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As Caesars Entertainment announced Thursday that it closed on the purchase of sportsbook operator William Hill PLC, it also marked the end of an era, as Joe Asher, the CEO of William Hill’s US operations, has stepped down.
Katie Carano Miller, Caesars senior vice president for communications and government relations, confirmed the move to Casino.org.
We wish him the very best,” she said in an email. “Our new William Hill US team members will report to our copresidents of Caesars Sports & Online Gaming.”
Caesars announced on Sept. 30 it would purchase the British-based sports betting giant for GBP 2.9 billion (or slightly more than $4 billion). The move happened after Eldorado Resorts Inc. completed its $17.3 billion acquisition of Caesars last July.
At the time Eldorado and Caesars were working to close their deal, questions were raised about who would operate the combined company’s sportsbooks. Caesars had an internal sports betting division, but Eldorado had an exclusive arrangement with William Hill.
Bringing William Hill into the fold gives Caesars a sports betting presence in 18 jurisdictions, including 13 mobile wagering licenses.
Caesars officials expect to be in two more US jurisdictions by the end of the year.
The gaming company said the acquisition will fuel growth for its Caesars Rewards loyalty program by allowing William Hill’s members to earn status rewards that they will be able to use at the company’s other online outlets and land-based casinos and resorts.
Caesars also said the acquisition will allow it to offer a “single-wallet offering” that combines online sports betting and iGaming applications.
Asher an Important Player in US Sports Betting
Asher had been at the helm of William Hill’s US division since the company bought his Brandywine Bookmaking nine years ago. He founded Brandywine in 2008, with the name a nod to his racing roots. Before venturing into sports betting, he served in management positions at several tracks, including Brandywine Raceway, a now-closed harness track in Delaware.
William Hill, with about 500 retail locations in Nevada, is the market leader in Nevada, where sports betting has been legal for decades. According to data last fall from Roundhill Investments, William Hill generated nearly a third of the gross revenue generated from sports betting in the state.
Gaming law expert Daniel Wallach credited Asher on Twitter for helping bring about the legalization of sports betting across the country.
“Joe Asher had skin in the game long before anyone else,” Wallach tweeted. “His backing of a pipe-dream sportsbook for Monmouth Park—years before PASPA fell—was the engine that kept the dream alive. Without Joe Asher and Dennis Drazin, the surrender flag would have been raised after Christie I.”
However, as sports betting has expanded across the US after the Supreme Court’s repeal of PASPA nearly three years ago, William Hill has found a different environment outside Nevada. While William Hill has had success in such markets as Iowa and the District of Columbia, FanDuel and DraftKings have dominated in other states, especially so in markets where bettors can set up accounts online.
For example, in Indiana, the state Gaming Commission reported a handle of $316.7 million and adjusted gross sports betting revenues of $26.4 million last month. DraftKings’ mobile app took in $111.2 million of the handle and garnered $8.5 million in revenue. FanDuel’s app accounted for $91.3 million in handle and $6.8 million in revenue.
William Hill’s mobile handle was $9.5 million, which generated more than $879,000 in revenue.
Of course, getting a bigger piece of the market outside of Nevada isn’t just an issue for William Hill. Last month in Indiana, CaesarsOnline reported a handle of less than $230,000 and receipts of just $1,392.
Caesars Expects More Moves
While the transaction is now complete, Caesars officials have said they intend to flip all non-US William Hill operations.
Last month, Gibraltar-based 888 Holdings CEO Itai Pazner said his company is considering a bid. Other potential bidders could include Apollo Global Management, which recently acquired the gaming operations for Las Vegas Sands Corp., and British bookmakers Betfred.
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