With coronavirus closures and cancellations ravaging the sports betting landscape, the U.K.’s leading bookmaker, William Hill, is poised for a pivot to online / mobile casino offerings in the U.S.
In a trading statement released publicly on May 15, the venerable British sportsbook confirmed that a William Hill powered online casino platform will be arriving later this year:
“In the US, where we offer online sports betting in four states, we continued to take wagers on alternative activities.
Product development has accelerated throughout the period and we will be launching online casino in the second half of the year.”
William Hill’s extension in the U.S. ranks as the most prolific land-based sportsbook in Nevada, and has a retail presence in nine states – Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
But with brick and mortar casinos and sportsbooks nationwide closed since mid-March – and the only re-openings occurring in states like South Dakota and Idaho where William Hill has no presence recently reopening – the company is working quickly to fill the void.
Goal is to Augment Sportsbook Platform with Attached Online / Mobile Casino
In the trading statement, chief executive officer Ulrik Bengtsson pointed to the unprecedented decline in available sports betting markets as a particularly daunting trial for the company to overcome:
“William Hill has overcome many challenges in its 86-year history, and I am exceptionally proud of the team and their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have worked hard to protect them, and in turn they have done the same for our customers.
We reacted quickly to the cancellation of sports activities and the closure of our retail estate.
We have accelerated product developments in the US in particular to ensure we are well positioned when sports activity reopens.”
William Hill has overcome many challenges in its 86-year history, and I am exceptionally proud of the team and their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have worked hard to protect them, and in turn they have done the same for our customers. We reacted quickly to the cancellation of sports activities and the closure of our retail estate. We have accelerated product developments in the US in particular to ensure we are well positioned when sports activity reopens.
Among those product developments are an online / mobile casino app which can provide “cross-sell” between its existing sportsbook platform. According to Bengtsson, the William Hill Casino product will make its debut in New Jersey, but the company plans to launch the service in every state where iGaming is legal and regulated.
In a conference call held with the company’s investors, Bengtsson explained the motivation for jumping into the Garden State’s thriving, yet extremely crowded, online / mobile casino market:
“Casino will be helpful as we go on without sports. I’ve seen the first demo of the product and I’m confident it will be ready soon.
We have only been online in half the New Jersey market. We would assume that deploying a product in the other half would help us increase market share.
The regulatory approvals are the unknown and the reason we are being cautious in saying the second half of the year. But it will be a good product and very competitive.”
Like All Sportsbooks, Bottom Line Battered Over Last Two Months
In a chart contained within the trading statement, William Hill revealed a steep 90 percent decline in revenue over the last two months for its U.S. operations.
Compared to the 10-week period directly preceding the coronavirus closures – during which time William Hill U.S. enjoyed a 30 percent uptick in revenue – the impetus for adding an online / mobile casino component becomes clear.
In April, the New Jersey online / mobile sportsbook market saw handle and revenue fall by 82.6 percent and 87.6 percent, respectively, due to the barren schedule.
Following the platform’s eventual launch in New Jersey, the next logical target for a William Hill casino will be Pennsylvania – where the industry went live in July of last year.