Published: March 19, 2021

Nevada Gaming Commission greenlights Caesars-William Hill US deal, Bally's licenses

Commissioners on Thursday approved a series of licenses that register Bally’s as a publicly-traded company in the state, operate the Montbleu Resort Casino and issue favorable suitability findings for several of its executives. Caesars Entertainment’s agreement to acquire William Hill US is scheduled to close Tuesday.

The Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday unanimously greenlighted Caesars Entertainment’s deal to acquire William Hill US, and approved licenses for a newly renamed Henderson casino and Bally’s.

The approved Caesars’ $3.7 billion deal for William Hill US was first announced in April and approved by shareholders of both companies. The deal is scheduled to close Tuesday.

The Pass at Water Street, formerly known as the Eldorado Casino in Henderson, won licensing approval and will reopen April 1 after being closed for more than a year.

Commissioners also approved a series of licenses that register Bally’s as a publicly traded company in the state, operate the Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa at Lake Tahoe and issue favorable suitability findings for several of its executives, as reported by Las Vegas Review-Journal.

A subsidiary of UK-based William Hill Plc, William Hill US has more than 120 sportsbook and kiosk locations across Nevada, and is the third-largest sportsbook operator in the United StatesCaesars has held a 20% equity ownership in William Hill. Caesars CEO Tom Reeg said the transaction changed course from a partnership to Caesars making William Hill the core of its sports wagering system. “We wanted to sit at the steering wheel ourselves,” Reeg said. “We’re essentially going from a 20 percent to a 100 percent position.”

Through the joint venture, William Hill runs online sports betting operations through Caesars’ market access in each state and retail sports betting operations in Caesars’ properties as well as those of other casino operators around the United States. Caesars owns and operates 54 domestic properties in 16 states. The company’s resorts operate primarily under the Caesars, Harrah’s, Horseshoe and Eldorado brand names.

Caesars plans to sell any William Hill operations with ties outside of the United States. Reeg said the company has received some pushback from casinos not affiliated with Caesars worried about that company coming into their buildings, but Reeg pledged not to use Caesars branding at William Hill sportsbooks in non-Caesars properties. The CEO said he expects sportsbooks to help drive traffic to other parts of the casino. 

Joe DeSimone, sole owner of the The Pass, acquired the Eldorado Casino for an undisclosed price from Boyd Gaming Corp. in December. The property will have more than 350 slot machines, and Circa Sports will manage the casino’s sportsbook. A license for Circa at The Pass is expected to be heard by regulators in future weeks.

DeSimone Gaming also owns the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino in Henderson, near Boulder City. A shuttle will run between the two casinos seven days a week, and customers at both properties will have access to a linked players’ club.

As for Bally’s, it acquired Montbleu in a two-property package deal for $155 million as part of Eldorado Resorts’ bid to divest properties in advance of its acquisition of Caesars Entertainment. Bally’s was an alternate buyer after Eldorado had originally announced it was selling to privately held Maverick Gaming. The Montbleu deal is expected to close in early April.

The company acquired the Bally’s brand from Caesars in November. Bally’s President and CEO George Papanier told commissioners Thursday that his company has one of the best regional gaming footprints in the market and the third-largest footprint for online sports betting in the United States.

Bally’s also plans to leverage its recently announced partnership with Sinclair Broadcast Group, which operates 21 sports networks and 188 television stations across the United States, including KSNV Channel 3, Las Vegas’ NBC affiliate, plans to incorporate Bally’s branding to its regional sports networks.

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