What’s in a name?

In an interesting move that reeks of “corporate speak,” gambling company 888 Holdings announced this week that it intends to change its name to “evoke.” That’s the word evoke, all lowercase.

The announcement was quiet – 888 didn’t send out a big press release about it or anything – simply mentioned in its 2023 earnings report on Tuesday. In a bullet point under its “New Value Creation Plan,” the company says it wants to make the change “….to better reflect the strength of the Group’s multi-brand operating model and its vision and mission to make life more interesting by delighting players with world-class betting and gaming experiences.”

The name change must still be approved by shareholders.

It seems like an odd move for a company that has one of the most recognizable brand names in the gambling industry. 888 is not a household name in the United States – DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, PokerStars, WSOP, and almost any other brand would outrank it – but internationally and in the industry itself, it has a strong brand. And while it is not what it once was in the online poker world, it is still known.

“evoke,” on the other hand, evokes a shrug, an eyeroll, a furrowed brow. It’s just a corporate blah name, likely one of many presented by consultants in a PowerPoint deck. It means nothing. Nobody will want to write about it because word processing apps and WordPress back ends won’t like that it’s all lowercase, plus it’s a verb, so it will be even more awkward to use in a sentence.

It’s not as bad as X, which we’ll stop calling “formerly Twitter” at some point, but it’s not good.

Trying to move forward

The name change seems to be an effort to put the previous regime in the past and forge ahead with new management. A fresh coat of paint. Per Widerström took over as CEO in October 2023 and has been tasked with the challenge of bringing the company back to profitability.

888 had a net loss of £56.4 million in 2023, though that was significantly better than the £120.6 million net loss it incurred in 2022. Revenue was a bright spot, up 38% in 2023 to £1.7 billion.

Though 888 has had a footprint in the US, that footprint is dwindling. It ended its partnership with Sports Illustrated earlier this month, paying $50 million to break its deal. It has started a review of its US operations, which could result in deciding to exit the market altogether.

888 powers the WSOP-branded online poker rooms in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, but again, these use the World Series of Poker brand, so most players aren’t aware of 888’s presence. It did power Delaware’s online poker rooms, but the state recently replaced it with Rush Street Interactive.

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