888 Holdings to Power Sports Illustrated Sportsbook Set to Launch This Year

By | June 24, 2021

Another day, another deal gets inked between a sports media company and a gaming firm. The owner of Sports Illustrated announced Wednesday that Gibraltar-based 888 Holdings fetched exclusive rights to use the iconic sports magazine’s name for sportsbook and iGaming operations in the US.

Si Sportsbook
Later this year, the first SI Sportsbook will launch thanks to an agreement announced late Wednesday by Sports Illustrated owner Authentic Brands Group and gaming technology provider 888 Holdings. We don’t know if the SI Sportsbook will offer a free football phone to new bettors. (Image: Sports Illustrated)

The first SI Sportsbook is expected to launch in Colorado in the coming months, according to a statement from the magazine, owned by Authentic Brands Group.

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,” said a statement by Jamie Salter, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Authentic Brands Group.

In addition, Sports Illustrated will also begin thorough coverage of the sports betting space. That reporting, according to the release, will provide analysis and other resources to give detailed information to veteran and beginning bettors.

There will also be a special gambling-themed edition of the magazine printed in August.

Earlier Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that the deal would run for 20 years. Authentic Brands Group would receive a licensing fee from 888 for the use of the Sports Illustrated brand. Authentic Brands would also receive a roughly 5 percent stake in 888’s US operations, with the potential for that stake to grow.

Who is 888?

In the US, 888 currently operates an online sportsbook and casino in New Jersey under its own brand. It also provides the technology platform for WSOP.com.

Now it’s found another partner mainly for sports betting.

“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 in the statement.

Last year, the company announced it had secured market access in Colorado, Indiana, and Iowa. At that time, Yaniv Sherman told Casino.org that the company could launch in Indiana sometime in 2021.

It’s unclear if 888 will look to launch SI-themed sportsbook apps in Indiana and Iowa in lieu of its own brand. An email seeking comment sent early Thursday morning ET was not returned.

Sports Illustrated and 888 had been rumored as possible partners for months, and SI reportedly isn’t the only target for the gaming company. Another rumored acquisition target is William Hill’s sportsbook operations in Europe. Those went on the market shortly after Caesars Entertainment closed on its acquisition of the sportsbook operator.

Caesars and 888 have an existing relationship, as 888 operates in New Jersey as mobile skins for Caesars. The WSOP.com online poker app is also operated by Caesars.

Sports Illustrated Still Draws an Audience

Sports Illustrated now joins the likes of Yahoo!, Barstool Sports, and FOX Sports as media entities that have their own branded sportsbook they can use as a promotional vehicle

Founded in 1954, Sports Illustrated once was the pinnacle of sports journalism in the US. Its weekly magazine editions covered in-depth topics and gave readers insights into what was happening in all major sports.

As with most news publications, the SI print edition took a hit as more readers got their sports news online. Over time, the magazine changed hands, as Time Inc. sold it, and what was once a weekly publication is now published just 16 times a year. It has a paid circulation of 1.6 million subscribers, but that’s less than half of the nearly 4 million subscribers it had 15 years ago.

Online, SI.com finds itself trailing Yahoo! Sports and ESPN in terms of unique visitors. But the sports site is the fifth-most popular in the US. According to eBizMBA, the estimated 20 million unique monthly readers places it between CBSSports.com (30 million estimated) and NBCSports (19.5 million).

That’s still a quite significant market from which a sportsbook could draw.

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