The announcement that Eldorado Resorts Inc. has purchased Caesars Entertainment Corp. will drastically alter the U.S. sports betting landscape. Perhaps, not right away, but in the near future.
That’s because the new gaming and casino/resort behemoth, following regulatory approvals, will become the largest casino gambling company in the U.S. However, in the realm of sports betting markets, there’s more, a lot more.
The key additional element to the deal is that Eldorado – to be known as Caesars – when its acquisition is complete already has 20 percent equity stake in William Hill US. Under CEO Joe Asher, William Hill US is the rapidly growing bookmaking company with a wide assortment of operational and marketing deals with sports betting entities nationwide.
Just last month, Sports Handle spoke with Asher in his Las Vegas office and the subject of William Hill gaining Caesars Entertainment’s multitude of sportsbooks on the Las Vegas Strip and elsewhere, including New Jersey, was discussed. Asher, although declining specific comment on the then rumored Eldorado move to buy Caesars Entertainment, smiled broadly with a kid in a candy store grin when asked about a possible William Hill presence at iconic Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip.
Nuts and bolts of Eldorado, Caesars deal
Caesars Entertainment’s sale price is roughly $8.58 billion in a deal backed by activist billionaire Carl Icahn. That produces an agreed equity value of $12.75 a share in the form of an amalgam of cash and Reno-based Eldorado stock. It represents a premium of about 28 percent to Caesars’s Friday closing price. Including debt, the deal is worth approximately $17.3 billion, the companies say.
Eldorado takes over not only all of the Caesars-branded properties but also the Harrah’s chain. Eldorado and Caesars say they have already identified $500 million in benefits by creating a company with 60 owned, operated and managed casino–resorts across 16 states. A companion agreement allows VICI Properties Inc., Caesars Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), to acquire some of the new entity’s real estate, generating $3.2 billion of proceeds to help reduce debt.
Eldorado’s management team will lead the new company.
“We intend to allocate the significant free cash flow from the combined company to reduce leverage while investing to improve the customer experience across the platform,” said Eldorado’s Chief Executive Officer Tom Reeg.
Some of the $500 million in savings is likely to be in sports betting operations. It may take several years, but William Hill is likely to eventually run the books at all the newly formed company’s legal and soon-to-be-legal locations in states such as Indiana. William Hill currently operates a major trading room from its Nevada office that includes a large commitment in personal and space to in-game wagering.
William Hill has a series of operational deals with Penn National Gaming, right now the nation’s largest regional casino operator. British-based William Hill also has its pre-existing deal to take over sportsbooks in current Eldorado marketplaces as they become legal. William Hill also has promotional deals with the NHL and specific deals with the New Jersey Devils and the Vegas Golden Knights.
Caesars Entertainment also currently has deal in place with ESPN to broadcast from new studio facilities at its Linq property on the Las Vegas Strip, across the street from Caesars Palace. Meanwhile, at Caesars Palace a new broadcast studio for Turner Sports is under construction. There’s a marketing and branding deal with Turner that’s also part of this union.
The DraftKings deal is a multi-year, multi-state agreement and was thought to provide the leading Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) operator with a path to access a number of states where Caesars has a land-based casino presence. It also delivers an equity stake in DraftKings to Caesars, according to a press release the companies distributed when the deal was revealed earlier this year. DraftKings, although having offices in Nevada, without a brick-and-mortar location, does not operate in the Silver State. That includes DFS. However, the DFS product is not offered because the company has yet to be licensed by the state.
Caesars also has in place an industry first, but non-exclusive marketing deal with the NFL. Caesars can use the NFL shield to promote itself, but is not allowed to use it for any direct sports wagering promotion of its sports betting product.
Bettors impacted in coming years
Those with an intimate knowledge of large expanse of promotional and operational deals between a multitude of bookmaking companies since PAPSA was repealed a little more than a year ago, have consistently said most of these deals are short-term in duration. Many contain renewal options and escape clauses that may be called upon deals such as Eldorado’s Caesars Entertainment acquisition take place. Or, current deals will just expire.
William Hill US issued the following statement on Monday, regarding the announcement:
William Hill entered into a strategic partnership with its long term business partner Eldorado in September 2018. Under the agreement, William Hill gained the right to exclusively operate sports books at all properties owned or managed by Eldorado in the United States and to operate mobile sports betting in states where Eldorado obtains a license. These rights apply to casino properties owned or managed by Eldorado when the strategic partnership was signed and any subsequent acquisitions. Therefore, the rights apply to casinos currently owned or managed by Caesars if Eldorado’s acquisition of Caesars is completed.
Although the sports bettor may not be impacted by this deal right away, many believe one or two dominant operators nationally would have too much control over betting limits and access. Others say that bigger is better and large companies like the new Caesars and MGM will be able to offer bettors more in terms of betting opportunities, including expanded in-game wagering and perks in the form of lodging and food.
Regulatory hurdles will delay and changes right away, but it’s thought that the Eldorado takeover of Caesars certainly will be a major factor in determining what the nascent national U.S. sports betting marketplace will look like.
With all the tentacles and interlocking deals of a wide variety of industry stakeholders, the sorting out process is just beginning.