Avi and Aaron Shaked are better known as the Israeli brothers behind the online gambling giant 888 Holdings ltd. What started as one online casino is now 17 different brands spread across casino, poker, slots, bingo, and sports betting websites. The 888 brand is known all over the world and is highly regarded by industry insiders and customers alike as one of the best in the business.
But this wasn’t the original plan. The internet didn’t exist while the Shaked brothers were growing up, and both had very different original plans for their futures.
Growing Up and University
Aaron and Avi were born in Netanya, Israel in the 1960s into an upper-middle class family. Avi was 2 years older than Aaron and they were very close growing up. Avi decided to further his education at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheba and began a degree studying chemical engineering. Aaron soon joined him, eager to pursue his own career in dentistry. Both were solid choices with respectable career paths ahead.
By the time Avi graduated and began working at a telecommunications company, the brothers had grown apart, each pursuing their own friendship groups and interests while at the university. Aaron would then be invited to a dental conference that would reunite them and completely change both their worlds.
Monte Carlo and an Idea
The dentistry conference was in Monte Carlo and Aaron was encouraged to take in the local sights in between seminars. When he first walked into a casino, he couldn’t believe his eyes. He was amazed by the grandeur and elegance of the building, the sight of row upon row of flashing slot machines, but most of all by the sheer number of visitors. This was clearly a place which saw vast amounts of money pass through daily, and it looked like an awful lot of it stayed behind.
Aaron started to design a virtual casino experience and took his idea to Avi. Together, they decided to work on making it a reality. Avi dedicated hours to researching real casinos, visiting them to see what made people want to play the games and trying to work out how to replicate the casino atmosphere and experience on a website. But their lack of knowledge about website building was causing problems, so they decided to bring a couple more partners on board.
The Shakeds recruited the help of another pair of brothers: Shay and Ron Ben-Yitzhak. They were experts in software development, with extensive experience of the gambling industry and made the perfect partners. Together the four brothers decided to form Virtual Holdings ltd, which would later be rebranded as 888 Holdings ltd.
Their casino first went live in 1997. Called Casino-on-Net, it was so successful that they were soon able to launch a second site called Reef Club Casino. Casino-on-Net stood out from the other online casinos because of the great range of high-quality games that it offered, as well as its incredibly simple interface which made it easy for users to navigate.
888 Casino Today
Casino-on-Net was rebranded into 888 Casino in 2010, to better fit in with the rest of the company’s branding. Keeping up with, and often leading, market trends, the business has gone from strength to strength. It was floated on the London Stock Market in 2005 and became a FTSE 250 status just three years later. The brothers have expanded through a mixture of purchasing and absorbing rival businesses and launching their own new websites.
888 Casino won TotallyGaming’s Best Online Casino of the Year award five years running from 2005 to 2009, and again in 2012 and were voted Best Casino Operator at the 2020 Gaming Intelligence Awards and 2019 EGR Awards in London. Their success in the UK has made expansion possible, they have recently added a Kuwait-Arabic domain to their impressive 888 casino portfolio.
Both Shaked brothers stepped back from running the business in 2006, although they kept their financial stakes and their interest in the company. Once again, they went down completely different paths.
Avi expanded on his keen interest in politics and ran for parliament in Israel. He was also a major contributor to the Geneva Convention and attempts to broker peace between Israel and Palestine. He also opened a chain of coffee shops in China which he runs with his son Eyal.
Aaron was determined to spend more time with his family and he went into business with his daughter, selling medical supplies. He was also an avid philanthropist, channelling much of his wealth back into communities through building schools and funding educational projects. He wanted his children to grow up with the desire to help others and an appreciation for the privileged position they found themselves in. He passed away in 2010 after a short illness and left his stake in 888 Holdings to his wife who continues his work in the poorer communities of Israel.