How Joe’s move paid off for William Hill

America’s largest sportsbook operation just got bigger as the Nevada Gaming Control Board approved a deal last week with Eldorado Resorts buying Caesars Entertainment with William Hill taking control of all Caesars sportsbooks within the next two weeks.

Next month, William Hill will also be taking over the CG Technology operation, which will give it a total of 17 new properties in Nevada. But it also takes away two valued betting lines for bettors to choose from.

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It’s the new age of the business where few Nevada sportsbooks have been able to step up their game and compete outside state lines in a rapidly changing climate. The valuable Caesars brand name will stay with all Eldorado and Caesars properties which total 60 locations between 14 states. It’s just like the game Monopoly where the player with the most properties eventually wins, and William Hill is grabbing all it can with Colorado and Washington D.C. next on its list.

“Over the eight years that William Hill has been in business in the U.S. we’ve done a good job in working with a lot of partners,” said William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher.

The deal with this partner was formed in early 2019 with Eldorado Resorts before the Eldorado-Caesars deal, which gives them 20 percent of William Hill as well as a profit-sharing agreement. Eldorado knows William Hill’s main goal is to expand and they appear to be very happy about the investment. William Hill has dozens of more states to get into and will only grow its business.

With so many new projects out there for William Hill, Asher needs lots of competent eyeballs making sure so many different operations are running as planned. He was very complimentary about his key lieutenants making it all happen as planned.

“We got Jon Vidmar, who you might know from your past, from Eldorado and he’s been overseeing the Caesars transition, and Dave Grolman, Michael Grodsky and Dan Shapiro have also played crucial roles during this process,” Asher said. “And then there’s Nick Bogdanovich, who is the best bookmaker in America. All the success that we’ve had couldn’t have been done without Nick.”

Vidmar, Grolman, and Grodsky all have ties to Caesars in their careers. Vidmar, who I did work with at Station Casinos, was like the “wolf” in the movie Pulp Fiction. Whenever a problem needed to be solved in any department, the CEO would send in the wolf and Vidmar always got the desired results.

It’s kind of funny when I think back, the entire plan that is unfolding for William Hill was the grand plan told to me by two guys recruiting me from Cantor Fitzgerald to run a new sportsbook operation in Nevada with bigger plans waiting for the Supreme Court to repeal PASPA and allow sports betting in other states.

It was 2005 when I first met Lee Amaitis, who would be the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald’s subsidiary company Cantor Gaming and his No. 2 guy was Joe Asher. I would talk with Asher the most and enjoyed the conversations. I liked what I was hearing. They had big goals and they were flush with cash and seemingly had no limit. They were thinking big like I hadn’t heard any Nevada company think for its sportsbooks. They wanted to change the industry, improve it with a plan to make millions.

They had a plan for the future of sports betting abroad and financial giant Cantor Fitzgerald was on board with the plan. Cantor Gaming would indeed do as it said it would while vastly overpaying casinos to lease space. But the arrogance of Amaitis in the newspapers was too much for many long-standing bookmakers in the small community to take.

Apparently, Amaitis and Asher had a falling out somewhere so Asher left but quickly started a new operation from the ground up which turned into Lucky’s sportsbooks and he took Dan Shapiro, his trusty No. 2, with him from Cantor. Amaitis was furious with Asher starting a new operation and sued Asher to no avail.

Asher said he hasn’t talked to Amaitis for some time, but while Asher was creating a plan for the future which included selling his operation to English bookmaking giant William Hill, Amaitis ran a loose ship with disregard for Nevada regulations and Cantor Gaming soon found itself in trouble with the Gaming Control Board and Amaitis was eventually ordered to step down.

Meanwhile, after Asher sold to William Hill as did Cal-Neva and Leroy’s operations, giving William Hill almost 100 operations in Nevada, he was named CEO of the three-piece consolidation for the William Hill U.S. brand. And that’s how the American giant was born, and although it’s an English company, it’s Nevada born with Nevada bookmakers running the show.

The last piece of irony following expansions into other states as sports betting was legalized, is that last year William Hill U.S. bought the Cantor Gaming operation in Las Vegas which is located at six properties (two of them temporarily closed for COVD-19). Who knows the true value of CG Technology after having two major strikes against it with the Gaming Board? But despite the bad deal leases CG had made, William Hill and Asher made the buy to gain the additional locations on the Strip.

In the final battle, Asher won out. Asher’s original plan is coming along better than he could have imagined in 2005 and the next step over the next month is taking over control of the Las Vegas Strip, where the competition for tourist money is now with the nine MGM Resorts sportsbooks , Wynn’s two books and the T.I.

“We’ve been at the Sahara (and also Casino Royale), but we’re very excited about being at Caesars,” Asher said. “As a boy from Wilmington, Delaware, I always remembered Caesars and the iconic prize fights there. The sportsbook at Caesars is very special.”

To accommodate the existing Caesars rewards program, the new betting app there will be called Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.

“Seventy percent of our Nevada business comes through mobile, but our retail business is very important to us,” Asher said. “Both sides, retail and mobile, are very complementary to each other.“

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