Sports betting figure Joe Asher taking time off before planning his next move Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · May 3, 2021 at 8:11 am In the days following his departure as CEO of William Hill U.S., following the company’s merger with Caesars Entertainment, Joe Asher’s email and cellphone filled up with complimentary messages of good wishes, but also questions on his next move. He even had a few job offers. It was understandable. Asher, 53, has been a central figure in the growth of legalized sports betting since moving to Nevada in 2006 to help Cantor Fitzgerald lobby for a change in state laws to launch the first mobile sports betting devices. William Hill US. CEO Joe Asher at his former offices for Brandywine Bookmaking in 2009 With sports betting now legal in half the U.S. just three years after the Supreme Court opened the floodgates, and William Hill U.S. having expanded beyond Nevada into more than a dozen states with some 1,100 employees, Asher decided it was time to stay home with his wife and three children, take the summer off, and pick a few winners at the Del Mar Racetrack near San Diego. “My immediate plans are to lay low for a bit,” said Asher, who headed William Hill U.S. since 2012 when the United Kingdom sports betting giant acquired Las Vegas-based Brandywine Bookmaking, a company Asher created. He launched Brandywine in 2008, which operated under the brand name Lucky’s Race & Sports Books. “I’m not being coy,” Asher said. “I have no idea what I will do. But two things I know for sure are that I love the gaming industry and I love living in Las Vegas.” Caesars deal Caesars paid almost $4 billion on April 22 for all of William Hill but plans to sell the company’s non-U.S. operations. Caesars already owned 20% of William U.S. through a previous transaction. Combined, Caesars and William Hill offer sports betting in 18 states. Caesars expects to be operational in 20 U.S. jurisdictions by the end of 2021. A Caesars spokeswoman confirmed Asher’s departure the day of the merger but declined further comment. Asher said he would “be around to help the Caesars folks whenever they want my two cents on anything.” Asher complimented the Carano family, whose Reno-based Eldorado Resorts acquired Caesars for $17.3 billion in 2020. Caesars is now the nation’s largest casino operating company. “A big part of the business was our partners, and we had some great partners,” Asher said. “Obviously, being able to ride on the coattails of the Caranos and (Caesars CEO) Tom Reeg … was a key part of it. We had a long list of great partners, both in Nevada and across the country. Our attitude was always to do right by our partners and things will work out for us and that’s exactly what happened.” Joe Asher, far right, during a discussion on sports betting at G2E in 2019 Expanding sports betting Asher was one of a handful of gaming and sports betting leaders advocating for the activity’s nationwide legalization during 2017, ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court arguments that year, which ultimately affirmed New Jersey’s challenge to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. “We’ve always known that sports betting was wildly popular all across the country,” Asher said. Sports betting consultant Sara Slane often appeared in the same settings as Asher. “Joe was a constant and driving force behind the legalization and successful rollout of the U.S. sports betting market,” Slane said. “There is no doubt we would not be where we are today had it not been for Joe’s vision and passion.” It was Asher’s home state of Delaware that became the first to launch sports betting, ahead of New Jersey. The reason? Delaware was one of four states exempt from PASPA, although Nevada was the only state with full-scale sports betting. Asher launched football parlay cards at Delaware racetracks a few years earlier, so the system for full-scale sports betting was already in place. Following the Supreme Court decision, William Hill signed strategic partnership agreements with leagues and teams. During the American Gaming Association’s inaugural Sports Betting Executive Summit at MGM National Harbor in 2019, Asher and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced a partnership deal. That same year, William Hill announced it would operate the first sports betting venue inside a U.S. sports arena through an agreement with Monumental Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. The sportsbook, part of a tavern attached to the arena, is expected to open by this summer. Joe Asher watches former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman place a wager at the remodeled William Hill sportsbook at the Plaza in downtown Las Vegas ‘A fascination with race and sports betting’ Asher grew up working in his father’s Wilmington, Delaware, newsstand and often accompanied him on gambling excursions to racetracks. As a teenager, Asher worked numerous jobs at the now-closed Brandywine Raceway and other racetracks in the Northeast. “I’ve always had a fascination with the race and sports betting business, going back to my early years in Delaware,” Asher said. “My dad was a gambler, and I grew up around race and sports betting.” At 18, Asher was the youngest track announcer in North America, calling races at Harrington Raceway in Delaware, Foxboro Raceway outside Boston, and Brandywine and Dover Downs in Delaware. He’ll revive that role on Labor Day Weekend when he calls a race at the Elko County Fair in northeastern Nevada, celebrating the event’s 100th anniversary. Asher was a lawyer in Delaware, including serving as a clerk with the state’s Supreme Court. He held a position with the worldwide law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. But he still found himself drawn to racing. He formed Brandywine in Nevada when he saw an opportunity “for a new entrant in the market to be able to provide a high-quality service for the medium and smaller casino operators.” His initial customer was now-Gaming Hall of Fame member Larry Woolf, who was managing several casinos. “It’s really amazing how far the business has evolved from those early days,” Asher said. “It’s beyond what I could have imagined.” Lucky’s had sportsbooks in more than a dozen casinos in Nevada when William Hill bought the business, along with two other smaller sportsbook operators. Asher said the deal was worth roughly $50 million. Asher said he’s proud of the team he built at William Hill U.S., as well as the company’s culture. During the pandemic last year, Asher gave up his salary to create a foundation to help the company’s employees furloughed because of the nationwide casino industry shutdown. Other company executives contributed. “(The culture) was one of hard work, mutual respect, doing the right thing and looking after people,” Asher said. “It probably was one of the most diverse and inclusive companies in the gaming industry and certainly in Nevada, and we accomplished so much.” Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.