888 Sport – A review of 888sport.com
The 888 Group, most famous for its award-winning casino product (888.com), has joined forces with Blue Square, Rank’s telephone and internet betting business to produce 888sport.com. In addition to English, the site is available in Spanish, German, Swedish and Danish.
This mutually beneficial venture enables 888 Holdings to add a sportsbook to gaming such as casino, poker, bingo and backgammon, in order to have a more complete package. For Blue Square, it provides the opportunity to enter international markets for the first time, via a brand of great international strength. They will also be able to offer their products to 888’s gaming customer base, tapping into a source of people who might never have placed a sports bet. The 888 Group is headquartered in Gibraltar and employs over 900 full-time members of staff worldwide.
888sport have a clean looking website, which is as fairly user-friendly. The colour scheme is strangely reminiscent of the Paddy Power site. Upcoming major sports events are listed down the centre of the screen. As with most other sites, sports betting is accessed via drop-down menus on the left of the screen, with "next off" events listed on the right. Whilst navigation is, for the most part, straightforward, having made a selection, it’s not immediately clear how to place the bet. It takes a moment or two to find the "submit" button, as other sites simply add selections to a betting slip.
A free £25 "matched" bet is offered for new customers. From a UK perspective, the majority of sports betting markets are fair but by no means outstanding. 888sport, unlike some other online layers, seem reluctant to take a particular stance on a big race or event, so "stand-out" prices are unlikely. 888sport offers plenty of variety in pre-event markets, along with some imaginative "special" bets.
However, "in-running" betting is essentially poor, compared with some of the better online layers. With regard to Europe, 888sport has endeavoured to hand-pick sports for target markets, with relevant local contents, so as to produce a real national identity. However, prices definitely need to become more competitive, particularly in regions like Scandinavia, where prices are viewed as far more important than brand names. Online tutorials are provided, which are likely to prove useful to novice punters or those new to online betting. A wide variety of sports is covered, including horse and greyhound racing, football, cricket, tennis, golf, rugby union / league, snooker, boxing, darts, hockey and US sports. A number of "special" bets e.g. US Presidential Election, Eurovision Song Contest etc. are also offered.
The 888 casino offers "instant play" and downloadable software. Three successive failures at loading the "instant play" games would not be encouraging to the average punter. Games on offer include roulette, craps, card games, video poker and a multitude of slots.
Poker software must be downloaded, but this is a straightforward and speedy process. Tournaments and "ring" games are offered in variations of Texas Hold’em, Omaha Hi, Omaha Hi/Lo and Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo, 24 hours a day. Ring games are poker games played with real chips at stake. Unlike tournament chips, which are worth nothing outside the tournament, ring game chips represent real money. Ring games start when two or more active players sit down at a table. Unlike tournaments, at ring games there is no commitment to play for a specified amount of time. Another difference is that ring games table limits are fixed for the entire length of the game, whereas at tournaments the limits increase with each round. Progressive jackpots are offered at ring game tables, starting at $5,000. The more hands played, the bigger the jackpots grow.
Unlike other online sites, playing Bingo at 888sport requires a separate registration. This does seem rather petty for those with an existing Sportsbook account. However, a £10 bonus is offered for registering credit/ debit card details. The Bingo element of the site is very female-orientated, called "888Ladies". 90-ball, 75-ball and team bingo games are offered.
Backgammon is an "instant play" game, requiring no software downloads. "One-on-one" games, tournaments and a Backgammon school are amongst the facilities provided.
This is a venture which has endeavoured to make both the UK and Europe take notice. 888sport is one of the largest online gaming firms, now offering a sportsbook (though modest, currently). At present, 888sport represents, especially for UK customers, a worthwhile bookmaker, providing a decent range of odds and markets. However, it can only be the time element which determines 888sport from developing from "beneath the wings" of Blue Square and developing its own "personality". Certainly, with regard to in-running markets, the current offering is not in keeping with 888sport’s reputation for new developments and "cutting-edge" technology / latest developments.