Founded almost at the beginning of the internet revolution, 888 became almost synonymous with online gambling and the company is now considered to be one of the biggest in the industry.
Dragonfish, the bingo game development and network subsidiary that was owned by 888, became the biggest bingo provider through b2b and b2c services that at one point saw them running or providing game to over 100 sites. In 2021 888 sold Dragonfish and its associated brands to Saphalata Holdings Ltd, part of the Broadway Group.
With a number of different facets and arms of the company, Broadwy is superbly equipped to bring maximum gaming entertainment to a wide variety of markets in the industry, both from a B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Customer) perspective.
New Bingo Sites on the Dragonfish Network
About 888 and Dragonfish
Established in 2007, Dragonfish was the B2B (business to business) arm of the gaming giant 888 Holdings and was created predominantly as a software company in order to initially create technology for 888 properties across all gaming disciplines.
Easily one of the most comprehensive bingo networks in existence, Dragonfish actually is a whale in this industry and their software powers in excess of 100 popular bingo sites.
In the years since, Dragonfish have subsequently expanded and as a result now service a vast proportion of the iGaming industry, with a number of other gambling companies running off their software, as well as numerous white label sites.
The division is arguably one of the largest suppliers of online bingo software powering 888s internal bingo brands including Wink Bingo, Cheeky Bingo and Foxy Bingo and since Chief Executive Officer, Niall Clulely was appointed at the helm in 2016 the business then went from strength to strength.
Dragonfish Continues To Make An Impact
Ultimately Clulely was tasked with the job of playing a key role in business development, helping to build a reputation among the C-suite, helping to develop a blueprint for products, capabilities and skills, which assist in being able to deliver highly ambitious and effective culture and engagement projects.
Upon being hired, Clulely was bullish about the potential of Dragonfish to continue to make an impact in the gaming community.
Speaking in the industry press at the time, he said: “One of the biggest, and most important, elements of my new role will be to understand the challenges facing clients and organisations right now, both internally and externally.
“The changing commercial landscape will be on the minds of all business leaders – as consultants it’s vital that we are as attuned to that as they are.”
“Then there’s the awareness and understanding about culture and performance. Senior executives and functional leaders are often juggling so many dynamics and challenges that taking time to understand, align and then manage and optimise their cultures just doesn’t get the time and attention it deserves,” he continued.
“Historically this has been an area where there are many intangibles that make it hard to show how culture truly links to performance. My role is to help leaders and managers across functions with how their unique culture and performance are linked.”
There is definitely a correlation in gaming companies which deliver a great service to their customers and which have a good, symbiotic culture among their staff.
While there are many other factors that are important such as customer service, website performance and effective marketing, it is easy to tell when a company runs seamlessly internally, with every stakeholder and each department needing to be able to communicate to ensure this.
Dragonfish Bought By Broadway
Dragonfish and bingo in general has always been oriented towards the UK and the success of the company was down to its ability to provide white label and third party services to create 100’s of bingo sites. This was something more traditional companies without a single focus struggled to do.
888, however, took the decision in 2021 to offload the subsidiary and its business-to-business and business-to-customer services to Broadway Gaming for around $50 million.
The reasons for this are likely to do with more stringent legislation in the UK that is expected to restrict white label services. 888 had also recently spent just under £3 billion acquiring William Hill’s European assets from Caesar’s and so streamlined their services to focus on their new brands.
Broadway are also a long established bingo provider with their flagship brand Butler’s Bingo. They hope to be able to grow Dragonfish further by maintaining that single focus the perhaps 888 had lost over the years. David Butler, CEO, said:
“We are delighted to reach an agreement with 888 to acquire its bingo business and platform. By combining these with our existing business and brands, which include ‘Butlers Bingo’, we will be able to achieve an even stronger global footprint in key regulated bingo markets.”
Founded by two sets of brothers; Israeli entrepreneurs Avi and Aaron Shaked and Shay and Ron Ben-Yitzhak in May 1997, initially as Virtual Holdings Limited they have subsequently been the beneficiaries of great timing in the years that have followed.
