Betting Site 888’s CEO Steps Down with an Immediate Effect

UK betting and gaming provider 888 Holdings, the company behind betting sites 888sport, 888casino, and 888poker, has announced that its Chief Executive Officer is stepping down with an immediate effect. Itai Pazner, who has been leading 888 Holdings for about 4 years, and has worked there for over 20 years, has ended his tenure at the company suddenly and without explanation.

In addition to Pazner leaving the company, it has been announced that the betting site will temporarily suspend its VIP activities in one of its key markets, the Middle East, in order to allow for an internal compliance investigation to take place. According to a statement by the company, the investigation will focus on anti-money laundering and Know Your Client processes and procedures, which may not have been followed when VIP customers in the Middle East area were involved. The suspension of VIP Middle East activities is expected to result in a 3% drop in the company’s overall revenue for the year.

Non-executive Chair Lord Mendelsohn commented:

“The Board and I take the Group’s compliance responsibilities incredibly seriously. When we were alerted to issues with some of 888’s VIP customers, the Board took decisive actions. We will be uncompromising in our approach to compliance as we build a strong and sustainable business.”

The suspension and investigation only apply to the Middle East region, and 888 Holdings continues to operate its betting sites in Ireland and other parts of the world without interruption. In Ireland, 888sports and 888casino are among the most popular betting sites, and continue to attract new customers with excellent introductory offers and promotions and outstanding customer service.

The unexpected news comes after a series of announcements that the UK Gambling Commission has taken regulatory action against UK-based betting sites and gambling providers. One company affected by the action was online casino provider Intouch Games, who was subject to a substantial €6.9m (£6.1m) fine following an enquiry into its operations and processes. The enquiry found failings in relation to the company’s compliance with social responsibility and money laundering regulations in the UK, and resulted in a third large fine within a 4-year period.

Coincidentally, the announcement that Pazner is no longer CEO of 888 Holdings follows a speech by UK Gambling Minister Paul Scully at the Annual General Meeting of the UK Betting and Gaming Council. In his speech, Scully focused exclusively on the upcoming UK gambling industry White Paper, which will be published as soon as February 2023, and which is expected to make bold changes across the industry in order to ensure that betting sites do all they can to prevent any potential harm from gambling, protect vulnerable bettors, and prevent the use of gambling for money laundering and financing of criminal activities and terrorism.

The news of Pazner stepping down resulted in 888 Holdings shares plummeting by 14.4%, however the stock later recovered a little and closed at -11% of its pre-announcement levels. Interestingly, 888 Holdings has not been a stranger to share instability, with shares losing almost 40% of its value since Pazner became the company’s CEO, despite the fact that he led 888 Holdings through its acquisition of bookmaker William Hill and its international assets in 2021. William Hill was previously owned by US betting and gaming giant Caesars Entertainment.

A temporary replacement for Pazner will be the company’s Non-executive Chair Jonathan Mendelsohn, whose job will be to stabilise the situation and maintain the company’s operations until the board finds a new CEO. Mendelsohn may have a tricky task ahead of him, with 888 Holdings announcing earlier this month that the company’s revenue for 2022 decreased by 3% compared to 2021. According to the bookmaker, the reason for this was the tightening of safety measures for customers of the company’s betting sites, as well as the closure of the company’s online betting and gaming services in the Netherlands. The combined result of these two factors resulted in a 15% drop in the company’s revenue from online betting and gaming. These numbers led to an announcement that the Chief Financial Officer of 888 Holdings, Yariv Dafna, will leave at the end of March. The departure of the company’s CEO changed this, however, and Dafna is now expected to stay until the end of the year.

Notwithstanding recent turmoils, 888 Holdings remains one of the leading betting providers in Ireland and globally. The company’s commitment to responsible gambling and customer safety means that the internal compliance enquiry will be carried out to the highest standard, and industry experts expect that the company will soon recover and resume its normal operations. We will follow the developments and report any relevant news – please come back to find out more.