William Hill acquisition not expected to make GCB May agenda

Apr 10, 2012 3:00 AM

The William Hill acquisition of Nevada sports books owned by American Wagering, Brandywine and Cal Neva is not expected to make the regular May agendas of the Gaming Control Board and Gaming Commission.

"They’re pushing to get it done by June," said a source familiar with the complex transaction announced about a year ago. "That means added pressure for Hill to get its systems in place in time for football season," the busiest time of the year for Nevada books.

Why the delay?

Gaming Control Board insiders recently stopped talking about the deal, perhaps because of pressure to keep questions and controversy to a minimum. It is known that one of the factors forcing the apparent delay is the GCB’s interest in getting responses to all its questions concerning William Hill partner Playtech, an Israeli company that is one of the busiest suppliers of online content to Hill and other gaming companies.

Playtech and Hill are partners in the successful William Hill Online (WHO), which is about 30 percent owned by Playtech. Late last year, various news accounts described WHO as generating almost 40 percent of the parent company’s operating profits. Playtech is no stranger to controversy.

It is not uncommon for Nevada casino regulators to schedule special meetings when quick action is important to the principals in a deal, but there is no indication yet this may occur.

Sources outside both the Board and Hill have hinted during recent weeks that licensing officials might be taking a closer look at Hill executive Robin Chhabra. Whether that occurred is uncertain and there is no evidence this has anything to do with the failure to make the regular May agenda.

What is apparent is there is a "kind of guerilla warfare" involving friends and allies of both Hill and its competitors as the Nevada sports wagering industry moves toward a new era when dozens of books will be controlled by British bookmakers.