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Volume 26 No. 179
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William Hill Becomes NBA's Newest Authorized Sports Betting Operator

Asher (c) has long criticized the push to require official league data by statute
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Asher (c) has long criticized the push to require official league data by statute
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Asher (c) has long criticized the push to require official league data by statute
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

William Hill sportsbook CEO Joe Asher has been a vocal opponent of two of the common and crucial aspects of many league sports betting deals -- royalties tied to betting volume and the required use of official data. Today, William Hill announced agreement with the NBA that allows the two to work together in spite of those recurring sticking points. The company has signed on as an NBA authorized sports betting operator, agreeing to purchase the league’s real-time data feed while also securing rights to use league and team logos across its U.S. sportsbook platforms. The NBA will promote William Hill on its web site, app and social media channels in a deal a source confirmed as paying seven figures annually. William Hill will share anonymized betting records with the league as part of its monitoring of game integrity. William Hill becomes the fourth sportsbook in the NBA’s authorized operator program, joining MGM Resorts, FanDuel and Stars Group, operator of FoxBet. William Hill also has a league sponsorship deal with the NHL and team sponsorships with the Golden Knights and Devils. The NBA’s “authorized operator” status clears the way for William Hill to negotiate sponsorships with NBA teams in states in which sports betting is legal. “We were consistent in our view that we were never going to pay an integrity fee, but we were more than happy to do a deal with a sports league that was premised on the mutual exchange of value,” said Asher. “After a fair bit of back and forth we were able to get to a good place with the NBA. It’s simple. We’re giving them money and they’re giving us assets in return. And we think the exchange of value is appropriate.”

DATA PROCESSING: Asher’s criticism of the push to require official data by statute dates back to before the Supreme Court last year cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting. He has testified on the matter in legislative hearings and jousted over it at sports betting conferences. But Asher also said all along that the data could be of enough value to sportsbook operators that they would purchase it to make their products better, and perhaps more profitable. He downplayed the role the requirement of official data played in his decision to accept the NBA’s terms, but was adamant about his continued refusal to do deals that include royalties, as other NBA sports betting deals do. “We found a creative deal structure that met all the objectives for both parties,” said NBA Senior VP and Head of Fantasy & Gaming Scott Kaufman-Ross. “Clearly, (sharing) a straight percentage of handle was not something that William Hill was interested in. So we found an alternate calculation that aligned the incentives for both parties. ... We’re happy to structure deals for partners in ways that make sense for both parties.” Neither Asher nor Kaufman-Ross would reveal the specifics of the structure. Asher described it as one that finally allowed him to cement an NBA relationship that was his goal for more than a year. “Frankly, when you pay people money they tend to be nicer to you, as a general rule,” Asher said. “So it’s always constructive to have a commercial relationship with a sports league."