After a summer at the seaside paradise that is Del Mar, California, in 2021, Joe Asher was back in Las Vegas.
It was nearing the end of summer, his kids were at school, he was walking the dog, and it was hot. The dog had enough of the heat, so the walk was soon over.
“What am I gonna do?” the former William Hill US CEO thought to himself.
Leaving William Hill
Earlier in 2021, Asher had left his position at William Hill as the takeover by Caesars was completed. He had served as the president and CEO since 2011, after William Hill purchased Brandywine Bookmaking, where Asher also was president and CEO.
He won’t get into the details of his departure, but said it “was time to move on.”
“Caesars bought the business, and it was time to do something else,” he said. “I have great affection for the Caesars people, but everything has a season.”
The next season was summer, and Asher said he hadn’t had one off since he was 4 years old.
“I never had a summer off in my life,” Asher said. “I started working at Dad’s newsstand in Wilmington [Delaware] when I was 5, and I worked at racetracks from when I was 16.”
With three young children and a passion for horse racing, a summer in Del Mar seemed like a great way to decompress, but the next season was coming.
On the same day Asher pondered his future in the brutal Vegas sun, a call came in from Enrico Drago, IGT’s CEO of digital and betting. IGT is a company that provides sports betting, lottery, and other gaming services and had worked with Asher and William Hill to bid on a sports betting project in Rhode Island.
“I was going to listen to everything and commit to nothing,” Asher said of job prospects at the time.
Initially the plan was to be a consultant for IGT, but as talks advanced, a full-time role came together. In late September, IGT announced Asher would be its president of sports betting.
“Joe Asher’s knowledge, experience, network, and vision for sports betting are key ingredients to boosting our future success,” Drago said in a statement at the time.
But the learning curve was tough for Asher at the start, especially in the COVID era, where getting to know everyone and gauging company culture can be a challenge in a remote working environment.
“When I started, I was drinking from a fire hose,” Asher said. “It’s a different business — B2B instead of B2C. … But like anything, you start to figure it out. We’re looking at continuing to grow the business. Obviously, as new jurisdictions legalize, that creates opportunities. We’re looking to build out the product and continue to enhance it.”
IGT’s clients include Boyd Gaming, Resorts World, FanDuel, SuperBook, and tribal casinos, among others, and Asher said he is eager to see just how the exploding sports betting world progresses and evolves, both for his current clients and his former co-workers.
“There are a lot of unknowns, but clearly there are a handful of companies that are investing heavily for the future,” Asher said. “FanDuel is a big customer of ours, so I follow their business closely, and I have a lot of friends at Caesars, so I follow them closely.
“There’s a long way to go, and we’ll see how it plays out, but it’s underreported that operators are differently positioned. Caesars owns a network of casinos and properties, so as far as customer acquisition goes, they don’t care if they make a ton of money on sports betting if it is going to introduce people to the Caesars ecosystem — casinos, hotels, restaurants — for the next 30 years. On the other hand, FanDuel is about online and scale. I’m really interested in how it all shakes out.”