Online gambling is big, big business. There are estimates by serious investment bankers such as Merrill Lynch that it could be worth as much as $700 billion over the next 10 years in Europe and the US alone. While playing roulette and poker across the Internet is the new dynamic, sports betting has been around much longer and is much more popular.
So it was no surprise yesterday when John Anderson, chief executive of 888, the quoted online casino and poker group, said he wanted to get into sports betting and was looking around for an established company to buy.
Anderson is a man who should know what he’s talking about. Born in Kentucky, He’s been in the hospitality and betting industry for most of his working life. At 22 he became a general manager of the Brock Hotel Corporation, the youngest in the company’s history, later moving on the Ladbroke Group where he spent 26 years working in a variety of divisions, including credit betting, cash betting, racecourse management and hotels.
In 1996 he joined Burford Holdings, the property group and led a management buy-out 4 years later before moving to 888 in 2000.
888’s flotation last year nearly didn’t happen because of investor fears that online poker did not have long-term growth prospects. In the final analysis it did go ahead , raising around £175 million, providing a war chest for new acquisitions and secure its Israeli owners – brothers Avi and Aharon Shaked, and Shay Ben-Yitzhak and his family – a vast fortune. Anderson has a reported 4% share in the company.