The company’s first website; Casino-on-Net, was launched at the time of inception with an administrative centre on the Caribbean island of Antigua, while in 2002 Reef Club Casino and Pacific Poker followed as they started their diversification process into new markets.
As of 2003, the company moved its administrative centre to the popular iGaming UK owned province of Gibraltar to continue their upward trajectory in the world of online gambling.
Such was their success over the next couple of years, they were eligible to float on the UK Stock Exchange in 2005 with a number of other gambling companies also beginning to look into how they could also follow suit with public ownership.
888 Holdings Is Born
In early 2006 as the company found that they were starting to grow their portfolio considerably, they changed their overall name to 888 Holdings and started to bring each one across to a singular brand under 888.com.
Up until 2006, 888 Holdings operated Pacific Poker under a separate subsidiary of Virtual Holdings Limited, however, with gambling becoming illegal in the US, a restructure was announced.
Later that year, 888 were tentatively talking about merger negotiations with Ladbrokes, though complications made it almost impossible for these to continue amid a change in UK tax laws and fears of legal actions being taken against them by the US government.
In 2007, 888 launched B2B arm Dragonfish which was essentially an internal merger of their development team to take care of the technology needs of all their brands, though this was also in response to industry growth trends.
They were already beginning to devise a strategy to also become an external software supplier to the wider iGaming market in their own right and as a result had already begun to identify where they might be successful from a business to business (B2B) perspective.
Furthermore, 2007 was around the time that they entered the bingo market. While Dragonfish had already started to create and develop their own bingo brands and network, ultimately under the 888 flagship, 888 Holdings added a substantial feather to their cap as well.
In that year, they essentially laid the foundation to become successful in the bingo market, with the $43.4 million acquisition of online bingo giant Globalcom Limited and as a result of this the company’s bingo business made $14 million in revenue over the six months which followed.
Building A Bingo Network
Having made substantial penetration into the bingo market, it soon became evident that 888 were onto something and that along with the capabilities of Dragonfish they could build a significant network of bingo sites, with some operating under the 888 brand so that it was obvious to customers that 888 provided bingo and the rest under Dragonfish.
Dragonfish meanwhile, were not only making a splash in the bingo market. Soon they were providing technology and software solutions for many other verticals within the iGaming industry, such as rival, smaller gambling companies.
They also provided software solutions to bingo sites of other (again smaller) established online bingo networks, as well as having their own bingo sites branded as being part of their dedicated Dragonfish network.
In January 2019, 888 Holdings Group chairman Brian Mattingley made the strategic move to promote Itai Pazner to CEO (Chief Executive Officer) following the resignation of Itai Frieberger in a decision which has been hailed as a great success, especially considering the positive path that the company has been since.
Upon making the decision to promote Pazner from COO (Chief Operating Officer), Mattingley was confident that the correct move had been made and was more than complimentary about the Group’s successor:
“In [Itai] Pazner we have the ideal successor as CEO. [Itai] is a highly experienced and dynamic operator who has developed a unique understanding of 888 over the past 17 years within the company. He has a fantastic track record within the Group having helped to drive 888’s growth in a number of new regulated markets and overseen significant product and marketing innovation during recent years,” Mattingley said at the time.
“[Itai] Pazner has worked closely with [Itai] Frieberger for a number of years, especially in his most recent role as COO, which will enable an effective and seamless transition.”
Pazner was understandably delighted to accept the post and emphasised his decision to focus on the continued development of 888s technology during his tenure; something which has been instrumental in the growth of their bingo operations.
“I am honoured to become the new CEO of 888. 888 has a brilliant team and culture across the business, which is led by a talented and vastly experienced operational management team,” Pazner said.
“[Itai ]Frieberger is hugely admired both within 888 and throughout the online gaming industry and he has been instrumental in the Group’s significant development over many years. I am very excited at the prospect of building on his work and continuing to deliver the Group’s clear growth strategy by further enhancing our technology and growing 888’s presence across products and global regulated markets.”
