We’d like to officially welcome British bookmaking giant William Hill to Las Vegas. We’ve done a lot of speculating on what might happen from the time they paid $53 million in 2011 to acquire American Wagering Inc.(AWI), Brandywine Bookmaking (Lucky’s) and Club Cal-Neva, but it will finally become a reality this Thursday when the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s recommendation gets approved.
The British have arrived and the impact they’ll make in Nevada, and hopefully soon to be the entire United States, should be huge. The strategy put in place to attack the market will be quite enjoyable to watch by outsiders like myself. Ask anyone in England about William Hill and they’ll tell you William Hill doesn’t necessarily offer the best odds, but they are consistent and convenient, which is all most bettors can ask for out of their book.
With their purchase of the three Nevada companies, William Hill will control 55 percent of the sports betting market in Nevada through 164 locations. This gives them quite an angle to work with and mirror the percentage they have in England where they run over 2,300 bet shops.
While it‘s sad to see three separate betting outs be consolidated into one, the good news is that William Hill is bringing their English pounds to America that includes converting some of those pounds into $10 million U.S. Dollars for an expansion and refurbish of their current holdings.
The big prize at the end of the rainbow is the hope that online wagering across state lines is approved in the near future. The purchase alone without that dangling carrot might have been a grind that William Hill probably would have never got themselves into. If, and/or when online comes into play, this deal will be the steal of century because revenues will approach billions.
Until that day comes, William Hill’s Nevada operation is going to have to run its Nevada operation in a very competitive market. Unlike England where there are hugely populated cities throughout, Nevada has Las Vegas in Clark County accounting for the bulk of state revenue with the 15 other counties offering minimal contributions to the overall pie.
William Hill’s game plan in the immediate future will be known at the end of this week as CEO Ralph Topping is meeting with the media to discuss their plans.
For the last two weeks I’ve been attempting to get any information I can from the three companies involved in the deal about what lies ahead, but have been thwarted on all avenues from all three. No one wants to say a word. With positions being decided within the newly restructured company, it’s quite understandable that no one would want to say anything. Who wants to make a bad first impression by leaking information?
The questions in the air are what bookmakers of the three companies bought will eventually be in charge; when will the transformation take place, and what is the overall game plan of William Hill when they finally have total control?
Will there be an influx of British operators taking control? When will the regal crest of William Hill’s flag fly at all their locations? What happens to the Lucky’s bookmaking staff that includes Las Vegas legend Jimmy Vaccaro? How about one of the true Nevada mavericks with Cal-Neva’s Nick Bogdonovich? And then you have a bookmaker like Leroy’s Bob Smith who teaches college classes on the art of bookmaking; what about him?
Multiple sources outside the company privy to information say that a few of the top positions within the company will be held for a few of the up and coming star British performers. This has to have many of the directors in high positions for all three companies bought in a state of flux with an unknown about what their future holds for William Hill‘s U.S. Division.
Sources have also informed us that two of the companies bought will be switching to software run by AWI’s subsidiary Computerized Bookmaking Systems (CBS) within the next three weeks. Lucky’s and Cal-Neva have been using Stadium Technologies software and will have to switch all those properties over to the CBS system, a system which William Hill now owns.
The massive changeover might have been hard to handle for CBS in regards to obtaining hardware in such a short time frame, but the sources say CBS was able to buy back several machines for a small fraction of the price paid from a local chain. The mystery of who that chain is will stay out there because every local property has switched from CBS to Stadium Technologies or developed their own in house system within the last five years.
It may take a few months, but eventually bettors across the state can expect one central William Hill line source with all 164 outlets using the same numbers. All we know for now is that Lucky’s CEO Joe Asher will run William Hill’s U.S. Division as initially expected.
While it’s unfortunate that several high paying jobs may be eliminated during this entire transition, the good news is that William Hill will bring a vibrant attitude to Las Vegas that could shake up the market. We have already seen what Cantor Gaming has brought to Las Vegas with their brash Wall Street nature, and it’s helped raise the bar.
