GiGse focus: US betting on to a winner thanks to AGA co-operation

GiGse focus: US betting on to a winner thanks to AGA co-operation

Monday, February 29, 2016 Totally Gaming
Joe Asher believes that the sports betting sector is becoming a more powerful voice

The head of William Hill’s US operations believes the united front shown by the sports betting sector could be key in driving further liberalisation in the region.

Joe Asher, chief executive of William Hill US, said that his company has backed the work of the American Gaming Association (AGA) in promoting the sector among legislators and the public, and believes that co-operation is the best way to achieve success in changing laws. He also suggests that progress in New Jersey - which earlier this month began its latest appeal in a bid to legalise wagering at casinos and racetracks - and other states in which regulation is being discussed, will inevitably lead to federal changes.

Asher was speaking to TotallyGaming.com ahead of his appearance at this year’s GiGse event in San Francisco in April, where he will give a regulatory update on US betting.

“We have focused our efforts through the AGA, which has done really terrific work in highlighting the absurdity of current law and demonstrating how it is failing,” said Asher, formally the head of US gaming operator Lucky's, which was bought by Hills in 2012. “We are trying to keep the issue in the news and helping to educate the general public and policy makers about it.

“I am very optimistic about the future. Obviously, the short term hinges on the outcome of the New Jersey litigation, but there will be litigation in other places as well and eventually Congress will need to address the issue.

“Hopefully, people will leave my session with a better understanding of the current state of affairs and how things may develop in the upcoming year.”

While the development of sports betting is still being restricted by the paucity of regulatory change, Asher believes that this is a time to be optimistic about the future of betting in the US, not least as William Hill has made giant strides in the four years since it launched in the country. Just last week, Hills' final results for 2015 showed that its US wing enjoyed a 36 per cent spike in betting handle during the course of the year, while revenue improved 12 per cent to £33.3m.

“Sometimes I feel like I was born a generation too soon, as the growth in the industry will be remarkable,” he said. “William Hill's US business is performing strongly and is now the leading sports betting company in Nevada. We operate 105 sports books across the state, as well as the market's leading mobile app, and we continue to serve as the risk manager for Delaware's Sports Lottery, which has also seen substantial growth.”

This year’s GiGse will focus on innovation and the possibilities of immersive millennial content by integrating the largest North American operators with the flourishing start-up community in California, the technology hub of the world. Speakers at this year’s event will include executives from powerhouses such as Caesars, MGM Resorts and PokerStars, representatives from innovative start-ups and figures from leading regulatory groups. The agenda includes discussions on hot topics such as virtual reality technology, omni-channel convergence and social gaming.

The future of daily fantasy sports will be another major focus, with Asher a supporter of the sector – but only in so far as it is treated as a type of betting and therefore regulated appropriately. 

“There is no question that DFS is gambling and I think that is becoming widely understood," Asher said. "I'm all for it and think it should be legal and regulated, just like other forms of sports betting should.

“No one should pretend it is anything other than gambling and there is no way anyone can be intellectually honest and be a supporter of DFS, but not traditional sports betting. DFS has shown what we already knew - people love to bet on sports and will do so however they can.”

* GiGse takes place from April 27-29 at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco, California. For more information visit www.gigse.com

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