William Hill is one of the leading bookmakers in the gambling industry in the United Kingdom which makes it a recognizable brand for everyone involved in betting and placing wagers. The London-listed company was founded back in 1934 and ever since then has been providing its customers worldwide with the opportunity to bet over the phone and on the Internet. These opportunities for wagering add up to the actual betting offices of the operator which amount to 2300 in the UK. William Hill also features offices in the Republic of Ireland which helps with the operation of the company.
An important detail regarding the betting operator is that it makes for 25 percent of the gambling market in the UK and Ireland. The major betting operator recently announced that the company is ready to go to court in the US. The reason for this decision is that there has been a company which is eying an American company the British bookmaker owns a stake in. The company is Scientific Games Corporation and this September saw the announcement that the electronic gaming developer is planning to purchase NYX Gaming Group. As it was later confirmed the board of the later has supported the decision.
Scientific Games Corporation is a company listed in the United States and it is well-known for its gambling products which are used by various entities in the gaming industry worldwide. Scientific Games has electronic gaming machines, table games, iGaming and iLottery products, instant lottery games, and tons more. This makes it versatile and gives it the chance to be a partner to many companies in the field. One of the more notable feats of the company has been the introduction of the first secure instant lottery ticket back in 1974 which shaped the industry into what it is now.
Controversial Deal for Purchasing NYX Gaming
The takeover has been confirmed by all parties involved and this has brought a lot of controversy to the deal as a whole since there is a legal issue with the decision. This September saw the news that Scientific Games has signed the deal for acquisition of NYX Gaming and it amounted to C$775 million (US$611 million). NYX Gaming also announced that it had inked an exclusive agreement with Scientific Games which will see the development and distribution of an entirely new sports betting platform in the United States. Through this agreement, the latter will invest US$30 million in the project and it will receive the right to be the exclusive third-party distributor across the next 10 years.
The news about the lawsuit filed by NYX Gaming in the US court came on 10th November and in it, the sports betting specialist claims that William Hill, which is one of the shareholders in the company, has allegedly demonstrated anti-competitive tendencies and this is something which would not be tolerated by NYX. According to the lawsuit filed the British betting brand has made an attempt to obstruct the deal for the acquisition.
William Hill, in its position of minority shareholder in NYX Gaming, has made a move in response to the deal as it had converted its passive till this moment convertible preference shares into ordinary shares, which is going to give the company the right to state its opinion on whether to let the deal go through or not. The shares which the company owns are estimating to 6,800,000 ordinary shares and £80 million of preference shares. The said conversion should happen until 4th December this year according to the plea as to make the voting possible. In the case of conversion, this would result in the British company having 32 percent voting stock in NYX Gaming. If the deal is signed and Scientific Games becomes the new owner of NYX, this will result in a formidable competitor in the online and mobile sports betting industry in the US.
This move has resonated in the industry and NYX Gaming issued an immediate response to it. The gaming developer is accusing the British bookmaker in engaging in wrongful conduct which violates the New Jersey Antitrust Act. This attempt to block the acquisition is considered a move in the negative direction for the community, as the deal is expected to bring lots of benefits for the regulated sports betting industry, when and if it gets regulated. According to NYX, if William Hill succeeds in preventing the deal from happening, this would result in losses amounting to $50 million as well as depriving the shareholders of 112 percent of premium NYX shares.
William Hill Steeplechase Ltd.’s Announcement
NYX proceeded to file a legal complaint against the company in the Superior Court of New Jersey in order to prevent this from happening. The accusations of wrongful conduct were filed in Chancery Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey in the US and it is against the Gibraltar-incorporated company William Hill Steeplechase Limited and William Hill Plc. On 8th November the Gibraltar-listed unit of William Hill issued a press release which announced that the company is considering the proposed acquisition of NYX by Scientific Games and as of that time no decision has been made. It also stated that the unit had issued a notice of intention to convert the preference shares in NYX Gaming.
Sports betting is currently permitted in several states only. One of them is the state of Nevada, and only there William Hill owns about 55 percent of the market. There has also been news that the state of New Jersey is well on its way to make sports betting legal and to allow a rapid development of the industry in the region as well as in other states. William Hill states that the move has been made in order for it to protect its own rights as a stakeholder because the potential US legalization of sports betting in the future is undoubtedly going to bring a lot of revenue to the British betting operator.
OpenBet Acquisition by NYX and William Hill’s Involvement
It is a known fact that back in the spring of 2016 William Hill’s investment in NYX Gaming made it possible for the latter company to acquire OpenBet. This is an online gaming and betting software developer and the Las Vegas-based supplier to gambling companies won the auction to purchase it from the private equity house Vitruvian Partners for a total of £270 million. NYX Gaming acquired 100 percent of the issued and outstanding shares of the company from funds managed by the private equity house. The British betting giant invested as much as £80million in the Las Vegas firm via convertible preference shares and a further £10million in equity.
There was also a deal for partnership development of the technology between NYX and William Hill which covered the following three years. In the case of any change in the US sports betting legislation following the beginning of December, when the Supreme Court is going to have its review, OpenBet is expected to benefit. In the meantime, NYX Gaming came out with a statement which announced that the company could not convert the said preference shares due to certain regulations and licensing restrictions. It has also announced that the company is taking all options into consideration and taking the necessary legal actions against the British bookmaker in order to protect the shareholders of NYX.
Sports Betting Legalization
The situation revolving around the three companies happens at an important time for the gambling industry in the US, as the Supreme Court is preparing to hear a case introduced by the state of New Jersey which aims to make sports betting legal. If this happens all states will have the right to legalize sports wagering if they deem it appropriate. New Jersey is targeting a law from 1992 which prohibits state-authorized sports gambling in all states with the exception of four: Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon. At the moment Nevada is the single state which allows single-game betting.
However, William Hill is considered to block the development of the deal between Scientific Games and NYX Gaming and thus it demonstrates fear of competition in the market, as it was stated by NYX. In response to these accusations, Ciaran O’Brien, Spokesperson of William Hill, stated that the company is only trying to protect the rights of its shareholders and there is nothing wrong with that. As the case hearing approaches companies are trying to make their way in the potential future field and operators are already looking for partners.
David Schwartz, Director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, stated that other big names in the gambling industry will be on the hunt for a share of the US sports betting market as well and some of them are Las Vegas-listed companies CG Technology, the South Point Race Book, and Boyd Gaming. In addition to the predictions for betting companies, a special report was issued in October. According to the data gathered by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming LLC, which keeps track of the gambling legislation in the states, the next five years could see legal sports betting offered in 32 states if the Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey.