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Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but New Jersey has a new online casino product available.
William Hill quietly added a casino tab to its NJ sportsbook app last week. There was no formal announcement of the launch, news of which was broken by PlayNJ. Existing users of the app were alerted to the new feature, however, by way of a banner ad reading simply: “William Hill Casino is Now Live!”
It’s been common knowledge for several months that the company was planning to branch out into the casino space in the US. Even internationally, William Hill is primarily a sportsbook brand. However, its customers in other markets have had access to casino products and even poker for many years. In May, it confirmed rumors that it would launch an NJ casino in the latter half of 2020.
For now, there are only five table games available on mobile. The desktop version offers the same selection, plus three slots. The company has indicated that it plans to add additional games before formally announcing the full launch.
It shouldn’t take long for the selection to improve. Just a week after launch, William Hill announced that it had struck a deal with Evolution to provide it with live dealer products. These are a hybrid of the live and online casino experiences. Players stream the games, which feature real human dealers, in real time from Evolution’s studios at Hard Rock Atlantic City.
Live dealer products have become a standard in the New Jersey market. Most online casinos use Evolution as their supplier, though a few still stream from the studios of its former competitor Ezugi, which it acquired in 2018. For now, live dealer is unavailable elsewhere in the US, but Evolution plans to open studios in Pennsylvania and Michigan in the coming months.
The timing of the launch is interesting because it comes on the heels of the news that the company will be acquired by Caesars. Last Wednesday, William Hill announced that it would accept Caesars’ $3.7 billion takeover bid. It declined a competing offer from Apollo Global Management.
Meanwhile, rumors circulated over the weekend that BetFred owner Fred Done was considering beating Caesars’ offer. BetFred is a longtime competitor of William Hill’s in the UK retail betting shop market now making its first forays into the US. However, Done subsequently said that after consideration, he has decided against bidding on William Hill.
Caesars and William Hill had a strong relationship to begin with. Caesars already holds a 20% stake in William Hill, picked up in the process of its own acquisition by former competitor Eldorado Resorts. William Hill now powers a variety of retail sportsbooks at Caesars properties. Caesars, meanwhile, provides market access for its US online sportsbooks, including the one in New Jersey, through Tropicana Casino, which it manages.
At this point, no one outside the company knows how Caesars plans to manage the two brands. There have been suggestions that it might drop the William Hill brand altogether or use it for sports betting only.
The fact that William Hill has launched its NJ casino as planned probably isn’t indicative of much on that front. After all, it had already invested the time and money to do so before the companies reached an agreement.