888 Holdings has detailed growth across a range of existing and current markets, but has underscored a need to focus on safer gambling in tandem with this expansion – particularly following its recent fine in the UK.
Breaking down the company’s 2021 trading results in the 888 full year earnings call yesterday, CEO Itai Pazner focused on developments in Europe and North America, before highlighting the firm’s focus on “customer excellence”.
Detailing the Gibraltar-based, FTSE 250 gambling group’s market focus, Pazner revealed that the firm has experienced 18% growth in its core markets of the UK, Italy and Spain, – which make up 59% of its total revenues – whilst growth markets represented 21% of group total revenue, but grew by 61% throughout the year.
“This was despite marketing restrictions across both Italy and Spain, and this strong performance really shows the power of our brands, our products and our customer experience, and demonstrates the value of continued investment in these areas,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Germany, the Netherlands and the Canadian province of Ontario were earmarked as the growth markets with the most potential, with Pazner stating that analysis shows that these jurisdictions have a combined value of up to $10 billion.
The CEO continued: “The last long-term opportunity, which includes emerging growth markets such as Latin America, and Africa, which we aim to address through a combination of M&A and local partnerships and where we have active pipelines and opportunities.”
An additional key area of growth for 888 in 2022 is the upcoming acquisition of William Hill International, expected to be finalised this quarter – a move which Pazner predicts will triple the size of the business for which the firm has reportedly sought a £500 million financial backing.
This market growth, however, has also required 888 to address responsible gambling – an area which Pazner has stated is a key aspect of its customer excellence plan, having launched its UK Control Centre and enabling access to safer gaming technology to 40% of its international customer base.
Explaining the group’s approach to Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) policies moving forward, Pazner explained that the ‘Made to Play Safely’ initiative would play a key part in this strategy.
“Reflecting our commitment to prevent harm through safer gaming, our goal is to normalise the use of our safer gaming tools,” the CEO continued.
“Over 40% of our active customers in Q4 2021 had limits in place, and we are looking to increase this. By both encouraging players to place limits on themselves, and by increasing the number of customer limits that we are proactively putting in place for them.”
888 has not experienced entirely positive news lately, however, with the firm having been fined £9.4 million by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) for social responsibility and anti-money laundering shortcomings, particularly with regards to ‘failing vulnerable customers’.
“I think it’s not a happy moment for us in the history of the 888 because we do see ourselves as a responsible operator that takes customer safety, adhering to regulations, and meeting the highest standards extremely seriously,” the CEO explained.
Pazner further stated that “we completely recognise that there were some clear issues” regarding policies and procedures that previously “didn’t work properly.”
Concluding the strategic review, Pazner remarked: “2021 was a really great year for 888 from a financial perspective, but it was also a truly transformational year both operationally and strategically for the business as we continue to make significant progress against our plans to become a global online betting and gaming leader.
“As we look into 2022, we have started the script of the year well, and we’re really looking forward to completing the field with the William Hill acquisition, and further reinforcing our long-term growth plan.”