One of Britain’s best known brands, betting shop chain William Hill, has been sold to US casino corporation Caesars Entertainment in a deal worth $3.7 billion.
But Caesars’ reason for purchasing William Hill is not its chain of betting shops in the UK - in fact it is planning on selling them off - but its much vaunted online gambling operation.
In 2018 the US Supreme Court reversed a federal ban on sports betting which had existed since the country came into existence.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 30, 2020
For years the only place in the United States where it was legal to gamble on football, basketball, baseball and horse racing was in Nevada, home of Las Vegas.
Illegal bookmakers, often linked to the Italian mafia and other organised crime groups, took bets from customers and the American Gambling Association has estimated the black market in betting in the US as $150 billion.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which was designed to prevent match-fixing and other forms of corruption, has now been overturned.
— VSiN (@VSiNLive) September 30, 2020
It means that not only can betting shops be opened in the other 49 states but Americans can also gamble legally online for the first time.
And online is where the big money is.
Caesars CEO Tom Reeg said: "We look forward to working with William Hill to support future growth in the US by providing our customers with a superior and comprehensive experience across all areas of gaming, sports betting, and entertainment."
Caesars own not just the world-famous Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas, but also other famous resorts in 'Sin City' including Circus Circus, Bally's, Harrah's, Planet Hollywood and the Flamingo.
— Sports Law | R McTernaghan BL (@nisportslaw) September 28, 2020
Mr Roeg said: “The opportunity to combine our land-based casinos, sports betting and online gaming in the US is a truly exciting prospect. William Hill's sports betting expertise will complement Caesars' current offering, enabling the combined group to better serve our customers in the fast growing US sports betting and online market."
Caesars are keen to take on their big rivals MGM Resorts and Madison Square Gardens, who are both getting into online betting in a big way. Another big player is the Bragg Gaming Group, which owns a successful sports betting app, and Canada-based GameHost Inc.
— Isabelle Westbury (@izzywestbury) September 28, 2020
Several British betting companies, such as Bet365, Betfred and Betfair, may also try to break into the lucrative US market, along with Malta-based 32Red and 888, who are based in Gibraltar.
In the mid-1980s bookmaking in Britain was dominated by the “Big Four” - William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and Mecca.
— GailRenard (@GailRenard) August 5, 2020
William Hill, which later took over Mecca, remains an internationally renowned betting firm and has a substantial market in the United States.
But the company's 2,000 betting shops in Britain have suffered a downturn in trade due to the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 100 were closed last month but many of the remainder are expected to be sold to other UK bookmakers, such as Paddy Power's or Betfred.