportsbook).

Sports Illustrated will help the transition for its longtime subscribers, reporting that the magazine will roll out a gambling-themed issue in August.

No high-level creativity is needed for the new product — the will be SI Sportsbook — and it’s a great touchpoint with a target start date by early September, according to the source cited in the Sportico story.

The National Football League season kicks off on Thursday night, Sept. 9.

Authentic Brands Group owns Sports Illustrated and is eager to get started.

“We are thrilled to announce that Sports Illustrated is entering the online sports betting and iGaming space,” Authentic Brands founder and CEO Jamie Salter said. “888 is one of the leaders in online betting and gaming globally and has outstanding technology, products and marketing capabilities, and we are excited to partner with them to offer an innovative product experience for sports fans.”

SI Sportsbook to launch in Colorado

SI Sportsbook, according to the SI.com website announcement, will first be operating in Colorado, and will move into more states over the succeeding several months.

“We are excited about the potential to deliver our cutting-edge, proprietary sportsbook platform into the market, providing Sports Illustrated fans with a first-class betting and gaming experience,” 888 CEO Itai Pazner said.

From a business standpoint, it’s the logical next step. A Nasdaq.com report said 888’s move to strengthen its U.S. presence is a strong one.

“The British company, much like other online betting firms, has been increasing its foothold in the United States, tapping rapidly growing betting market since a ban on sports betting was lifted in 2018,” Nasdaq.com wrote, adding a quote from Wall Street.

"On the face of it, this agreement provides 888 with a platform to take its (business-to-consumer) strategy in the U.S. to the next level, by giving access to a Sports brand with a long history, nationwide awareness," analysts at Stifel Financial Corporation said in a note.

From Sportico:

The exclusive deal, which runs for up to 20 years, has three main components, the person said. There’s an upfront licensing fee paid to SI owner Authentic Brands Group, additional payments based on performance metrics, and an equity offering. Authentic Brands will receive a 4.9% stake in 888’s consumer-facing U.S. business with options to buy up to nearly 20% at future dates.

Sports Illustrated, which was purchased by Authentic Brands in 2019, is published by Maven Media.

888 Holdings is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange. Sportico reports revenue of $849.7 million in 2020 — about 70 percent from casino products and 14 percent from sports betting.

For 888, the focus in on the player.

“We value every player across all the brands under the 888.com umbrella,” its site pledges. “All our activities and gaming offerings are driven by the player experience. Player feedback is paramount and it factors into all our decision-making.”

SI promises “a robust array of betting information and comprehensive coverage along with in-depth analysis, tools and widgets on its digital platform.”

The partnership is poised to gain further leverage as nine additional states are expected before the end of the year to join the 20+ states already offering sports betting.

“Sports Illustrated is the most trusted brand name in sports, and trust in the gaming space is paramount,” said Ross Levinsohn, CEO of Maven, the operator of Sports Illustrated’s print and digital assets.

“The editorial, content and betting experience will reflect the integrity and ethos that SI has maintained for more than six decades.”

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