Gaining a provisional license to offer sports betting in Virginia last week fit well with two key objectives for 888sport, senior vice president, head of US Yaniv Sherman told PlayUSA.
The Gibraltar-based company would become the seventh betting operator in Virginia, helping shade in an East Coast bloc and fortify an American foothold. 888 will enter the market with its Sports Illustrated brand and in a partnership with Virtual Entertainment Partners, a local 100% African-American female-owned business.
888 possesses licenses or market access deals in Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 888 also offers online casino and poker, but those are not legal in Virginia.
“Virginia was always sort of right up there, mostly because it starts to build a continuum between, if you look at the Northeast between New Jersey, the tri-state areas of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and then going down to Virginia and Maryland, which we sort of regard as one market,” Sherman told PlayUSA on a video call from Isreal.
“Originally, Maryland was supposed to be a bit further along at this point. They’re still figuring things out. We’re actively engaged and we’ve signed with a local partner there, too. In a sense, Virginia and Maryland are sort of connected as a [market] and also from a marketing perspective. So that’s one big market we’re focused on. Naturally, it’s a big sports market.”
Virginia was also attractive, Sherman said, because it’s not yet flooded with competition. The District of Columbia has just a lottery-run platform and Caesars, and Maryland is still in the process of licensing, although a Baltimore Sun report said retail sports betting could begin on Friday at select casinos.
“[Virginia] has a relatively small number of operators, eventually. Right now it’s like seven or eight already live, but up to seven 17, any given moment, which is a lot lower than some of the other states,” he observed. “Colorado has 26, including [partner] SISportsbook. So, it’s a good healthy market. it was always high up there on our list and we were very happy and very pleased to get that provisional license.”
What states will 888 next target?
Sherman said ‘first-mover’ states will remain a priority, with “four-to-six” new hopefuls identified. 888 hopes to go live in Michigan soon, he said.
“What I can share is that we’re prioritizing first-mover states, naturally,” Sherman said. “We have licenses in Indiana and Iowa and now Virginia, but we have a few more states and if you can look at that map, recently, we’re making progress …. Maryland’s another one as I just mentioned, but any first-mover state will be prioritized.”