William Hill CEO Philip Bowcock spent much of his company’s Tuesday earnings call discussing preparation for a potential PASPA repeal.
Bowcock detailed which states he expects to be in play almost immediately, as well as the need to approach each as “a different country.” He also said the international bookmaker already spent “mid-to-high single-digit” millions of dollars to ready for a decision in the Supreme Court sports betting case involving New Jersey and the federal ban. That could result in a quick expansion around the US.
The company completed the sale of its Australian holdings last month and is maintaining financial flexibility in anticipation of spending money on sports betting throughout the United States. The company already serves both Nevada and Delaware for sports wagering.
“If the US Supreme Court votes in favor of repealing PASPA, then the US clearly has to be the priority,” Bowcock said.
What William Hill said on…
Let’s take a closer look at what else Babcock dove into during the call:
Which states will move first on sports betting?
“Where we stand at the moment, we know that Delaware will go almost immediately because that is sort of quasi-type sports betting at the moment — they take parlays which in our parlance are accumulators — so that’s quite an easy move.”
Clearly New Jersey will go very soon afterwards and the likes of Mississippi and West Virginia will likely go quite quickly at the moment as well. Just how they regulate will be interesting because New Jersey, it is likely, will go with a full remote registration-type scenario, i.e. as we are in the UK, which will clearly necessitate quite significant marketing costs. Whereas Mississippi everybody believes will be purely a retail-based and will not have any mobile at all. So I think we need to just sort of differentiate here, not just between which states go, but how they go.
Thereafter, I think it’s difficult to say. Will there be a dozen in three years? Quite possibly but I think it’s quite difficult to understand how quickly they do go.”
The idea that Delaware would be a fast-mover is interesting. While the state passed a law in 2009, it lost a challenge to that law in federal court. The state has been mostly mum on how quickly it would move on single-game wagering and if it would use that existing state law should NJ succeed in striking down PASPA.
NJ sports betting and the others — Mississippi sports betting and WV sports betting — are more known quantities, although there is still a lot that needs to happen in all those states on the regulatory front.
How is William Hill spending its money to prepare for sports betting?
“We’re investing in various areas — not just technology — to make sure we’ve got the appropriate technology ready to go. Just to give you a little bit of background, as I say to everybody, you can’t think of the US as one country. Each state is like a different country so it’s going to have almost its own technology. Because the regulations will be different in each state, we’ll likely have to have a call center in each state as well for customer services. We’re looking at how that would set up.”
Will the company use the William Hill brand everywhere?
“We’re looking at how we would launch a brand there into the states. We’re looking into how we would do a lot of our digital marketing and the organization that goes behind that as well. So there’s quite a lot of time and effort being spent in the US at the moment.
I think we will go with the most appropriate brand for each state and … if we need to do one brand across the US, we’ll do one brand across the US. I think we’ll see if and who we do partner up with to work out the best brand. We’re not totally agnostic, but I think we’ll go with the best brand available at the appropriate time.”
US earnings look good overall for William Hill
With Nevada sports betting leading the way, the company’s US business turned in a solid first four months of 2018. William Hill credited the performance to “strong underlying growth compounded by unusually good sports results.”
“The Nevada business in the US continues to grow strongly,” Bowcock said.
The company reported that total sports wagers were up 17 percent and net revenue spiked 45 percent. Almost two-thirds of bets were placed via mobile.
A few items specifically drew note:
- March Madness performed particularly well, as we have discussed before.
- Increased betting on hockey because of the success of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
- Introduction of in-play tennis wagers.