The Israeli businessman Shay Ben-Yitzhak, who founded the gambling giant 888 Holdings, sadly passed away in May this year in a plane crash. News reports suggested that the Israeli was piloting the aircraft, with his 14-year-old son on board as well, who survived with only minor injuries.
The plane had caught fire after crashing, with the reasons behind its sudden nosedive still uncertain. While Ben-Yitzhak was unconscious and was declared dead at the scene itself, his son was conscious and was airlifted by a military helicopter to a local hospital. The crash occurred near the Israeli settlement of Yakum Kibbutz in central Israel.
Who Was the Shay Ben-Yitzhak
Shay Ben-Yitzhak was one of the four founders of 888 Holdings, and thus was a pioneer in the online gambling industry. It was formed in 1997, by Ben-Yitzhak and his brother Ron, along with another pair of brothers, Aaron and Avi Shaked.
The original idea for an online casino blackjack site was Aaron’s, who was a dentist and came up with the idea when attending a dentist convention at a casino in Monte Carlo. He spoke about the idea with his brother, Avi, and they then approached the Ben-Yitzhak brothers, as neither of them knew anything about gambling.
The success of 888 Holdings can be seen from the fact that less than a decade after its founding, it was listed on the London Stock Exchange and raised $1 billion, and it is synonymous with online gambling today, certainly in the United Kingdom. The company made over $550 million in revenue last year, with a net income of $41 million, and employed more than 1300 people as of last year’s shareholder filings and reports.
In keeping with the general trend in the online betting and gambling industry, 888 Holdings also had a number of sponsorships of sports teams, especially football teams in the UK. However, one of its biggest breakthroughs came in the United States, where it signed an online operator deal with the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL) in November 2019.
This was a landmark deal, marking the first such agreement in the NFL following the removal of rules which disallowed gambling companies from sponsoring American football teams. At the same time, 888 Holdings has always had a firm footprint in the English football scene, sponsoring four clubs in the EFL Championship – Brentford, Birmingham City, Preston North End and Nottingham Forest, during the 2016/17 season, and also pulled off a great PR move by sponsoring fans’ travel to away games for those four teams up until Christmas 2016.
Shay Ben-Yitzhak was the company’s chief technology officer (CTO) until 2006, overseeing the development and running of its research centre in Israel. He took a non-executive position on the company’s board after 2006, and while he remained the last of the four founders to remain associated with the day-to-day running of the company, he quit the board in 2010 as well to focus on spending time with his family.
Sadly enough, one of the co-founders, Aaron Shaked, had also passed away in 2010, following a long battle with Lyme disease. This may have influenced Shay’s decision to step away and spend more time with his family.
The online gambling space owes a great debt to the Ben-Yitzhak brothers, and thus to Shay, as he was one of the pioneers of the space and was instrumental in creating the industry and sector in the form it is today, with billion-dollar enterprises which employ thousands of people. 888 Holdings has become one of the best-known brands in the space, and that is down to the vision of Shay and the other founders.