The question came concerning when sports betting would be legal all across the United States. Joe Asher fielded the query with true political savvy.
“I’m never going to give you a date so you will never be able to say I was wrong,” said Asher, the current CEO at William Hill and past president of Lucky’s, which was absorbed along with Leroy’s and Cal Neva when the London-based gaming giant ventured into Nevada.
Asher was part of a panel at last week’s Global Gaming Expo, which focused on how sports betting is viewed both in the U.S. and abroad, particularly in Europe.
“The conferences here are fun and I like hearing the opinions and observations from colleagues around the world,” said Art Manteris, the vice president and head of sports operations for Station Casinos. “In the UK betting is so publicly accepted it’s amazing. I’m envious a little bit.”
Gambling, particularly sports betting, has had a negative perception that those in the industry have been trying to reverse for years. It’s only been in recent years that G2E has started to incorporate sports betting discussions into its three-day conference.
“I really do think the public perception of gambling is getting better,” Manteris said. “I look at myself as a bartender, a public servant. People like to bet sports. It’s no secret, not revolutionary. People like to watch sports and bet on it. They love the excitement of having a betting interest. That’s a fact of life.”
While it is unlikely sports betting will be legal across the U.S. any time soon, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is pushing hard for it in his state.
“We are closely watching the litigation in New Jersey,” said Asher, a native of Delaware, another state interested in adopting sports betting. “Not only the outcome, but the process involved is unclear at this moment. We will see how it plays out. Time will tell.”
Asher believes legalized sports betting will become accepted.
“No doubt in my mind sports betting will one day be legal and widespread throughout the United States,” Asher said. “I certainly hope it comes at a time when it’s relevant to me and you.”
The future of the industry appears to be in social media, where smart phones and tablets are gradually becoming the method of wagering. Still, there are many who prefer the traditional casino experience and betting at the window where there is instant give and take of cash.
“I heard the conversation here about the social media aspect of wanting to play for nothing, but that’s so far out of my field,” Manteris said. “I don’t get it, but the masses of people who do it are phenomenal. To dismiss it would be foolish.”
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].