Founded in the British Virgin Islands as Virtual Holdings Limited. That year, its subsidiary in Antigua gained a gaming licence to subsequently base all of its gaming servers, management, member support functions and technical and payments staff.
The company’s platform and initial proprietary product, Casino-on-Net, subsequently launched in May.
Random Logic Limited launched itself in 1998 in Tel-Aviv, Israel with the aim of providing research, development (RnD) as well as marketing services to 888.
The second casino product, Reef Club Casino, was then launched in June 2002. In that year, 888 Holdings launched its 888.com brand in addition to its multi-player online poker room which was called ‘Pacific Poker’.
Subsequently, 888 Holdings also created another office with the intention of dedicating it to marketing, called Virtual Marketing Services (UK) Limited, in London in 2002 to find offline advertising opportunities in the UK.
A gaming licence in Gibraltar was awarded in June. At that time, the company’s headquarters, management and operational centre, as well as all of its gaming and deposit servers in addition to its dedicated member support centre, were relocated from Antigua across the Atlantic Ocean to Gibraltar.
Then approaching the end of the year, the company brought out version seven of Casino-on-Net.com.
As of August, the company brought out a founding programme for skill games (888.tv and 888.info). In October of the same year, 888 Holdings followed suit with more development by bringing out access to a betting exchange platform called Betmate.com, to non-US members.
During October, 888 was then listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange (LSE). The company also became a founding member of eCOGRA, the industry standard body for the protection of customers.
A year of bad news for the company and the wider industry, after the approval of the UIGEA in the United States on 29 September 2006 – as a result, it meant that all gambling activities with customers in the US then stopped.
During January 2006, the company launched a completely new Casino orientated initiative with a fresh graphical user interface, new industry leading video-slot machines as well as promotion features.
The company made its first acquisition, with the purchase of the Bingo business and assets from Globalcom Limited, which was a bit of a game changer for 888. The first three months of the year witnessed the launch of innovative products which included the localised Video Slots, Blackjack as well as Blackjack in Poker.
Later the same year the company penned its maiden white label deals, with the company moving into B2B following the launch of Dragonfish.
The launch of 888sport in March meant that 888 offered all four key online gaming segments: Casino, Poker, Sports and Bingo. The hugely successful 888ladies Bingo offering was launched in February 2008, with innovative social aspects.
A year later, the company went through a complete rebrand and also launched the B2B arm of the business as Dragonfish, solidifying its stance as a separate entity.
In December of that year, they acquired the Wink Online Bingo business to an already burgeoning portfolio while Reef Club Casino was also added for players to enjoy.
A change in aesthetics to the holding, overall brand began a year later as well as a slight change in strategy with sub-brands refocusing to demonstrate their four main products; 888casino, 888poker, 888sport and 888bingo.
Acquiring the successful and well equipped Mytopia in the summer essentially ensured that the brand was able to run effective social media campaigns on a consistent basis.
Around the time that the global financial crisis was beginning to fade, the company closed a deal with Caesars Interactive Entertainment and were awarded regulatory approval from the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission.
As a result, this landmark was the first asset of the company to launch in the US online gaming market, once regulated.
In the summer, the Italian market followed suit by approving regulation and as such, 888 launched in the country.
The company’s B2B division continued to go from strength to strength and won two of the most well respected industry awards: Poker Software of the Year and Bingo Supplier of the Year.
In January, the company positively added to its relationship with Caesars Interactive Entertainment after reaching an agreement to run several of their poker brands which included the “WSOP” into the US market, when they regulated.
After winning the award of Spanish eGaming Licence in June 2012, 888.es was launched in the country and this grew significantly in popularity the country, being a big hit almost overnight. In December of that year 888 introduced slot games to their Italian market, following a steady period of growth in the country.
