888 Hires US Exec to Help Launch SI Sportsbook in More States

UK-based gaming giant announces plans to launch SI Sportsbook in Virginia next month. The company also said there are more “states in the pipeline” for its online poker platform.
a split image. on the left side, a blue background with the 888holdings logo in a repeating pattern. on the right, a red background with the sports illustrated-branded SI sportsbook logo in a repeating pattern.
April 25, 2022

When 888 Holdings and Authentic Brands Group (ABS) announced last June that they had formed a joint venture to launch a Sports Illustrated (SI)-branded sportsbook in the US, SI said at the time that the sportsbook would launch first in Colorado “with more states to follow in the coming months.”

Ten months later, progress has been limited. The Colorado launch occurred in September, and 888 pulled down its house brand sportsbook, 888sport, in New Jersey in December. But there have been no additional launches since Colorado and 888 has not yet replaced 888sport in the Garden State.

In an effort to get things moving, 888 announced that it has appointed Howard Mittman as its new President of US Operations. The appointment is significant since Mittman oversaw the launch of B/R Betting during his previous tenure as CEO of Bleacher Report. 888 has described B/R Betting as a “sports betting practice” asset of Bleacher Report.

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“SI Sportsbook is planned to launch in multiple additional states in the coming months,” 888 said in its statement announcing Mittman’s hiring.

The announcement also said Mittman would be responsible for “888’s B2B partnerships in the US, including the pioneering World Series of Poker (WSOP) brand’s hugely popular online poker rooms across three states, with more in the pipeline, including in Michigan.”

The words “more in the pipeline” suggest 888 is looking to launch poker rooms besides the four it runs in Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. WSOP MI launched in Michigan on March 28 and, while Ontario is not a state, 888 launched its 888poker, 888casino, and 888sport products in the Canadian province on April 4.

But the operator’s options are currently limited to West Virginia. That’s because 888 has a monopoly in Delaware through a partnership with the Delaware Lottery and three racinos in the state. 888 also can’t expand to Connecticut because the state’s gaming law prohibits its two tribal casinos from having separate operators per vertical and the Connecticut Lottery Corporation can’t offer poker.

Turner Sports acquired Bleacher Report in 2012, and clinched a deal in 2019 with Caesars Entertainment Corporation to open a Bleacher Report studio inside the sportsbook at Caesars Palace, according to Reuters.

888 CEO Itai Pazner said Mittman’s appointment “comes at a hugely exciting point in our long-term growth strategy in the US online betting market as we look forward to launching SI Sportsbook in multiple states in the coming months and years.

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“Howard has an exceptional track record at some of the world’s best-known media brands, brings a huge amount of knowledge of the US digital landscape, has exceptionally strong relationships across the world of sports and media, and was the outstanding candidate after a thorough search.”

Pazner said 888 would launch an SI Sportsbook in Virginia in May. He made the prediction in a Q1 2022 trading update released Wednesday.

“We made excellent progress towards readying SI Sportsbook for launch in Virginia, which is expected in the coming weeks, alongside hiring a highly experienced new President of 888 US to drive our US ambitions forward,” the company added in the trading update.

A May launch of SI Sportsbook in Virginia is a little later than regulators were expecting. The Virginia Lottery had said in January that it expects 888 would launch a sportsbook in the state sometime during Q1 2022.

On April 4, 888 launched its online poker, casino, and sports betting products in Ontario. In the sports betting space, it made its 888sport product – not SI Sportsbook — available to customers in the province.

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