888 Holdings and the World Series of Poker have increasingly gone hand-in-hand over the past two years.
That relationship has become apparent in the United States since the introduction of regulated online poker, as 888 powers the software that is behind WSOP.com in both New Jersey and Nevada.
Now, 888poker will be an even bigger part of the WSOP, as the company has agreed to a deal with the world’s most important poker series to become a “leading sponsor” for the 2015 World Series of Poker and WSOP Eurpoe.
“As a true partner with the WSOP on the B2B side where we power their real-money gaming in the United States, this was a logical next step for us to carry the power of the WSOP to our players across all other major markets we serve,” said Itai Pazner, Senior Vice President at 888 Holdings.
The deal is an interesting one, as the WSOP has previously been cautious about entering into such agreements with online poker operators, especially since they have their own brand name (even if it run on 888 software).
However, the increasingly strong ties between the companies and the improved position of 888poker (which is now clearly the second-largest online poker operator in the world) may have helped to change the mind of WSOP organizers.
The deal will offer a little something for both sides, as the WSOP will get more exposure and may receive more players through online satellites, while 888poker will gain access to lots of WSOP content.
Outside of the United States, Mexico, India, Italy, France and parts of Canada, 888poker has gained the rights to run official satellites and other promotions that will be tied into WSOP events. Players on 888poker will also be able to access live updates on WSOP tournaments directly from within the poker client.
888 will also benefit from some very high-profile advertising on television and live streams. The online gambling firm will receive the coveted “above the felt sponsorship,” meaning that ESPN’s television coverage will prominently display 888poker branding throughout the tournament series.
For WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart, the partnership seems like a natural one considering the long history between the two brands.
“888Poker has been a great partner to CIE for many years now,” Stewart said. “We’re proud of the comprehensive offering 888poker will have for any player outside the USA who dreams to play in our flagship events. We see 888poker’s expanded sponsorship as an important step to qualify players affordably and bring additional prize money to the tournaments.”
The announcement comes during a time of change for both the WSOP and 888 Holdings. For the World Series, this will be the first year in which organizers supply the primary media coverage through an in-house staff, rather than partnering with another group in order to share live updates. There are also numerous new events, including the $565 Colossus, which could attract as many as 20,000 or more entries.
Meanwhile, 888 Holdings was in talks to be purchased by William Hill earlier this year, but talks fell apart when at least one founding family wanted more per share than the bookmaker was willing to offer. Just this week, 888 announced that they had a very strong financial year in 2014, and that they may actually be looking to make acquisitions themselves in order to strengthen their position.