The Ben-Yitzhak Brothers: 888 Founders
Ron and Shay Ben-Yitzhak, alongside Aaron and Avi Shaked, founded the company known as 888 Holdings. Thanks to their contributions, 888 Holdings has been able to launch some of the most lucrative online casinos in the business. While Ron and Shay Ben-Yitzhak are no longer involved in its day-to-day operations, their impact on the company will not be forgotten.
To learn more about the Ben-Yitzhak brothers and their involvement in 888 Holdings, please continue reading their detailed biography. You'll be able to gain insight into their childhood, their connection with the Shaked brothers, and their contributions to this revolutionary business.
The Ben-Yitzhak Brothers: Early Years
Ron and Shay were born in Ashkelon, Israel, in the mid-1960s. Their parents started having difficulties in their marriage while they were still in grade school and eventually got divorced as a result. Ron and Shay were forced to split their time between both parents and had a difficult time with this adjustment. Since Ron was 2 years older than Shay, he also had to get a job early on to help support his mother, who had been struggling financially since the divorce.
Both Ron and Shay got excellent grades in high school, having a natural talent for mathematics. When it was time for Ron to pick a college to continue his education, he decided to choose the Israel Institute of Technology to major in engineering. Shay joined him at the school a couple of years later, with his major being computer science. It was during their college years that they first came in with the Shaked Brothers, who were attending a university just a few towns over. All four brothers bonded over their love of arcade games, often staying up all night to play them.
After college, Ron started working for Zix-Av Engineering as one of their head engineers. Shay, on the other hand, worked as a software engineer for Tower Semiconductor Limited. They would often get together on the weekends to play poker with a group of friends. Every once in a while, they would travel to Egypt to visit one of the many new casinos that were opening up there. They would play a variety of games but had a particular interest in poker, roulette, and craps.
Collaborating with the Shaked Brothers
It had been several years since Ron and Shay had seen the Shaked brothers, so they were pleasantly surprised when they got a phone call from them. Avi and Aaron Shaked wanted to meet for lunch and said they had something important that they wanted to discuss. Ron and Shay had no idea what the Shaked brothers were going to propose, but they were happy to be able to catch up with their once-close friends.
While at lunch, the Shaked brothers revealed the project they had been working on for the past few years: a fully accessible online casino. They needed to find someone who could develop the software and make sure the casino games gave an accurate representation of the games that were found at an actual brick-and-mortar casino. Knowing the brothers' background in engineering and computer science and their love of casino gambling, they thought Ron and Shay would be just the men for the job.
Ron and Shay talked it over, and they agreed to help with the project under two conditions. First, they had to form an official business. After much discussion, the group decided to name their new business 888 Holdings. Their second condition was a little more demanding; they wanted an equal part of the company's shares and believed that each brother should own 25% of the company. The Shaked brothers met in private and eventually agreed to give in to their demands, as long as they were willing to contribute some starting capital to get the business off the ground.
Shay's Contributions to 888
Shay's main responsibility within the company was to develop unique software for the launch of their first casino. The Shaked brothers had started developing its software, but it wasn't very user-friendly. Shay knew their online casino needed to have an easy-to-use interface so that any player could use it whether they were tech savvy or not. He made this one of his top priorities, and it definitely contributed to 888's success.
Shay also realized that a site's graphics were going to be extremely important. Players would be drawn to sites that had enhanced graphics and a rich color scheme. He made sure to consider aesthetics when it came time to put the finishing touches on the casino's software program. Thanks to Shay, 888's first casino was very easy on the eyes.
Ron's Contributions to 888
Once Shay had completed the software, it was Ron's responsibility to test the software and make sure there weren't any glitches in it. He spent hours navigating his way around the site and playing all the games it had on offer. He was able to identify two minor issues: the promotions tab on the top of the screen led to a blank page, and one of their blackjack games took several minutes to load. Thanks to Ron's willingness to pay attention to detail, these issues were resolved before their casino launched.
Ron was also the one who recognized the importance of offering a quality customer service team, which is something he paid very close attention to before the casino was open for business. He interviewed each customer service representative they hired and made sure that they had the proper background knowledge to answer any questions the customers might have. He also led training sessions on how to talk with customers in a friendly and respectful manner.
888 Holdings' Rise and Fall
In May 1997, 888 Holdings' first casino was finally ready to launch. Casino-on-Net was a huge success, attracting players from all over the world and bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars on a monthly basis. Players were impressed by the quality of games they had on offer and the level of customer service that was provided to them. After about a year, they were ready to launch their second casino, Reef Club Casino, which came complete with an updated software system and a wider selection of games.
Now they were making millions of dollars on a monthly basis and were continually looking for ways to expand. They started running advertisements in countries where they weren't attracting many players, and this seemed to increase the number of people who visited their site. Things were looking positive when it came to the future of this company.
Everything changed in 2006 when the United States passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). This law made it illegal for 888 Holdings, and any other online casino, for that matter, to accept customers from the United States. This law severely diminished their yearly revenue.
Life After 888: Ron Ben-Yitzhak
After hearing about the UIGEA, Ron was eager to leave the company so that he could spend more time with his family. He was married with 3 children at the time with a fourth one on the way. He sold most of his shares of the company and stopped his involvement in its day-to-day operations.
He used the money from 888 Holdings to build a luxury home for his family. When it was finished, it had 8 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, and a large swimming pool in the backyard. Ron enjoyed his early retirement and the financial freedom that he now had thanks to his involvement in 888 Holdings.
Life After 888: Shay Ben-Yitzhak
Shay stayed with 888 Holdings a little longer than his brother did, accepting the position as a non-executive member of the board. He attended board meetings and got to voice his opinion concerning any changes the board attempted to make. He stayed in this position for 4 years, and then he finally decided to retire.
Chairman Richard Kilsby said this after receiving word about Shay's retirement: "I would like to express on behalf of the board and all at the company our appreciation of Shay's contribution as one of the original founders of the business, and in growing the company from its infancy to where it is now. We wish him all the best for the future."
Shay has spent his retirement traveling the world with his family. They have visited dozens of different countries, including Spain, France, Turkey, and Switzerland, to name a few. When they aren't traveling, they can often be found giving back to their community. Shay and his family are actively involved in community clean-up programs, where they volunteer to pick up trash in various cities in Israel. Through this program, they have also helped restore several different parks.
Both Shay and Ron have worked hard to make 888 Holdings a successful business. Without Shay's ability to create a user-friendly software and without Ron's brilliant idea to focus on providing excellent customer service, we doubt the company would be where it is today. We are thankful for their contributions to 888 Holdings, and we hope they continue to enjoy their well-deserved retirement.