From Swimsuits To Sports Bets: 888 Deal Gives SI Sportsbook Iowa Access

Written By Russ Mitchell on June 29, 2021

An iconic American brand known for beachwear pics will soon add betting slips. Look for SI Sportsbook to arrive in Iowa, thanks to a new partnership.

888 Holdings and Sports Illustrated’s parent company, Authentic Brands Group, announced a 20-year agreement as part of a June 24 investor call.

The gaming operator 888 has a market access agreement in Iowa through Catfish Bend Casino since January. As of now, PointsBet Sportsbook is the only online sports betting app at the Burlington casino.

Using the brand recognition of Sports Illustrated and gaming technology of 888, the companies will deliver a new online betting app that will launch in four states, including Iowa.

CEO Itai Pazner called Sports Illustrated “one of the most impactful names in sports media for nearly 70 years.”

“We aim to launch the SI Sportsbook in Colorado first, followed by New Jersey, Indiana and Iowa. The combined market of these four states is estimated at $1.2 billion. We are actively pursuing additional market access deals and plan to expand into two to four additional states per year.”

Pazner told the investors that the company has a goal of capturing 5% of the national sports betting market share:

“The priority states that we are targeting would give us a total addressable market of $4.4 billion US dollars. In addition to driving growth in sports betting, we are also very well positioned in iGaming. We will continue to offer 888-branded casino and poker direct to consumers as well as offering SI-branded gaming in any relevant states.”

Iowa limits online betting to sports wagers and doesn’t permit online poker or casino games.

Iowa casino did some of the groundwork already

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission approved Catfish Bend’s advanced deposit wagering contract for 888 at its Jan. 21 meeting.

The operator is licensed in 16 jurisdictions worldwide.

Sports Illustrated’s owners receive 4.99% equity in exchange for 888’s use of the SI brand. The legacy sports magazine company can purchase another 5% stake for $5 million within 4.5 years. SI can add another 5% for $25 million within the partnership’s first seven years. Altogether, performance incentives could boost SI’s ownership to 19.99%.

Jamie Salter, the CEO of SI’s parent company, called sports wagering a high-growth market that will broaden the SI brand:

“888 is one of the leaders in online betting and gaming globally and has outstanding technology, products and marketing capabilities. We are excited to partner with them to offer an innovative product experience for sports fans.”

888 CFO Yariv Dafina told investors the company will receive exclusive rights to SI digital channels — and Sports Illustrated itself — as it promotes wagering. The agreement includes an option for Canada as well.

He said:

“This is a really exciting partnership for 888 and SI. It provides us with a strong platform to accelerate our growth in the key US market.”

SI betting content to come from 888

Yaniv Sherman, the 888 senior vice president for US markets, said SI’s 12.2 million annual readers should help add sports betting market share.

SI.com has more than 30 million unique visitors each month and, the SI brand generates more than 4 billion impressions and 18 million followers every year through social media accounts.

Sherman said:

“We’ll be looking to tap into this SI outreach and data to present a personalized betting experience — presenting consumers with offers relevant to their sports interests.”

The companies plan to create a shared media team that will produce wager-specific content.

Pazner said:

“SI gives us household brand awareness in the relevant target audience group and a wide range. This will enable us to acquire more customers and at a lower cost per acquisition.”

Photo by AP file photo
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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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