Arguably one of the biggest deals of the decade, saw 888 strike a deal with Facebook to launch real product social games on the network.
A year later, following much negotiation, the company finally entered the regulated US online gaming market, which began with the WSOP brand, which was powered by 888’s gaming platform, this being launched in early Autumn in the state of Nevada.
In Delaware, iGaming was launched in November as poker, casino table games and casino slots became available which were powered by 888 while, towards the end of the month, both the 888casino and 888poker brands were launched alongside the WSOP brand in New Jersey.
This meant that, together 888 was the only online gaming operator with a considerable foothold in each of the three regulated online gaming markets in the US.
Following respectable growth, 888Sport went through a revival in May, rebirthing with a new partner; Kambi Sport Solutions which had some positive results.
The company’s success and great progress became evident when at the 2013 eGaming Review Operator Awards, 888 won in the highly regarded Poker Operator of the Year, Casino Operator of the Year and Best Operator of the Year categories.
A year later, the company’s US presence meant that it would reap the rewards due to the signing of a new interstate liquidity agreement which allowed for poker player pooling between the states of Delaware and Nevada.
Following this, 888 built its hold in regulated online gaming markets when they launched 888Sport in Spain during the second half of 2014 in addition to a mobile format to Italy as the end of the year approached.
Continuing to build as ever, 888 brought out a new retro-themed casino brand; 777, while their Casino, Poker and Sports products were successfully launched in Denmark for both Mobile and PC platforms.
In addition to this, 888 also introduced slot games to the Spanish market while also launching its multistate poker network in the US.
Stability and consistency became key when Itai Frieberger was appointed CEO and Brian Mattingley Non-Executive Chairman in March, with a smooth transition being important to continued success. 888 also carried on developing its presence in regulated European markets.
A year which brought about further expansion in regulated markets which also stimulated a record period in terms of revenue, while the senior management hierarchy was changed, with Itai Pazner appointed as COO in order to help support 888’s ever expanding growth.
Itai Pazner was appointed to the post of CEO, with the company continuing to make progress.
Having purchased the European assets of William Hill along with expanding into the US market 888 called time on their Dragonfish subsidiary selling up to Broadway Gaming for around $50 million. An experienced bingo operator Broadway will still have a steep learning curve if they are to get more from the company, still it starts a new exciting era for the company.
An Insight Into Dragonfish
As far as their bingo product goes in terms of their own bingo brands, Dragonfish appear to have this structured well.
While they also have their poker product, both from a B2B and B2C perspective, plus a separate service which involves them developing the software for other gambling companies and then offering marketing and operational services it is fair to say that they have organised this arm of the business very efficiently as a result, it runs seamlessly.
With popular bingo sites within the former 888 network that include 888 Ladies and Wink Bingo, it is clear, just based on the quality of such sites, that there is more than enough expertise at Dragonfish to help their partners thrive and meet their aims and expectations.
The experience that they have in the bingo industry provides the perfect platform for other bingo businesses to flourish. One of the advantages that Dragonfish offers is the option for companies to either have their own standalone entity (built by Dragonfish) or to become a part of the Dragonfish network to benefit from instant liquidity from them. Either way, the Dragonfish software is fully regulated.
With both 90 ball bingo and 75 ball bingo available as potential options, they are designed to ensure that their partners have a completely seamless and uninterrupted bingo operation.
While Dragonfish also provide specialist financial risk management, support as well as chat hosting services to all of their licensees, they allow for unique product differentiation in addition to providing a platform that is fully scalable for each of their partners across the network in accordance to their range of expectations.
Benefits That Dragonfish Offer
There are a number of great benefits that Dragonfish prides itself on because of its unique product offering that all of their partners can take advantage of.
