Caesars touts company’s sports betting prowess, but William Hill has eyes on the business By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports September 3, 2019 at 7:00 pm Caesars Entertainment promoted its expanded nationwide reach in sports betting Tuesday. The Las Vegas-based company now has sports books in 29 casinos in nine states, including New York, where it has a branding and marketing alliance at properties owned by the Oneida Indian Nation. The landscape could look much different next year if Caesars’ sportsbooks become William Hill U.S. branded locations. Caesars is in the process of merging with Reno-based Eldorado Resorts in a $17.3 billion transaction. Despite the gaming’s industry largest-ever deal still being referred to as a merger, however, Eldorado will ultimately become the controlling company after more than a dozen states, federal antitrust regulators, and stockholders sign off on the agreement. Eldorado is already flexing its influence over the two companies. Last week, Caesars ended a decade-long effort to win an integrated resort license in Japan, a move telegraphed by Eldorado CEO Thomas Reeg when the merger was announced in late June. Six months before the Eldorado-Caesars deal was reached, William Hill completed a strategic partnership with Eldorado, which gained a 20 percent ownership stake in the United Kingdom-based William Hill in exchange for a 25-year deal to operate facilities in the company’s casinos where sports betting in legal. The day after the dust from the merger announcement was beginning to settle, William Hill said the strategic partnership gave its U.S. subsidiary the rights to oversee sports betting at casinos acquired in the Caesars transaction. The timing of the Caesars sports betting announcement seemed odd, given the merger with Eldorado, which is expected to be finalized in 2020. In the release, the company said sports betting at Harrah’s Gulf Coast in Biloxi, Mississippi had increased the property’s month-over-month attendance by 10% and boosted beverage sales 300%. Since the expansion of sports betting began in earnest last year, Caesars has been one of the most active companies in creating partnerships and marketing agreements with leagues, teams and media networks. A January 2019 deal with the National Football League established Caesars as the league’s first-ever “official casino partner,” although the agreement doesn’t include sports betting. Caesars and its individual casinos have also signed numerous marketing deals with individual NFL, NBA and NHL franchises. Caesars is the official supplier of odds information for ESPN and Turner Sports. The companies plan to open broadcast studios on the Las Vegas Strip – an ESPN studio this winter at The LINQ and a Bleacher Report studio at Caesars Palace. Eldorado’s Reeg, who will be CEO of the merged companies, said in June he liked several of the sports betting and sports partnership deals Caesars has signed. However, he stopped short of saying what the process will be moving forward. A day later, William Hill laid claim to that particular piece of the business. Caesars’ Executive Vice President of Gaming & Interactive Christian Stuart said in Tuesday’s statement, “Our coveted partnerships, especially those in the broadcast space, have increased brand recognition for Caesars while also providing guests and sports fans new sports betting related content and experiences to enjoy.” William Hill executives declined comment on the Caesars’ release, but the company may be coveting the idea of operating a sportsbook at Caesars Palace. The resort has long been recognized in the sports universe as a venue for championship fights and other events. As for sports betting, radio and television personalities often broadcast Sunday NFL selections from the Caesars Palace sportsbook. At the Linq, Caesars has earned accolades for its Re:Match area, where the sportsbook has been merged into a renovated space that includes a casino lounge, a bar, and other gaming and entertainment attractions. Stuart, in an interview this summer, said the Linq was a model for the gaming industry on how sports betting could be incorporated into the overall casino experience. Caesars’ sports wagering business covers casinos in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Iowa, Indiana, and New York, as well as the company’s 13 Nevada casinos in Las Vegas, Reno, Laughlin, and Lake Tahoe. Caesars’ casinos in Illinois and North Carolina could launch sports betting by the end of the year, depending how quickly regulations are put into place. Eldorado is looking at selling casinos in certain regional markets where anti-trust issues might exist – and has said it would consider selling one or two of Caesars’ Strip resorts. (A week before the Caesars announcement, Eldorado said it would sell three regional casinos in two states for $385 million to VICI Properties and Century Casinos.) Eldorado’s stake in William Hill was valued at $50 million in January. As the sports betting issue continues to work its way through the merger, the deal could become more lucrative for both Eldorado and William Hill. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.