US Teams Looking to Sign William Hill After States Legalize Sports Bets

Jun 18, 2018
US Teams Looking to Sign William Hill After States Legalize Sports Bets

Many teams from all across United States are fighting for a William Hill sponsorship.

William Hill US Division CEO Joseph Asher told Reuters that the company has been overwhelmed with inquiries through calls and emails from US’ top sports teams hoping to land the British bookie’s signature. He even hinted that one of those inquiries is from an executive of “one of the most prominent franchises in the country.”

The sudden rush to land William Hill as sponsor came after the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) sided with the state of New Jersey’s appeal to declare the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional. Without PASPA, individual states including NJ can now move to legalize and regulate sports betting in their respective jurisdictions.

William Hill itself bet on the eventual legislation of sports betting. More than five years before the SCOTUS decision, the bookmaking company invested into renovating the struggling horse track Monmouth Park in NJ to become a sportsbook in the distant future. Now, the William Hill Sports Bar is poised to become one of the hottest places to wager in New Jersey.

Asher, talking about the company’s New Jersey properties, said:

“I went to Atlantic City to check the progress at the… Monmouth Park to review what’s happening there. It was great to see the newly hired employees training for their new jobs at Monmouth and well as a number of our colleague from Nevada there helping them learn what to do. Creating jobs for people, which will help them and their families have a better life, is immensely rewarding and one of the clear benefits of the Supreme Court’s decision.”

British businessman William Hill founded the gambling company in 1934, which grew and became one of the biggest bookmakers in the United Kingdom. The company’s US Division is currently involved in betting-related businesses in three states. William Hill serves as the exclusive risk manager of the Delaware’s state lottery. The bookmaker operates the Monmouth Park and the sportsbook of the soon-to-open Ocean Resort Casino in New Jersey. The gambling company also manages multiple race and sportsbooks in Nevada casinos.

Sports Betting Not Illegal

The PASPA originally made it illegal for states to sponsor, operate, license, or authorize betting on competitive sports. The Act—which lasted for more than two decades—covered all of the states except Nevada, home to resort-city and casino haven Las Vegas.

But in its decision last May, the highest court in the country ruled that the power to legalize and regulate sports gambling lies not with the US federal government but with each of the state government.

Justice Samuel Amlito, member of the SCOTUS, wrote:

“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own… Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”

Indeed, some states have started to act on their own following the SCOTUS decision. On June 9, Delaware Gov. John Carney made the state’s first legal wager, betting US$10 on a baseball match. Meanwhile, on June 11, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law New Jersey’s much-awaited sports betting bill, with the first bet to take place this week.

Gov. Murphy, in a tweet, wrote:

“[We’re] finally making the dream of legalized sports betting a reality for New Jersey. This is the right move for our state and will strengthen our economy.”

Almost all of the 50 states have a bill regarding sports gambling that is yet to go through rigorous readings. Observers predict the states of Connecticut, Iowa, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia to legalize sports betting in the near future. However, punters from Utah might be disappointed as anti-gambling lines appear on the state’s constitution.

| Related: SCOTUS: Law Banning Sports Betting Unconstitutional

US Sports and Betting, A Rocky Partnership

With more and more states moving to allow sports betting, major sports leagues are fighting to get their share of the growing US sports gambling market. The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Major League Baseball (MLB) have lobbied to include in legislation the so-called integrity fee—a stipulation giving leagues a one percent cut on all bets made on their respective sports. The leagues argue that the integrity fee is an important insurance to deter the possibility of match-fixing.

Still, state legislators are unimpressed with the proposal. None of the passed laws offers professional leagues a direct share of the gambling money. Betting operators also oppose the idea of integrity fees. According to them, bookmakers already have their revenues cut by different taxes and integrity fees would further cut their profit.

However, Asher claims that both leagues and bookies can cooperate with each other, sharing that some of the “leagues and the teams are [currently] interested in doing commercial deals” with sportsbook operators.

Asher said:

“There’s lots of things we can do together with the leagues. Stream the games through an app and bet in-play while you’re watching on the app. And clearly there are sponsorship opportunities. Gambling companies in Europe are among the biggest sponsors of professional sports. Half the English Premier League teams have betting sponsors on their jerseys and signage around the stadium. That’ll take time. It’s new.”

In the face of increasing sponsorship revenue—mostly from the Asian betting operators—sports organizations from around the world are welcoming these sponsors’ logos in their shirts. In 2017, exactly nine sports betting companies appeared on the shirts of English Premier League football teams, including UK’s bet365, Malta’s Betway, Kenya’s SportsPesa, and Philippines’ Dafabet.

Major leagues in the US, however, are slow to imitate the trend. While the NBA introduced a 2.5-inch-by-2.5-inch space in the upper left of the shirt last 2017-2018 season, the National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), and the MLB are—as of the moment—not ready to follow suit.

How teams would incorporate a sponsorship deal with William Hill, or other betting companies, is still unclear. However, observers are sure that a sponsorship with one can trigger a huge revenue increase, mostly from the recently born US sports betting market.

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