- A simple and easy to use application which requires no download
- 75-ball bingo and 90-ball bingo
- Highly customisable and well respected user-friendly interface
- 100s of popular side games which include slots, table games and live dealer
- Multi-currency depositing options to cater for different regions
- Fully certified and licensed for the UK regulated market
- Over 300 experienced and well trained customer service chat hosts
- Massive jackpots which include prize pools that are shared across the bingo and casino network
- Plenty of free bingo games
- An excellent loyalty points programme
- Well orientated bonus system integrated into application, including Registration bonus; Deposit bonus; Invite a Friend bonus; Loyalty points
- Many features including pre buy/ best card first, auto sorting and coverall jackpots amongst others
- Dedicated affiliate programme with a committed team
- An industry leading back office with advanced financial, risk management, support and chat hosting services for all our licensees, ensuring a smooth business operation.
Powering in excess of 140 partner brands, one of the best things about Dragonfish is how robust, dynamic and above all, scalable which helps to provide the most ideal platform for partners to organically grow their business to get the most effective results.
With bingo jackpots reaching £1 million on a daily basis, Dragonfish also offer progressive jackpots, pre-purchase rooms, a configurable bonus programme as well as a copious loyalty points system which is automated efficiently that further adds to the overall experience.
There are also a number of imaginative initiatives that Dragonfish run on their open network bingo product, which includes Refer a Friend as well as affiliate marketing – in addition to this, Dragonfish can take control of a business’s affiliate marketing programme to help with player acquisition as well as any payments that are needed to be made on an ongoing basis.
Furthermore, Dragonfish can optimise their client’s sites in order to create their own unique look, with new skins able to be designed and then launched within the space of just one month.
Major Bingo Sites On The Dragonfish Network
Of course, there are a number of highly favourable bingo brands and sites within the Dragonfish network which are extremely well thought of and respected by players and industry stakeholders alike.
Launched in 2015 and boasting in excess of 25 bingo rooms, the Spectra brand is certainly somewhat of a spectacle! With jackpot games on offer for players around the clock as well as a great level of support, this site is perfect regardless of ability or experience.
With most rooms having both 90 ball bingo and 75 ball bingo, there is also a 52 ball bingo room for those players who want a different kind of bingo experience. Overall, Spectra is definitely one of the better regarded Dragonfish sites and well worth investigating!
Similarly, founded in 2015, this site is arguably one of the easiest out there to operate from a navigation perspective, especially on mobile. Ideal for beginners due to its uncomplicated layout, this brand deserves all of the compliments that it gets.
Offering nine bingo rooms and 90 ball bingo and 75 ball bingo, there is more than enough for beginners to enjoy, while the customer support is second to none.
Released in August 2019, this site is equipped with all of the latest features which help to ensure that the customer experience is as enhanced and as seamless as possible. With 12 bingo rooms to enjoy and 90 ball as well as 75 ball bingo, players can also benefit from daily jackpots with prizes in the region of £1500 in the Ace Club Big Bang room.
The auto adjusting HTML5 platform that the infrastructure is built on means that playing via mobile is as easy as doing it via desktop, which makes for a highly enjoyable experience.
Priding itself on differentiation, Bingo Idol launched in 2019 really does offer customers something quite unique, especially in their bid to acquire new players. While they offer the standard 90 ball bingo and 75 ball bingo, they also have 52 ball bingo as well. In addition to this, their jackpots are considerably sizeable, while they have one of the best VIP programmes in the industry.
While it is easy to deposit via a number of methods, cashing out can take up to two days, though overall this is very solid bingo site.
Blast Off Bingo
Another site by Dragonfish that was launched in 2019, Blast Off Bingo does not disappoint. Arguably one of the stand out features is the superbly optimised and well constructed app that is available on both Android and iOS.
With in excess of 15 bingo rooms which offer 75 ball and 90 ball bingo as well as 52 ball bingo, there is ample for players to enjoy at their leisure, while the size of the jackpots are easily tempting enough, without you having to break the bank to play. Although some bingo rooms are for VIPs only, it is worth noting that the site also has a great loyalty scheme.
Offering players more than 30 bingo rooms to select from and 75 ball, 90 ball and 52 ball bingo games, Butterfly Bingo, launched in 2014 is one of the more established bingo brands in the Dragonfish network.
