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888 Holdings’ Guy Cohen on purchases, PASPA and poker

Guy Cohen, SVP, Head of B2C at 888 Holdings, discuss his company’s BetBright deal, operating in the newly regulated US sports betting market, and making plans to restore poker to its former glory.

SBC: You have been on an acquisition spree lately. Can you explain the philosophy behind this, particularly regarding your BetBright purchase?

GC: Sport was the missing link in terms of having our own technology. 888sport continues to be powered by the Kambi sportsbook platform and while we were and are satisfied with the product our ultimate strategy is to own our technology, which we now do via BetBright. 

So we are now in the process of migrating from Kambi to our proprietary technology which will bring sport into line with all of our gambling verticals and products. 

SBC: What attracted you to BetBright and what are your plans for the business moving forwards?

GC: We found in BetBright a great technology, product and group of people that fit very well into the wider 888 business. We have spent many years looking at various options that would allow us to own our own sports betting platform and BetBright stood out as being the only way we could achieve this and deliver the best in class sportsbook offering that we strive to offer our players. 

BetBright also came with a talented and highly-skilled group of people that have the sport and betting knowledge and passion that we need to take our sportsbook offering to the next level. When this combination came at the right price, we knew it was the perfect opportunity for us. 

SBC: Why was it so important to own your own technology?

Guy Cohen, 888

GC: Owning our sportsbook technology allows us to control our destiny. It allows us to invest in our technology talent and use this, along with the platform, to deploy our business strategy and drive growth in a way that we have not been able to do in the past 

For example, we are looking to provide a superior experience to 888sport customers through personalisation, AI and more. Having our own technology allows us to deliver this. What’s more, it will provide a more seamless experience across all of our brands – 888casino, 888poker and 888sport. 

SBC: How have you found the US market to date?

GC: The US market continues to be a very important one for 888 as a whole and our sports business, which launched in September 2018, was among the first to market. We now have a dedicated team in the US which is actively marketing the 888sport brand to players in the state and we are already seeing positive trends and results. 

SBC: How will the global sports betting sector change over the coming 12 months?

GC: Sport will continue to grow through its two main engines which are mobile and live betting. In addition, sport will provide a more personalised experience in both UI and dedicated tools like bet builders. On the marketing side, sport brands will have to adjust to the new advertising rules we see in places like Italy and the UK. This all makes for a hugely exciting year ahead.  

SBC: Moving away from sports betting, how do you see the current poker landscape? 

GC: The current online poker landscape is one of challenges and opportunities, but we still see it as an important vertical and one where there are opportunities for growth. 

888poker is still considered one of the top brands across the various online poker networks – .com, EUSL, Italy, etc – and we have achieved this by delivering an unrivalled player experience to both recreational and experienced players with a great range of games, tournaments and promotions. 

The poker vertical may not have enjoyed the same levels of growth as sport betting and casino in recent months, but the team at 888poker is working to a new roadmap that we believe puts us on a smoother road and one that will lead us to growth. 

SBC: What does this roadmap entail and what are your plans for the 888poker product?

GC: Back in March, we began the global roll-out of our hotly anticipated Poker 8 platform. Poker 8 takes the player experience to the next level with a vastly improved design and functionality, including new backgrounds, animations, sounds and avatars. 

We are also hard at work on bringing additional upgrades to Poker 8 including a revamped poker lobby and significant improvements to our mobile poker offering.

In addition to this, we continue to run our innovative tournament and campaigns formats such as Sunday Sale, RakeLESS Sunday, Rake or Break and XL Blizzard in order to keep delivering maximum entertainment, and maximum value, to our players.

SBC: Just finally, what does the 50th Anniversary of the WSOP mean for 888poker and its partnership with the tournament?

GC: The 50th Anniversary of the World Series of Poker was a tremendous event for the WSOP, 888poker and the global poker playing community. We have been a main event sponsor of the WSOP for six years now, so to continue that partnership with the WSOP during its 50th Anniversary year was an incredible honour for us.

Of course, the WSOP is perhaps the biggest name in the poker world so for us to be so closely aligned with it brings tremendous benefits to 888poker and our brand. It has proved to be a successful partnership for many years now, and one that I believe will continue to benefit both the WSOP and 888poker for many years to come.

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