Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dear God, 888 Gets First U.S. Poker License

Oh lord, why? If there is a company on Earth that is going to give online gambling a bad name, it’s 888. Even Casinomeister despises 888, and that is truly saying something. We may as well dig up Meyer Lansky and have him administer our first official online poker efforts.

For those of you who are not steeped in the history of online gambling, 888 has been around for some time. They’ve gone by many names, which should give you an idea of how upstanding an operation they are.Founded in 1997, 888 quickly earned a well-deserved reputation for spamming the hell out of the entire planet and for not paying players. And for anyone who spent time on smaller, geek websites back in the late 1990s, they will remember websites overrun with banners for porn and 888. Indeed, because of this, the names 888 and Casino-On-Net (888’s other operation) are in my mind forever associated with breasts and back-door action. 888 became a company built on, around, and for vice in the purest definition of the term.

To our continuing harm, from this situation, 888 was integral to the rise of super-affiliates. Indeed, 888 was directly involved with its affiliates’ use of unethical practices to manipulate search rankings, using everything from scraping, link farming, and astroturfing to flat-out spam mailings. Their legacy is our current situation, where a search for “online casino” results in page after page of super-affiliates all hawking their “chosen” casinos... and, conveniently, 888 usually crops up on the first couple of pages.

888’s antics did not go unnoticed by regulators, other casinos, and watch dog groups. Starting in 2005, 888 was slammed with warning after warning. They were ostracized by other companies in an attempt to add at least an air of respectability to an industry that had hitherto been predicated on boobs and poker. As you can probably guess, this had little effect. 888 continued spamming like crazy and online casinos are still a cesspool.

While the industry may not be substantively different today, things are at least structurally different. We are still dealing with the damage caused by the rise of super-affiliates, but the global gambling landscape is much changed. We have a smattering of laws in major markets like the U.S., U.K., and Australia. We have a few mega-casinos that have eaten up a decent hunk of the market. And we have a small number of jurisdictions that have risen to prominence, meaning that there is at least the impression of regulations.

Again, though, the industry remains corrupt and I have seen little to indicate that 888 is any different from the worst of the lot. They are simply bigger.

In an interview with The Verge, PR rep from 888 Andrew Benbow defended 888’s current state.
888 still has an expensive affiliate marketing program, but the company says it has changed its spammy ways. There was an arms race for brand recognition back when the online gambling industry was still fairly new, said public relations officer Andrew Benbow, but now 888 only engages in “very good targeted marketing.”

“The 888 back office is generally thought of as being the best in the industry,” he told The Verge. It’s not in the company’s benefit anymore to annoy people about the brand name.
I hope that he will excuse me for being skeptical. Not only because I cannot think of a single online casino that is acting in a truly ethical fashion (except maybe Pinnacle), but because 888 continues to benefit from its earlier practices. I just did a Google search for “online casino.” Page one contained links to the expected super-affiliates and Wikipedia, but guess who else was standing on that hallowed ground? 888.

888’s presence there has nothing to do with their quality. For over a decade, they were legendary for offering terrible service, glitchy games, and poor payouts. Their presence on the valuable front page of Google’s search is entirely because of their underhanded and corrupt practices from years ago. They are a castle built of ill-gotten bricks, and we continue to reward them for this.


  1. holy shit. i am STILL getting email from 888! I haven't been there in years. I've unsubscribed a dozen times. it never stops!

  2. Same here. They haven't changed. We can report them. But since this has been going on for years I doubt it would do any good.

  3. I feel lucky. I started gambling long after 888 had earned its reputation. I haven't even so much as visited their WEBSITE without script blocking, cookie blocking, ad blocking, Flash blocking, etc.


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