Pretty much anyone who has played with more than one bingo site online will have come across a Dragonfish operated site. It is the largest bingo network in the UK operating more sites than any other. You may also recognise 888 UK Limited, which are the company that owned the Dragonfish network and were the UK license holder for sites that operated on it.
In 2021 Broadway Gaming purchased the Dragonfish network and platform from 888 along with bingo brands directly owned by 888 (such as 888 Ladies and 888 Bingo). Broadway then established a company called Grand Battery Holdings Limited to house the new platform and brands.
The sale came in to effect on 8th June 2022 at which point all bingo brands operated by 888 were transferred to Broadway and are now licensed under Grand Battery Holdings Limited. This is the company that will also hold the UK gambling license for all brands.
For the user not much will change, if you played on a site owned and / or operated by 888 it simply just has a new owner. The games, rooms and other aspects of the sites will run as before and sites will still be networked together.
You need to accept new terms to keep playing with them because the people who are responsible for the gambling license and therefore you and your money has changed. They still have to follow the same rules and protect you and your funds in the same way.
How Many Sites Does This Affect?
A lot! 888 ran a hell of a lot of bingo sites on their platform. Some of the sites were both owned and run by 888 (such as 888 Ladies and Wink Bingo) and others are owned by someone else but operated by 888, known as white labels (e.g. Bucky Bingo and Robin Hood Bingo).
Whether it was 888 owned and run or a white label all sites are now run by the new company, Grand Battery Holdings Limited. Sites that are run by GBH but not owned can choose in the future to move to a different platform.
For example, in 2020 Bucky Bingo moved from Virtue Fusion (Playtech) to Dragonfish and with the sale of the platform by 888 Bucky is now run by GBH.
Moving operator and network is a big step for many brands, though. Ultimately it means you need to re-sign up to a new site and all the games and rooms will change so I don’t foresee many brands moving away from the Dragonfish platform.
What Is Dragonfish?
Dragonfish was a subsidiary software and games developer owned by 888 Holdings. It was basically the company that created all the bingo games and rooms and ran the actual network of sites, including all of the slots and games (via licensing arrangements with software providers). The sites that 888 owned themselves were held under a different subsidiary known as Cassava but they operated on the Dragonfish network.
There are two types of sites that ran on the Dragonfish network, those that were also owned by 888 (B2C) and those that were owned by others but were operated by 888 on the Dragonfish network (B2B). Those sites are known as white labels.
Most of the sites on the Dragonfish network are in fact white labels. At the time Dragonfish was sold 888 themselves owned 50 sites under their license with 169 white labels attached.
Broadway Gaming have bought the Dragonfish B2B and B2C bingo assets, their in house network as well as all exclusive assets, tech and operations relating to the bingo business, including all the staff. Broadway have acquired the 50 brands from 888 directly and the actual platform. While they don’t own the other 170-odd brands they will now run them on behalf of the owners.
How Did Dragonfish Become So Big?
Dragonfish is the biggest bingo network in the UK in terms of the number of sites that run on it. It is different to many other networks such as Playtech’s Virtue Fusion in that they don’t just operate bingo games and rooms they actually run the sites themselves and are responsible for customers.
All of the sites are aimed at bingo and slots only and with a simple design and system 888 were able to in effect clone their sites with new branding and themes to create 10’s of different bingo sites at a time. While 888 were running 50 bingo sites at the time of the sale to Broadway they also had over 100 sites that they owned but were no longer active. Demonstrating how easy it was to churn out new sites and themes as they went.
Using the white label model Dragonfish was able to expand to hundreds of sites. Here sites are owned by others but were operated by 888 on behalf of them. This meant 888 were responsible for the games, rooms, payments and the customer and the brand owner did all of the promos and marketing. Profits are then shared between the operator and the brand owner.
Dragonfish was so successful because it was so scalable. The simple structure made it one of the cheapest options for white labels, while at the same time other networks that operated white labels stopped operating. For example, Cozy Games were sold to Entain a couple of years back and they in effect got rid of the white labels and turned it into their own proprietary network.
Virtue Fusion also stopped offering white label services and many of the brands that were operated by Playtech or Cozy ended up moving to 888 as the only logical alternative. Bucky Bingo, for example, as one of the better known Virtue Fusion sites ended up moving over to Dragonfish.
In effect 888 hoovered up a lot of brands as other white label networks were sold or changed strategy. This saw them increase market share and become the go-to operator for a white label bingo site. Why then would they sell it?
Why Was DragonFish Sold?
While 888 and the Dragonfish network had certainly gained a large market share and notoriety for 888 bingo is still a small fry business. Between their sports and casino divisions they make a hell of a lot more money compared to bingo and as the company as grown Dragonfish became less significant for them.
Additionally 888 have been expanding aggressively in the US in particular. They also took on the European arm and assets of William Hill in 2021 in a deal worth over $3 billion. Effectively on the back of this rapid growth 888 needed to offload Dragonfish to focus on their new ventures and the network takes a fair bit of effort to maintain but doesn’t provide the relative value for them.
