British gaming company buys pair of prominent Nevada sportsbooks
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – It’s no secret Nevada’s gaming industry has struggled since the advent of the Great Recession in 2008, particularly on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.
However, sports wagering as a whole has quietly amassed large profits and seen economic growth, largely due to the fact that Indian casinos in California – the proliferation of which constitutes one of the primary reasons for Lake Tahoe’s gaming industry woes, according to Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno – are federally prohibited from running sports book operations.
Thus, William Hill PLC, the United Kingdom’s leading land-based bookmaker representing about 25 percent of the market, has announced an agreement to acquire 100 percent of the equity interests of the Cal Neva Sportsbook Division – a prevalent Northern Nevada sportsbook operator – along with American Wagering, Inc., operator of the Leroy’s sports books.
The Cal Neva deal is for a reported $21 million, plus $1.5 million if performance goals are met in the next year. William Hill will pay an additional $18 million for AWI.
The Cal Neva Sportsbook Division operates a sports-wagering booth at many prominent gaming facilities in Lake Tahoe, Reno and Carson City. In all, it operates 31 sportsbooks throughout Nevada, employing about 120 people.
“AWI and Cal Neva are first-class operators and leaders in the US sportsbook industry,” said Ralph Topping, chief executive of William Hill. “We see significant opportunities for growth by investing in Nevada and by combining our substantial product range with their extensive Nevada footprint, strong relationships, proven operational capability and trusted service.”
Topping said he is aware of the economic turbulence in the Nevada gaming industry, but pointed out such turbulence has affected all business sectors.
“Nevada saw the sports wagering industry grow 11 percent over the last year,” he said. “The fundamentals are there and Americans love sports. We are taking a long-term view and we see a lot of upside.”
Vic Salerno, CEO of AWI, said the NFL lockout, should it consume an entire NFL season, is not ideal for the sports wagering industry, but said this isn’t the first time a major sports league has endured labor strife.
“We’ll get through it like we always get through it,” Salerno said. “Also, if a lockout should happen, there are other opportunities for wagering, including college football.”