/By Yael Segev /
Spanish are tackling austerity by flocking online to play poker and fill the coffers of e-gaming company 888, founded by two pairs of Israeli brothers back in 1997. Investors piled into the shares as 888 flagged up profits “materially ahead” of City hopes this year on strong trading, sending the stock up 14 per cent to 74p.
The company is now the second-biggest player in the Spanish poker market after building “significant” market share as unlicensed operators are slowly squeezed out. Spanish regulators granted 888 an e-gaming licence in May after a one-off payment of €7.4m (£5.8m).
Business will not be quite as bullish in the second half, however, as 888 ratchets up marketing spending in Spain, but it should comfortably exceed current forecasts of £46.5m in underlying earnings this year.
Avi & Aaron Shaked, owners of the successful online Casino and Poker room, 888, founded the gambling website in 1997, under the name “Virtual Holdings Limited, along with a second pair of brothers: Shay and Ron Ben Yitzhak.
Aaron Shaked was the mind beyond the website. The idea occurred to him while attending a dentist conference in Monte Carlo. Aaron realized the market potential and as soon as he came back to Israel, he contacted his brother Avi, a chemical engineer, and discussed the idea of establishing a virtual casino. Since neither he nor his brother knew the basics of gambling. Therefore, they connected the Ben Yitzhak brothers and founded the business as a joint venture. The 4 brothers took a $ 1000, 00 form the Island of Antigoa and mortgaged their houses in order to start the business.
In 2005, 8 years after it was founded, 888 went on the London Stock Exchange and raised $ 1.1 billion. The two brothers sold stocks for more than $90 million, but kept their mutual control of the company’s shares, each of them holding 25.6% of the stocks. Shaked turned to politics and tried to get elected to Israeli parliament in 2005, presenting himself as the “Socialist Billionaire”, but this time the dice fell on the wrong side and this attempt has failed.
In October 2006, an American law issued prohibited the online gambling industry to receive any payments from users. nevertheless, both investors and users kept their faith in online gambling industry, that has been flourishingmore than ever.
Aaron Shaked and his daughter Tal have founded a holding company, investing in Clean tech technologies, infrastructures and medical devices In January 2010 Shaked passed away from an illness at the age of 58,