The Emperor has some new clothes, as Caesars Entertainment has officially begun to shed the William Hill Sportsbook threads in favor of a new Caesars Sportsbook, donning the imprimatur of a more widely recognized brand name in the U.S.
Caesars had aimed to make the move prior to the start of the new NFL season, and in meeting that mark it has also executed before the next three states — Arizona, Louisiana, and Maryland — debut licensed online sports betting. Arizona is expected to go live by Sept. 9, Louisiana later in the year, and Maryland not later than Super Bowl LV in February.
In the eight states where William Hill Sportsbook launched post-PASPA — Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia — Caesars Sportsbook is in. And there’s good reason to believe Caesars will ascend to the upper echelon of U.S. sportsbooks nationwide in terms of revenue and profitability.
Caesars Entertainment began its takeover of the UK-based William Hill PLC for $3.7 billion in September 2020 and has, from the outset, stated an intention to sell the company’s non-U.S. assets. The companies had previously collaborated on a U.S. joint venture in sports betting of which Caesars owned 20%. The takeover closed in April and weeks later officials announced that it would drop the William Hill name in the U.S., opting to lean into the Ancient Rome roots and a massive player rewards roster/database of about 60 million at the end of 2019.
“We’re going to rebrand our books at Caesars, rebrand our apps as Caesars Sports, and tie our business into our Caesars Rewards database,” Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg said in an earnings call in May.
“We have the largest loyalty database in the business, bar none,” he also noted, referring to Caesars as a “low-cost producer” that can make new acquisitions “at certainly a competitive cost, if not one of the lowest in the business.”
While Caesars is eyeing lower customer acquisition costs compared to some rivals, at least at the outset of the new app’s rollout, it’s preparing to plunk down some coin to market it. Caesars said in a release it will unroll it with “a multi-million dollar comprehensive marketing campaign” that features actor-comedian J.B. Smoove (of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame) as Caesar “to bring the brand to life,” and fellow actor-comic Patton Oswalt as Carl, “one of Caesars’ biggest fans who’s already playing on Caesars Sportsbook and earning Caesars Rewards.”
🏆 WE ARE ALL CAESARS 🏆
— Caesars Sportsbook (@CaesarsSports) August 3, 2021
Room to grow
Caesars takes over for a William Hill online sportsbook that commands roughly 4-5% of the non-Nevada sports betting market share. The national picture has FanDuel and DraftKings ahead by wide margins at about 35% and 25%, with BetMGM cracking double-digits at 12% in 1Q 2021 after strong performances in January, coinciding with new state launches in Michigan and Virginia, plus a surge in Tennessee.
“You shouldn’t expect us to be throwing money away to buy market share,” Reeg has said. “You should expect us to build this thoughtfully, but you should expect to see a significant increase in investment in this side now that we have all our ducks in a row. We are very early in this process, we’ve got a great hand to play, and I have tremendous confidence in our ability to operate and be a leader here, and that’s what we’re setting out to do.”
In the release, Caesars noted that it will operate on Liberty, the company’s own tech platform that is the William Hill software that’s been “re-skinned and re-tooled,” according to the company. Meanwhile, Caesars in June 2020 announced an extension of its partnership with Scientific Games. While William Hill has the benefit of an experienced U.S.-based oddsmaking and risk-management team, unlike some that have relied on international groups, William Hill’s app to this point had shown to be somewhat underwhelming, or at least a bit dated. But as for substance, unique odds and lines — especially in some less liquid markets — and robust betting menus will help Caesars stand out from some peers.
More important than aesthetics will be Caesars’ ability to integrate and cross-sell the iGaming and sports betting platforms with a single wallet, which has proven a major boon for others. That includes the self-proclaimed “King of Sportsbooks,” BetMGM, which also uses an actor, Jamie Foxx, as the face of its brand. BetMGM, according to recent reports, is now leading the Michigan iGaming market, and iGaming is, of course, a more lucrative and less volatile offering for gambling companies than sports.
The number of iGaming states will only expand in the coming years. And of course, keeping everything in one forum will create more focus and reduce brand confusion. But note that in three other jurisdictions where patrons must register in-person for a sportsbook account — Illinois, Nevada, and Washington D.C. — the co-branded app “Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill” will remain.
Footprint, ESPN, and the Shield
— NFL (@NFL) April 15, 2021
While currently running about even for market share with brands like BetRivers in the middle of the pack, there’s plenty of reason for optimism for Caesars’ trajectory in the U.S. online sports betting and iGaming markets in the coming years. Consider:
Market access: Caesars has broad market access in states already legalized and projected future market access. Separate from the aforementioned 11 jurisdictions and the trio of soon-to-launch states, it also has a foothold in the high-population states of North Carolina (Harrah’s Cherokee), Florida (Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park), and Ohio (Eldorado Gaming Scioto Downs), should law and circumstances change in those jurisdictions. Unlike some of the online-only players, Caesars won’t need to pony up a percentage of revenue to gain that access. And set aside access; unlike some of the other leading brands, Caesars won’t have to rely on the sportsbook or iGaming revenue as there’s much more flowing through the large portfolio of hotel-casinos.
Physical presence: Caesars has the most retail locations in the U.S., and that’s both inside and outside states where it has market access (or possible access) via its existing casino footprint. It launched the nation’s first sportsbook inside a professional sports facility at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., a property that is converting to a Caesars Sportsbook (but for mobile bettors will be Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill); it’s slated to open a sportsbook adjacent to Chase Field in Arizona later this year; and it opened the very first sportsbook in New Jersey at Monmouth Park Racetrack in June 2018. Caesars also recently acquired naming rights to the Superdome in Louisiana, and in 2018 also became the first founding partner with the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Following an NFL season largely devoid of fans due to the pandemic, the Raiders plan to play before sold-out crowds this season. After William Hill scooped up a bevy of sportsbooks throughout the Las Vegas Strip over the past several years, Caesars now rivals MGM Resorts for the broadest Sin City imprint.
It’s official: We will become an Official Sports Betting Partner of the @NFL as part of an agreement that extends the groundbreaking partnership in which we became the League’s first-ever casino sponsor.
— Caesars Entertainment (@CaesarsEnt) April 15, 2021
Media reach and partnerships Caesars also has media partnerships that afford it major visibility before sports consumer eyeballs. It’s the exclusive odds provider across ESPN platforms via a partnership announced last year. Caesars is partnered with the NFL as of this spring and will gain broad visibility as an official sports betting partner and the league’s first-ever casino partner. Caesars is also prominent across CBS platforms, which gives it some key visibility during March Madness, among other sports events. In addition, Caesars will partner with CBS Sports for the airing of the World Series of Poker for the main event and 36 hours of bracelet events.
All in all, Caesars is in a lot of places you’d want to be if you were looking to grow a sportsbook. I expect in a couple years you’ll see the Emperor dueling for podium position with DraftKings and the self-proclaimed King of Sportsbooks.