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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

William Hill agree deal with US gambling group Eldorado Resorts

William Hill are set to widen their presence in the US
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William Hill have become the latest British bookmaker to strike a major deal in the United States in a bid to tap into the burgeoning sports betting market there.

Hills have agreed a 25-year partnership with Nasdaq-listed casino group Eldorado Resorts which will extend their reach to 13 states where sports betting is either legal or sports betting bills are tabled, more than double the previous number.

In May the US Supreme Court repealed laws banning sports betting in all but a handful of states, resulting in a potentially huge opening for UK and Irish gambling operators.

Under the deal, which is expected to complete early in 2019, William Hill become Eldorado’s exclusive partner in the provision of digital and land-based sports betting services as well as online gaming.

Eldorado has 21 properties across 11 states and a customer base of 23 million people which will increase to  26 properties in 13 states when they take over rivals Tropicana Entertainment by the end of the year.

In return Eldorado will take a 20 per cent stake in William Hill’s US business and $50 million (approx £38.6m) of stock in William Hill, which equates to around 1.6 per cent of the firm's issued share capital.

Philip Bowcock: partnership provides profit growth opportunities

William Hill already operate in Nevada - where they have partnered Eldorado since 2012 - New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi, Rhode Island and West Virginia and chief executive Philip Bowcock said the Eldorado deal was about extending their footprint.

"Although we have been very successful in getting market access over the last four months as Paspa [the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act] has been repealed, what this deal does is it really cements that market access and gives us access now to 13 states.

"That for me is key. It also means we have retained flexibility to be able to go in and do deals with other independents both in states where Eldorado are and where they are not."

Bowcock said Hills have a good relationship with Eldorado already.

He added: "We share common goals and we are aligned in how we see sportsbook going forward and the opportunity. We are very pleased with the announcement today and it is a significant step in the right direction."

In July GVC Holdings, the owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, announced a joint venture with casino giant MGM Resorts International intended to "dominate" the newly-opened US sports betting market.

Bowcock said this deal gave William Hill more freedom.

"It gives us a guaranteed footprint while retaining flexibility to do any other deals as well," he said. "This is not a 50-50 where we are locked up.

"While others I think are stuck and can't do anything because they have tied themselves to one partner we have opportunities to go and do other deals."

Analysts at Goodbody said they thought the Eldorado deal would be well received by the market.

They added: "While the group is giving away a stake in its US business, a share of profits and shares in the parent group, it is important to point out market access does not come for free.

"Also, with its peers signing significant deals already, there was a perception that William Hill may be left behind. The key long term question now is how well can the William Hill brand do in the US and how much marketing investment will be needed to build meaningful brand equity."

William Hill shares were up 4.67 per cent at 260.1p by mid afternoon on Wednesday.

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We are very pleased with the announcement today and it is a significant step in the right direction
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