William Hill Is Focusing on US Market by Necessity
William Hill Plc’s continuing UK troubles make its investment in U.S. sportsbetting more important than ever. William Hill’s bookmaker shares declined 11% after a report gave worse-than-expected revenue figures for the British market.
That drop in share prices is made more remarkable by the fact that William Hill USA’s prospects are looking better than ever. Since the US Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting in 46 US states, William Hill is one of several bookmakers which looks primed for a vast expansion in US sports betting.
At the moment, William Hill owns 108 of the 128 sportsbooks and betting shops in Nevada. William Hill USA also has a sportsbook partnership deal with Monmouth Park, the racetrack in Oceanport, New Jersey which sits an hour’s drive from New York City.
As more US states legalize sports betting, William Hill is poised to take advantage of the expansion. Paddy Power-Betfair and GVC Holdings also are making major pushes, but the US sports betting market should be large enough that everyone gets rich.
Still, analysts say the glass is half-empty outside the United States. Ivor Jones, a gaming analyst for Peel Hunt, said of William Hill’s overall prospects, “William Hill is seizing its U.S. opportunity because it has to. Retail is on life support and online is looking a little peaky.”
Philip Bowcock on William Hill Prospects
William Hill’s Chief Executive Officer Philip Bowcock said that US revenues account for only 5% of the company’s profits at the moment, but he sees a day when William Hill USA accounts for more than half of William Hill’s revenues.
Bowcock said that experience in the US gaming market should help William Hill navigate the new circumstances pretty well. The United States not only had federal laws, but also has 50 sets of state laws to navigate. The point is to diffuse power away from one central authority, but it makes the patchwork of gaming laws confusing and sometimes stifling to multistate business.
William Hill’s US Experience
William Hill has been active in the US market for 6 years now. Most of that time, William Hill was being sued by the major American sports leagues: the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA. An October 2014 lawsuit brought by those 5 sports associations targeted Monmouth Park, William Hill, and the State of New Jersey.
It can be said that William Hill is now very familiar with US gambling laws. Philip Bowcock said, “Understanding what the U.S. consumer wants and needs versus the U.K. expertise is where the opportunity lies here. They are certainly not as sophisticated as we are. If you’re in the U.S., if you’re in New Jersey, you haven’t been allowed to bet on sports.”
Deals in Nevada, Delaware, Mississippi, West Virginia
William Hill has existing deals in Nevada and Delaware — two states which have had sports betting for a while. The company is fashioning partnership deals with 12 casinos throughout Mississippi and West Virginia, too. Mississippi legalized sports betting earlier this month and has an August 1 date for opening sportsbooks. West Virginia is still finalizing its sports betting laws, because its lawmakers have yet to nail down provisions for integrity fees and data sharing arrangements.
Philip Bowcock is in talks with casino operators in 14 other states. William Hill’s CEO says knowledge of the industry should help the company make deals. Bowcock added, “The sophistication we have about multiple bets, about in-play markets, about one-minute markets, they don’t have.”
Paddy Power-Betfair Group
William Hill USA is going to have to be quick. Paddy Power Betfair Group is making a strong push in the two months since the Supreme Court decision. Paddy Power signed a deal with FanDuel, a major daily fantasy sports operator with a database of 6 million US sports enthusiasts. Not only will FanDuel support sportsbooks, but it will produce sports betting-related programming on Betfair’s TVG and TVG2 networks.
Paddy Power-Betfair also has a deal with Meadowlands Racetrack, the only sportsbook which sits within a few minutes drive or train ride from New York City. Paddy Power signed a deal with Jeff Gural, who owns Meadowlands Racetrack & Sportsbook and Tioga Downs in Upstate New York.
GVC Holdings/MGM Resorts Deal
GVC Holdings out of the Isle of Man is also making a strong push. GVC Holdings signed a partnership deal with MGM Resorts, the Las Vegas casino company with a nationwide porfolio of resorts. MGM Resorts in turn signed a data sharing deal with the NBA — the first time a US sports league signed any kind of corporate deal with a casino or bookmaker.
Others deal should be coming down the pike in the coming weeks and months. William Hill is going to need to be one of the top two or three UK bookmakers making the news — and strategic partnership — if it is to make up for its relative decline in the UK gaming market.