As the sports betting industry picks up steam here in the US, numerous operators are already aggressively battling for market share. These battles are playing out across the country, even in states that have yet to legalize sports as operators pursue deals with land-based casinos for market access just in case favorable legislation is passed.
Some gaming giants have simply been more active than others. FanDuel and DraftKings have been particularly active, which comes as no surprise from the country’s two most established fantasy providers. We can also include UK-based William Hill in that category.
The company first put its roots down in the US back in 2012, spinning off William Hill US and setting up shop in Nevada. Since last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling, William Hill has entered other markets including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Iowa, Delaware, Mississippi, New Mexico and Rhode Island.
William Hill shows no signs of slowing down any time soon, so let’s take a closer look at this industry behemoth and its plans for the future.
A Brief History of William Hill
William Hill traces its roots back to 1934, despite the fact that it was illegal to gamble in Britain at the time. That didn’t stop the company’s founder – you guessed it, William Hill – from satisfying the market’s appetite for sports betting.
Naturally, the company has undergone multiple iterations through the years while also changing hands a number of times. The company has also made a number of acquisitions since the turn of the century to increase its size and scale.
Fast forward to today and William Hill still has a massive presence in the UK and other markets across the glove. In 2012, William Hill set its sights in the US in what is now clearly a wise move in hindsight.
UK Giant Expands into US Market
William Hill set the stage for its US expansion with the acquisition of a trio of sportsbook chains for roughly $53 million. The company has expanded aggressively across the state since that point. Today, the William Hill brand can be found on 100+ outposts in Nevada, where it controls approximately 32 percent of the sports betting market.
Following the Supreme Court ruling in 2018, William Hill quickly entered NJ and Mississippi to set up shop. In total, the company has secured the necessary licensing in eight markets in the US that have recently legalized sports betting with plans to open new sportsbooks in all of them.
Joe Asher, the group’s U.S. chief executive said: “Sports betting is starting to grow rapidly across many parts of the U.S. and that’s going to continue. Nearly a dozen states will have sports betting by year end and the trend towards legalization is clear.”
What the Future Holds for William Hill
Shortly after the floodgates opened in the US, an interesting deal was struck between William Hill US and Eldorado Resorts. The casino operator took a 20 percent stake in the bookmaker. In exchange, William Hill was granted exclusive rights to handle the sportsbook business at Eldorado properties.
Just a few months ago, Eldorado and Caesars Entertainment announced plans to merge. For William Hill, that means the UK bookmaking giant will gain access to even more states as well as some major properties, including the iconic Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Expansion of retail sportsbooks aside, the company also has big plans to make some serious noise in the US mobile betting space. More from MarketWatch:
The group is also tapping into its experience of building a digital business in the U.K. to expand into mobile betting in the U.S. “We have a very deep management team, which combines talented executives with years of experience in Nevada, along with senior leaders from related industries who are new to the sports betting business post-PASPA.” Asher said.
He added: “We also benefit from long-standing relationships with our key business partners like Eldorado Resorts and when they grow, we grow.”
Add it all up, and the company believes it can get to the point where roughly 45 percent of its revenue is derived solely from US operations. Said another way, William Hill has already become a force in the US sports betting market and is set to further establish itself as a market leader.
Does William Hill Really Ban Sharp Bettors?
One of the knocks against William Hill and its aggressive expansion plans is the ongoing scuttlebutt that the company isn’t shy about limiting the action of so-called sharp bettors, if not discouraging business from those customers all together.
“It is completely false to say that we ban people simply for winning. There are literally tens of thousands of customers in Nevada that are winners at William Hill. That’s one of the great things about sports betting—a lot of customers do win.
“In the rare situation where we do prohibit someone from wagering with us, there are a variety of reasons why. They include the sharing of accounts (usually tied to someone who previously has been banned), betting on behalf of third parties, screen scraping and other efforts to “game” the system, as well as compliance reasons or being offensive to staff and/or other customers.
“If someone tells you that the reason that they are prohibited from wagering with William Hill is because they are winning, they are not telling you the whole story.”
We can’t speak on the controversy from personal experience, but we do know this: if bettors find themselves in a situation in which their action is no longer welcome, there are plenty of other sportsbooks to explore. That’s especially true in the current climate, as operators are pulling out the stops to gain market share.