Anyone familiar with the history and development of the online gambling industry knows the brand 888.com. The early beginnings of this formidable gaming empire started in the mid to late 1990s. Old timers might recognize 888.com as casino-on-net.com, which operated in union until a branding decision was made to solely push 888.com. Then it was off to the races: 888.com casino, poker, and sports were all developed and loaded the coffers of the company owners. The Casava Casino Software was mostly kept in-house, and only licensed to white label operators with strong marketing abilities.
By 2006, 888.com was roaring along, welcoming players from around the world, including the USA. Then, when UIGEA of 2006 was made law, they respectfully bowed out of the USA market. The loss of American gambling dollars did slow them a bit, but they foraged ahead into the fully legal European markets, particularly the UK. Casino affiliates probably remember various dust-ups over what would happen to their players and income. When 888.com left the USA, they practically closed up shop overnight, leaving many affiliates feeling jilted and used.
Between 2006-2012, 888.com cruised along building its presence in alternative markets. They translated their casino into more than 15 different languages, including Chinese. This allowed them to tap the burgeoning Asian market, whose superstitious players recognize the number “8″ to symbolize wealth and prosperity. Meanwhile, 888.com disavowed all ties to any illegal online gambling activity in the USA, choosing instead to keep a remarkably clean record with European gaming authorities. The Gibralter based business has never been sanctioned by any regulatory board. Further, operating in Gibralter for any length of time proves (more or less) that the company is solvent, since this jurisdiction has some of the strongest regulation in the world.
Nevada Online Gambling Goes Live: Interstate gambling in the works, and 888.com sees a big “in”
While 888.com made it clear USA players were not welcome in recent years, it did reach an agreement with Ceasars Entertainment in 2011 to operate World Series of Poker branded websites in Europe. This partnership needed some clearance in the USA, and 888.com was given the go ahead. This business decision would later prove to be invaluable.
On March 22, 2013, the Nevada Gaming Commission unanimously approved 888.com for entry into the fledgling Nevada online gambling market, soon to reach most people in the USA.
Legal counsel for 888.com cited its spotless record of operation in Europe, successful partnership with Caesar’s Entertainment, and $0 of debt liabilities. Yes, that’s right ZERO money owned to anyone. Additionally, 888.com agreed to hold enough money in the United States to cover 100% of American player balances, a reserve requirement setup by the Nevada Gaming Commission to ensure transparency and trustworthy business operations.
So everything pre-UIGEA 2006 is forgotten? Big Money DOES talk!
Anyone in the land based or online casino industry knows that 888.com operated in a legal gray area for many years in the USA before the 2006 UIGEA chased them out. Were they technically breaking any laws? Not at the time. Did they circumvent tax collection and other reporting requirements as a business profiting from United States customers? Maybe. Was the decision to formally leave the market in 2006 a good one? Absolutely.
Had 888.com stubbornly plodded along in spite of the USA’s strong anti-online gambling stance and continued to process payments, they could have been liable for civil and criminal damages. They didn’t; and effectively kept their noses clean on USA soil.
The Nevada Gaming Control board was well aware of their involvement in the USA during online gambling’s infancy, but felt satisfied 888.com has acted in good faith since it ceased accepting USA players.
Now that USA online gambling is becoming fully legal, they have wisely stepped back in and won the approval of the Nevada Gaming Commission handily.
888.com recently posted it’s biggest profits to date, with a 13% jump in revenue in 2012, all of which was derived from legal European markets. That’s good enough for government in the USA, and their $0 in debt liabilities only further strengthens their financial credentials to operate with complete solvency on USA soil.
While 888.com might not have the balance sheet of other well established Las Vegas brands, don’t count them out: they’ got the IT knowledge, operating software, payment processing, and customer service know-how to compete with any Vegas Giant going online. They will undoubtedly jump into the race a few steps ahead, while their formerly land-based-only competition scrambles to hire qualified online gambling employees.
This development proves that nothing is absolute in USA law, despite the sanctimonious and far reaching activities of the DOJ and state civil courts. Leaving in 2006 was the right thing to do, and 888.com smartly bided its time waiting for the chance to come back.
Any past run ins with USA law enforcement before 2006 have been forgotten now that this big-money player is ready to do business AND pay taxes in the USA.
If you have the money, you have the power.