The exclusive invite only bingo rooms are often for VIP players and usually feature huge jackpot prizes, while there are also a range of slots and table games for customers to enjoy.
Launched in 2016, this has plenty for everyone including a wide variety of slots and table games from a plethora of suppliers. In addition, there is also the bingo of course, with over 15 rooms available which feature either 90 ball or 75 ball bingo, while each room has its own friendly and well informed host.
Depositing couldn’t be easier with a range of options available, though there is a minimum limit of £10, however withdrawing usually takes two days to process, with up to 10 withdrawal requests allowed over a period of 24 hours.
With its own easy to use app available on both Android and iOS devices this is a great selling point for customers who like to play bingo without being tied to a computer or desktop device.
Operating since 2016, this site continues to pull in customers, with a mixture of 75 ball and 90 ball bingo games starting every few minutes, so there is a steady stream of people to the site each day.
Navigation for new players is a breeze and this is also the case when playing via mobile. Although there isn’t an app, the site has been built to cater seamlessly for customers using the site through their web browser on their mobile device (both Android and iOS).
Launched in 2018, this attracts a fair share of the bingo market and with nine bingo rooms which offer 75 ball bingo and 90 ball bingo, the schedule is particularly busy. Upon a player’s second, third and fourth deposit, they get to take a turn on the Bingo Storm Wheel, where they have the opportunity to win a range of rewards.
This works just as effectively via a mobile device than it does on desktop as well, with navigation surprisingly simple – even for beginners! Overall a well constructed bingo site that caters comfortably for a wide variety of players of all abilities.
Perhaps understandably, Dazzle Bingo was designed to do just that!
With an attractive colour scheme which features shades of blue, orange and white, the aesthetics do their job as far as being easy on the eye are concerned.
Launched in 2018 the site has since grown successfully and offers customers a staggering 300 plus different bingo games centred around variations of the 90 ball, 75 ball and 52 ball versions as well as a differing number of daily jackpots.
Advantages Of The 888 / Dragonfish Network
Being such a huge network means that the company can dedicate a lot of resources in order to ensure that their sites remain competitive, that their existing customers are happy but also to acquire more customers whether from rival operators or completely new.
With such a huge network and with many different brands under the 888 name, the cross marketing opportunities for new sites are endless which means they can target current customers that are already part of an 888 Group entity with emails, social media adverts and push messages.
Equipped with some of the best expertise in the industry, ensures that the company can stay at the top of their game and are able to advise customers effectively. Also the level of training that all 888 staff receive is understood to be market leading to ensure that any problems can be dealt with easily.
The technology that is developed by 888 and in particular Dragonfish enables the Group to stay at the top of their field consistently, which is important with any new site that is released, ensuring that it can meet the demands of the industry on a regular basis.
Disadvantages Of The 888 / Dragonfish Network
While there are many good things about the 888 and Dragonfish network, it isn’t without its flaws.
Because it is so big, it means that it requires a lot of resources to monitor and invariably there are a number of sites that are missed and require updating so that they meet industry standards. As the market continues to evolve, it is essential for the network that each new asset is completely up to date, even if this means regular overhauls of sites every two to three years.
For customers the layout and corporate hierarchical structure does take a lot to get your head around, due to the convoluted nature of the Group, often because of companies within companies or companies which service other iGaming operators. This sometimes makes it hard for players to tell whether a particular site falls within the vast 888 network!
Overall, the 888 Group is a powerhouse in the world of iGaming with considerable presence in each vertical, perfectly demonstrated by its ever increasing bingo assets. The amount of time and money that they can commit to each site means that invariably, each one can easily compete.
The vast majority of their bingo sites in particular indicate that they are a force to be reckoned with and what is perhaps most impressive is the innovation in the bingo product offering – most of their sites more often than not appear to have their own, individual USP (Unique Selling Point), which helps to differentiate themselves from the rest of the industry.