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Volume 7 No. 149


British bookmaker William Hill made a bet in New Jersey this year, wagering that a long-running legal battle over sports betting in the U.S. state would result in the legalization of gambling on "lucrative games" such as American football, basketball and baseball, according to Shubber & Ahmed of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Joe Asher, who runs its U.S. arm, ordered his team to "lay the groundwork so that William Hill could offer sports betting" at Monmouth Park, New Jersey, within weeks of a decision. On Monday, the bet "paid off" as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Jersey in its "long-running effort to introduce sports betting." Asher said, "We're going to have an epic celebration tonight. Then tomorrow the hard work's going to begin." The potential prize is the illegal sports betting market in the U.S. The gambling industry estimates that $150B is wagered on sports "in the underground market each year." European gambling companies, which have become global leaders in the sports betting industry, have been "increasing their presence" in the U.S. for several years "in the hope that the market could open up." GVC, the Isle of Man-based group that recently completed a £4B ($5.4B) merger with U.K. bookmaker Ladbrokes Coral, has three state licenses in the U.S. William Hill entered the U.S. market in '11, acquiring three sports betting businesses to gain a large share of the Nevada sports betting industry. Paddy Power Betfair operates an online casino in New Jersey, and paid $48M to acquire DRAFT, a U.S. daily fantasy sports site (FT, 5/14).

A CASE STUDY: In N.Y., Tariq Panja wrote what does a world with legalized sports betting "look like?" To find an answer to that question, "one only has to gaze across the Atlantic Ocean, to Britain and other European countries." Gambling in Europe is, "in a word, ubiquitous, and the only limit for bettors is their imagination." Bettors "place wagers before the game and during it." They wager on "who will score the next goal, or how many goals will be scored in the final 10 minutes or in stoppage time." Oddsmakers offer a "dizzying array of betting permutations." If "that is not enough, they even offer gamblers the chance to design their own bet." William Hill spokesperson Ciaran O'Brien said, "Tweet us. We can price up your bet in 15 minutes." In Britain, where even Queen Elizabeth is known to "fancy a flutter," gambling's relationship with sports is "firmly entrenched." Nine of the 20 football teams playing in the Premier League "have names of gambling companies emblazoned on their jersey fronts." Betting advertisements on TV are "so prevalent that they frequently outnumber those for beer and pizza companies" on matchdays (N.Y. TIMES, 5/14).

Scottish Premiership side Rangers was charged by the Scottish FA with breaking rules over an unpaid tax bill before it was awarded a license to play in European football in the '11-12 season. The governing body brought two charges against the Ibrox club which relate to the so-called "Wee Tax Case" in paperwork submitted to Hampden. The SFA instructed compliance officer Tony McGlennan to investigate the circumstances surrounding Rangers UEFA license application in '11. He decided that Rangers has a case to answer over the "monitoring period" of '10-11 and '11-12 (HERALD SCOTLAND, 5/15).

The polo club founded by Prince Philip in '55 "blamed its first annual loss in five years on a controversial Home Office decision to impose tougher immigration rules on overseas players and grooms." The Guards Polo Club, which "regularly draws members of the royal family to its tournaments," registered a net loss of £78,000 last year, according to filings submitted last month to Companies House. This was a "sharp reversal" on the net profits posted in each of the three preceding years of £43,512, £59,672 and £95,367, respectively (FINANCIAL TIMES, 5/14).