With Caesars Entertainment’s $3.7 billion acquisition of William Hill finally complete, the company is looking to make serious strides in the US sports betting space.
Caesars will likely rebrand William Hill retail sportsbooks and apps in certain states to Caesars Sports by football betting season. Though at the moment, we don’t know whether or not Illinois is one of those states.
The same goes for the retail sportsbooks such as Grand Victoria Casino Elgin, which currently has William Hill branding.
Caesars spokesperson Kate Whiteley told sister site, PlayIA.com:
“While our mobile app and most sportsbooks will be rebranded to reflect that they are now a part of Caesars Entertainment, the William Hill brand will continue to be featured in both mobile and retail sportsbooks depending on the state.”
Caesars aims to merge the two apps, utilizing William Hill’s Liberty single-wallet platform. In such case, we could see a hybrid branding approach. Think “William Hill, powered by Caesars Sports,” or something to that effect.
As of now, William Hill Sportsbook isn’t much of a player in Illinois.
It has finished last in sports betting handle among all Illinois sportsbooks in every month is has been live. William Hill cracked $10 million in monthly handle for the first time in February, while the market leaders are hovering around $200 million.
With that said, Illinois sports bettors probably haven’t seen many advertisements for William Hill.
But the casino giant has vowed to change that soon.
Caesars to spend aggressively on marketing
Caesars CEO Tom Reeg said during the Q1 earnings call this week that the company has been “fighting with an arm behind its back” while waiting for the William Hill deal to finalize.
Now that it has, we should expect to see Caesars become much more aggressive in acquiring sports betting customers. Reeg said:
“William Hill with the UK parent and UK investor mindset, was more conservative toward leverage and not as aggressive as we expect to be in this business.
He added that Caesars will “significantly” ramp up its investment in US sports betting.
Reeg is also optimistic that increased spend will result in increased market share:
“We see a great correlation between spend and market share at this point. And not quite so much [correlation] for brand or other non-spend categories. That’s a good sign for us when I talk about the cash flow that we’re generating right now.”
Reeg cited BetMGM as a model for Caesars to emulate.
BetMGM Sportsbook in Illinois isn’t live yet, but it’s off to a good start in Michigan, where it is the second-largest online sportsbook. MGM and Caesars are similar in the sense that they are well-known casino brands, as opposed to DraftKings or FanDuel.
With that said, a Michigan BetMGM model is likely more realistic in yet-to-launch states than one like Illinois.
Why Illinois is complicated for Caesars/William Hill
There’s one glaring reason why Illinois could still prove to be a tough market for Caesars: in-person registration.
The only way to sign up for William Hill in Illinois is to visit the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin. And based on its lack of market share in the state (2% in February, its best month ever), there doesn’t appear to be an immediate path to acquiring more users and growing said share.
It’s possible that a good chunk of people have downloaded the William Hill app, but simply aren’t using it as much as other sports betting apps in Illinois. That’s the best-case scenario.
More likely, though, is that few Illinoisans downloaded William Hill, considering it wasn’t offering the types of generous sign-up promotions that its competitors were at the time.
The good news for Caesars? Illinois is not a crowded market.
There are only six online sportsbooks in the Land of Lincoln right now. That’s much fewer than fellow robust markets. So, in theory, there is market share to be had.
But of course, it comes back to in-person registration. As long as it’s around, it’s hard to see this having much of an impact on Caesars’ Illinois business.
Though if online registration returns, there is certainly room for a Caesars sportsbook to grow in the Prairie State.