William Hill U.S. CEO on August boom in sports betting: ‘it’s been a proverbial feast’

As professional sports begin to return from the coronavirus pandemic, sports betting has seen a major boom. William Hill US CEO Joe Asher joins The Final Round to discuss why more people are putting their money towards sports.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Welcome back to this "Final Round." Well, sports, they're back and so is betting with pent up demand driving more people to bet on games. So here to talk about this and its recent deal to expand even further in the US, we have Joe Asher, and he's William Hill US CEO. And Joe, we'll get to your acquisition and your expansion plans in the US in just a minute, but I'm just curious just to get your thoughts. Sports are back. We talk of this record setting numbers for the month of August. What's it been like since games have resumed?

JOE ASHER: Well, it's been a sort of proverbial feast. Obviously, it's a very busy time in our business. August is typically actually a slow time, because you just have baseball and then you get a little trickle of exhibition football. But obviously, it's very different this time around with baseball starting up again at the end of July and the basketball and hockey playoffs now full steam underway, so it's a pretty busy time within the industry. And, of course, NFL is around the corner, and frankly, you probably haven't had the focus on the NFL as much this year as in prior years, because you've got the other sports going on, and there's no extra [INAUDIBLE] season.


SEANA SMITH: Well, just speaking of the NFL, I mean, that's a big question mark, I think, to a lot of people here over the next couple of months, because we've seen what's unfolded with the MLB and the MLB having to cancel some games. So there's lots of questions about whether or not the NFL season is going to be able to be played out in its entirety. How critical is the NFL season to your business, and does it change anything about your strategy going forward?

JOE ASHER: Well, to the second part, no, it doesn't change anything about the strategy, because this is obviously a short term issue. But NFL is important, college football is important, football collectively is important, although the relative percentage of football betting versus everything else has probably declined a little bit as other sports have grown in popularity, and there's just so much more content these days. So obviously, we're hopeful that the NFL season goes off and continues throughout the whole season as planned. But, you know, we've also seen that there's clearly hiccups along the way as we, you know, sort of go through this virus period. But, you know, these are short term issues and they're not really relevant to the long term fundamentals of the business.

RICK NEWMAN: Hey, Joe, Rick Newman here. I'm wondering what kind of changes you've seen in what people are betting on because of the disruptions to the big name brand sports, so I mean, are people going downmarket just to find something to gamble on? Like was there a big surge in betting on South Korean baseball when that was the only thing you could see on TV, and is there a big surge in like people betting on billiards or bowling or stuff like that?

JOE ASHER: Yeah, so when the major sports shut down, you know, business fell off a cliff and then started to trickle back up little by little, and it was things like, you know, Nicaraguan baseball and soccer and I think it was Belarusian soccer. And the big hit throughout the early part of the pandemic was clearly Russian table tennis, and the volume of betting on Russian table tennis, I think, blew away everybody in the industry. And then about a couple of months ago, the UFC came back. And that really made a big difference, because first of all, it was US sports for folks to bet on.

We did a promotion around it, got a lot of people reengaged, and then they stayed engaged. And so even before Major League Baseball had come back, folks were betting on more and more things after the UFC came back and then, of course, you saw NASCAR and golf as well. Now, you know, for the most part, people have tended to go back to the tried and true sports, but there are still, you know, other smaller sports that are getting a fair bit of play.

- Hey, Joe, so William Hills British company publicly traded, right?


- So what's that been like? I mean, you know, the stock looks like, I just wanted to make sure I had the right company. Stocks been sort of all over the place, a really bumpy, crazy ride, not surprisingly, given what maybe people thought about what would happen to the business and what maybe did happen to business. So what's that been like, and is that a stock that people should bet on?

JOE ASHER: Well, you know, when-- look, there was obviously a bunch of choppiness in the market, you know, when things started to shut down in March and April, and clearly, our company was in that bucket. But keep in mind, there is a big UK business, both in the betting shops and online, as well as in international business as well. And then, of course, the US business, that's the one that I look at. They're in-- you know, that's what I spend my time focusing on. And, you know, obviously, if you pay attention to the, you know, to the ups and downs in the stock market too much, you'll never get anything done.

- That's what I keep telling Myles Udland.


SEANA SMITH: Getting too sidetracked. Hey, Joe, real quick. We just want to get your thoughts on this DraftKings Michael Jordan news today, because DraftKings bringing on Michael Jordan as a board advisor. Obviously, this is huge news in your space. What are your thoughts just as a competitor on this move, and is this something that you see value in bringing in a very well-known ex-athlete, someone who still is very involved, obviously, in the NBA? Is this something you could potentially explore with another athlete or another big sports business person here in the near future?

JOE ASHER: Yeah, look, I don't know the details of the DraftKings Michael Jordan deal, you know, I've got enough keeping up with focusing on what we're doing. But we're always looking at ways, you know, that we can create value for our business and for our shareholders, right? At the end of the day, we're not in business to come up with a vaccine for the virus or solve peace in the Middle East or anything like that, right?

We're an entertainment option and in the business of just trying to make money for our shareholders. And, you know, we have a great partnership and relationship with Caesars Entertainment that goes back to, you know, before they were acquired by Eldorado, and just finished the deal to buy the Cannery gaming assets here in Las Vegas. And so, you know, anything that we can do to create additional value in an industry that we think is really exciting going forward is what we try to stay focused on.

SEANA SMITH: All right, Joe Asher, William Hill US CEO, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today.

JOE ASHER: Thank you.