William Hill is a London, England-based bookmaker that is one of the biggest sports betting organizations in the world. It looks to expand aggressively into the fledgling US market.
The company was founded in 1934 and has been listed on the London Stock Exchange since 2002.
In 2005, William Hill briefly became top dog in the multibillion-dollar United Kingdom betting market, ahead of previous market leader Ladbrokes, when it bought more than 600 betting parlors in the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man and Jersey from Stanley Leisure.
However, the UK government forced William Hill to sell close to 80 of the shops to ease antitrust concerns.
The company has since grown even bigger in the UK. It now operates telephone and online betting operations alongside more than 2,400 licensed betting shops across the UK. In fact, William Hill is the largest bookmaker in the UK. It holds close to 25 percent of the market as of 2018.
It also runs online sportsbooks, online casinos, online bingo and online poker sites in the UK.
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William Hill enters the US
In 2011, William Hill made its first move into the United States, going aggressively into the only state in the country where full-scale sports betting was legal.
William Hill bought the Joe Asher-run Brandywine and it’s 17 Nevada sportsbooks under the condition the Nevada Gaming Commission would grant it a license.
A year later it did. Asher was named William Hill US CEO and William Hill continued to expand further into Nevada.
In 2012, it bought three legal sportsbook chains. Lucky’s, Leroy’s, and Club Cal Neva satellite operations were all rebranded under the William Hill name. Once the deal was complete, William Hill controlled more than 50 percent of Nevada sportsbooks, but just a little more than 10 percent of statewide sportsbook revenues.
William Hill continued to bolster its position as Nevada’s leading sportsbook operator. When New Jersey began its efforts to legalize sports betting back in 2011, and William Hill soon began looking across the country to the East Coast.
On the East Coast
By 2013, William Hill was calling itself the world’s leading sports betting company, and it teamed with Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey to become the racetrack’s exclusive sports betting provider. A move made anticipating the state would ultimately win its battle to legalize sports betting at casinos and racetracks inside state lines.
William Hill paid $1 million for the rights to sports betting at the track, agreeing to split all future NJ sports betting revenue evenly.
Monmouth used part of the money to renovate a cafeteria behind the grandstand, turning it into the 100-seat William Hill Race & Sports Bar at Monmouth Park. The idea was it would one day be converted into a full Las Vegas-style sportsbook.
William Hill also became the title sponsor of the $1 million Haskell Invitational horse race run in July at Monmouth.
At the time, Asher said one day sports betting will be legal in New Jersey, and when it is, William Hill will be there.
The space includes a semicircular bar with counters on either side where betting windows will ultimately open up. William Hill has since doubled it’s initial $1 million investment and Monmouth has matched it.
Recently, a hall beneath the grandstand was also renovated and an additional 30 betting windows will soon go in there. Plus, when the New Jersey sports betting market does open up, William Hill has promised it will build another $5 million sportsbook at the track with space for 5,000.
Sports betting in NJ
Following the initial opening of the William Hill Race & Sports Bar at Monmouth Park, New Jersey continued battling major professional sports leagues and the NCAA in the courts for the right to enact a law legalizing sports betting in the state.
On May 14, 2018, it finally got some good news. In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional. PASPA was passed in 1992 that made sports betting illegal in almost every state outside of Nevada. The decision opened the door for all 50 states to join Nevada in legalizing single-game wagering.
New Jersey lawmakers immediately went to work designing regulatory legislation to govern its local sports betting market. William Hill and Monmouth Park began preparing themselves to become first in the state to take a legal sports bet.
The New Jersey legislature passed its regulatory sports betting bill June 7 and waited for Gov. Phil Murphy to sign the bill into law, giving William Hill and Monmouth Park the green light.
Delaware beat New Jersey to the punch, opening full-scale sports betting at its three racetrack casinos June 5. However, once Gov. Murphy signs the bill, New Jersey will become the first to legalize sports betting in a state where it was banned. Delaware had previously legalized NFL parlay betting prior to the passage of PASPA and it was grandfathered in.
The William Hill Race & Sports Bar at Monmouth Park took the first legal sports bet in the state June 14. However, it won’t be the only place William Hill is taking bets in New Jersey.
William Hill and Ocean Resort Casino
Ocean Resort Casino is a re-imagining of the former Atlantic City Boardwalk hotel and casino Revel. It opened June 28 and William Hill will be the casino’s sportsbook operator.
Plans are to open and operate a 7,500-square-foot sportsbook in the heart of Ocean Resort Casino’s gaming floor. The sportsbook will feature a center bar surrounded by a state-of-the-art video wall.
The deal also involves William Hill running mobile and online sportsbook products for Ocean Resort Casino.
Back in Nevada, William Hill now runs 107 of the 190 sportsbooks in the state. Together, they generate close to 30 percent of the state’s $250 million annual sports betting revenue. However, 60 percent of the money wagered with William Hill in Nevada is bet through its sports betting app. It is the state’s leading mobile sports betting app.
In 2016, William Hill signed a deal with Eldorado Resorts to upgrade and operate two of its sportsbooks. This includes the Silver Legacy and Circus Circus Resort Casinos in Reno, Nevada. It’s a partnership that could pay dividends in the future across the country, particularly since Eldorado Resorts has expanded to other states expected to legalize sports betting.
Across the US
The company’s expansion to other US states includes agreeing to become the exclusive risk manager for Delaware’s sports lottery.
Plus, in 2017, William Hill partnered with Caesars Entertainment. It brought pari-mutuel simulcast wagering to its Horseshoe Council Bluffs Casino property in Iowa. Together, they built the William Hill Race Book inside the casino.
The racebook currently takes bets on thoroughbred, harness and greyhound races from across the US. Iowa could legalize sports betting. A move to turn the William Hill Race Book into the William Hill Race & Sports Book would likely follow. Plus, a partnership with Caesars could open up possibilities at its dozens of casinos around the country.
Gaming research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming LLC has estimated as many as 32 states with a combined population of more than 215 million people could legalize sports betting by the year 2023. That would create a $6 billion a year US sports betting industry. William Hill has every intention of leading it.
Asher said William Hill has aggressive plans to open sportsbooks in every state that legalizes sports betting — just as soon as state laws allow.