ibraltar-based 888, valued at about us$ 822 million, is understood to have held talks with a number of potential partners, and Rank's Blue Square gambling website is seen as a leading candidate.
An industry source said: “It is no secret 888 wants a sports book either by acquisition or through a white label deal as it would complement their other businesses.”
Under such an arrangement, Rank would provide software and back office functions, with the site carrying 888's branding. Revenues would be shared between the two companies.
A betting site is seen as a hook for introducing customers to 888's other gaming products. It would also bring it into competition with Ladbrokes, the betting chain that held protracted talks about a possible takeover of 888. The talks were eventually derailed by the fallout from the crackdown on internet gaming in the US.
888's strong overseas presence would be an attraction for Rank, which is looking to extend the scope of its Blue Square business. A spokeswoman for 888 Holdings refused to comment.