The most interesting thing about William Hill coming to America is that we’ll get to see a little bit of how they cornered the market in England. It should be expected to see them be aggressive, not necessarily from an odds standpoint, but rather from convenience. They don’t have a local book under their umbrella that yields all the high hold percentage numbers, but they’ll find a way to get one somehow.
Their one golden goose might be strengthening their grip on all the local PT’s Pub locations throughout the state that now offer Leroy’s betting lines through kiosks. The kiosks were unveiled just prior to the 2011 football season. The ease of betting closer to home than ever before found quite a few regular players in the same fashion William Hill has done in England with all their bet shops.
William Hill may find Nevada and the U.S. to be far more constricting than what their used to in England, but they will find a way to make it work. With Nevada only being the first nibble of the big bite that is the United States, William Hill is also is a great position because they also now book in Delaware where Brandywine has been the sports book outlet for the last three years.
Delaware’s House recently passed a bill that would allow for more sports book locations throughout the state. Once the state Senate passes the bill, books will be popping up throughout Delaware’s major border highways. Delaware bettors can only bet three-team parlays or higher -- no straight bets, but once New Jersey and California push their own agenda, we could see an entire swing in sports betting as we know it.
When that time comes, companies like William Hill and Cantor Gaming are going to be flying high in the cash. Despite huge lease offers to run big name Las Vegas sports books, the Las Vegas companies are also waiting to see what happens. The possible future reward in sports betting is too large to give away.
Right now, there is no better prospect than being a licensed sports book in Nevada with everything that is about to occur. This is why William Hill’s top competition in England, Ladbrokes, has burst into the market with their purchase in a piece of Stadium Technologies a few months ago. With everything that is on the table in the U.S. market, something tells me that Stadium Technologies won’t be the last we hear of Ladbrokes.
As for William Hill, we look forward to all the positives changes to come, but hope the bookmaking standard created by Lucky’s and Cal-Neva won’t be anything less than what we have been accustomed to. Lucky’s and Cal-Neva always offer some of the fairest and most unique wagers available in the state making both places a must stop for the thousands in search of the best line out there.
Luck of the Irish Bettor
While several bettors felt they got the shaft betting Manny Pacquiao last week, there was only one book that truly empathized with their plight to the degree of refunding wagers. The Irish bookmaking firm of Paddy Power once again gained favor from their betting public by compromising their revenues for the sake of marketing, and it’s a pretty powerful strategy. It seems at least once a year when a massively wagered upon event has a controversial ending that Paddy Power balances the scale of justice in their own way.
The logic behind the refunds is brilliant. A controversial outcome like occurred last week in Las Vegas creates headlines and gossip that go on for months; the type of buzz that no public relations office could ever think of generating.
In this instance for example, just say Paddy Power has a marketing expense of $3 million per year with part of that number built in for these types of extraordinary events. Let’s say that the amount wagered on Pacquiao was close to $1 million. The terrible decision and the buzz created from it was the perfect time for Paddy Power to step in and reap the benefits. And these types of losses are built into their business model.
By announcing that they were refunding wagers, they put the spotlight on themselves as the good guy while creating havoc for their competitors. What it also did was create brand loyalty for Paddy Power to even those that didn‘t wager on the fight.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a soccer match, rugby, snooker or boxing, if the public cries foul, Paddy Power listens and finds an angle for themselves to dive into a market filled with William Hill and Ladbrokes bettors.
My good friend Billy O’Gorman who used to work for a William Hill book in Coventry, England three decades ago told me the story a neighborhood bookmaker and how he always won favor with his clientele. The bookmaker and clients would always meet at a pub on Tuesday night to settle up and on this particular day, all the favorites had won in the Premier League on the previous Saturday. The Bookmaker lost over five figures, but yet after paying out, bought all his clients a pint.
Billy asked his friend the bookmaker, “You just paid thousands to everyone in the pub, they’ve got plenty of money from Saturday’s games to buy their own. Why would you do such a thing?”
The bookmaker replied, “They’ll be back next week and I want them to know who their real friend is when they spend their money again.”