The final point worth mentioning is it’s now much harder to run white labels. New gambling rules over the past decade have made protecting customers more and more important and repeatedly white label operators have fallen foul of the rules and received fines. This has pushed up the costs for white label operators in terms of monitoring and vetting customers and made it less viable.
Indeed, this was the principle reason why Virtue Fusion stopped offering full white label services and instead now just offer third party services (i.e. providing games and rooms but not being the license holder). It is believed 888 wanted to reduce compliance complexity, which is difficult when you run brands for other people.
It is expected as part of the new government white paper in 2022 that it may become even more difficult to run white labels too.
Finally the bingo part of the business was losing money, partly due to a lack of investment in recent years.
Why Then Have Broadway Bought It?
Broadway Gaming are bingo specialists already operating several brands, the most well known of which is Butlers Bingo. They have been in the industry a long time and know the UK market very well.
While some big companies like 888 are moving away from bingo due to its small market share and increasing compliance, Broadway see this as an opportunity to become the biggest bingo operator in the UK. What do they say about it being better to be a big fish in a small pond?
The Dragonfish network comes ready made for them with already over 200 sites on it. They are getting 50 new brands for themselves that were owned by 888 and another 170 that are owned by others but run on their network, therefore paying for the privilege.
Whether it will work out for them remains to be seen but with few other options for bingo white label providers these days and the risks of switching networks for brands it is a fair bet things will be OK for Broadway and the new subsidiary holding the brands, Grand Battery Holdings Limited.
Who Are Broadway Gaming
Broadway are actually one of the top 5 UK bingo operators and following the aquisition of Dragonfish they will move further up that list. They were established back in 2010, so fairly old for an online company, when they launched their flagship brand Butlers Bingo – named after CEO David Butler.
Glossy Bingo was launched in 2013 and the group then acquired Rosy, Dotty and Diamond bingo over 2014 and 2015. They also launched their first casino in late 2015.
With 7 active brands at the time of the Dragonfish purchase they will now jump to nearly 60 active brands with 100’s more on their license as white labels. The company is based in Dublin in Ireland.
Why Has The Gambling License Changed?
When the Dragonfish network and brands were sold 888 were no longer responsible for the customers on those sites. Therefore, all sites on the network have switched to a new license held by the Broadway subsidiary GBH.
This is important because the license holder is responsible for things like holding and managing your funds, protecting you from harm and ensuring fair practices. In effect the buck stops with them if there is an issue and they can be fined if they flout the rules, licenses can even be suspended or revoked.
Ultimately all license holders have to adhere to the same rules so as a user you should notice little difference but it is important to note that your account is now held under a different license.
Any customer funds held on 8th June are now transferred from 888 to Grand Battery Holdings Limited. The customer themselves should notice no difference, although you may notice a different name listed on withdrawals and if you deposit by bank transfer you will need to change the recipient details.
What Is Grand Battery Holdings Limited
Broadway’s existing bingo sites run on a totally different network run by Pragmatic Play. Therefore rather confuse things Broadway decided to take the Dragonfish network and 888 sites they bought and stick it in a subsidiary company called Grand Battery Holdings Limited.
GBH was set up in late 2021 once 888 agreed to the sale and is registered in Ireland, as the holding company is. Like all UK gambling companies they have to provide protections and fair terms as stipulated by the UKGC and advertise in line with ASA/CAP rules.
In effect GBH is to Broadway what Dragonfish was to 888, a subsidiary company housing their bingo brands, games and network.
What Will Dragonfish Be Called?
It is not completely clear as to whether Broadway have bought the company called Dragonfish in entirety or just the assets of the company. Therefore, it is unclear as to whether they will continue with the Dragonfish name itself for the network or create something new.
To all intents and purposes this is still the Dragonfish network and even if it is renamed people will still know it as Dragonfish for a long time.
Will The Bingo Games & Rooms Be The Same?
Yes, Broadway have bought the entire bingo platform and network from 888 and so everything will remain as is for now. Of course, the new owners may now add new games, update existing ones or change other things such as promotions, but to all intents and purposes the network and games will be the same.
It is a bit like Tesco or Sainsburys getting a new owner, you are unlikely to notice much difference as a shopper in their actual supermarkets.
Does Any Of This Matter?
For the player not really, especially in the shorter term. The main change is that a new company Grand Battery Holdings Limited is now responsible for you not 888 UK Limited as before. They still have to follow the same rules and regs to protect you, your data and your information as before.
The fact a new company is now managing your payments could mean some changes to things like payment methods offered and deposit / withdrawal minimums and maximums, but this is likely to be minor.
In time the new operator will likely change up some things and frankly Dragonfish as a platform was in some need of a refresh so that is no bad thing. There will also likely be an injection of new games, rooms, features and promotions in due course.