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William Hill Grilled by Nevada Gaming Regulators

Company Looks to Operate Sports Books, Anticipates Online Gaming


A London-based bookmaker with a large online component took an assault of questions Thursday as it looks to gain entry into the U.S. via the Silver State.

Nevertheless, William Hill PLC (LSE: WMH) received the first round of approval to set up shop in Nevada. The company is seeking to operate the three Nevada sports books it acquired last year. Leroy’s, Lucky’s and Club Cal Neva will be consolidated and be re-branded as part of the more than $60 million project.

William Hill told the Gaming Control Board that its online business is an “engine of growth.” The company gave regulators an extensive presentation of its web services, which also include poker and other casino games.

William Hill has a joint venture with software provider Playtech Ltd. to run casino games across the world. Playtech (LSE: PTEC) has submitted an online poker application in Nevada.

Control Board members grilled William Hill on Playtech founder Teddy Sagi, who served jail time in 1996 for fraud and bribery. The companies have recently endured a rocky relationship.

The Board also expressed concern with William Hill serving Americans in the past. While the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act wasn’t enacted yet, the 1961 Interstate Wire Act created illegality.

Mark LipparelliControl Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli asked if the company’s game plan was to throw open its business worldwide, and then wait to see if it was illegal in a jurisdiction. William Hill recently left the murky legal waters of Australia.

Nevada officials also asked about player fund protection and safeguards for problem gambling and sporting event integrity.

“The first guy is taking all the bullets,” said Gaming Commissioner Randolph Townsend, who was observing the hearing from a live stream in Las Vegas. He said the Commission will fire some more.

Townsend said the application was very complex and sets precedence as Nevada embarks into online gaming. Regulators have shown that operating in conflict of the antiquated Wire Act is unattractive, but it isn’t an application killer. Board member A.G. Burnett called the law “hazy.”

“There was a failure on the part of the company in doing its due diligence,” Lipparelli said. He admitted that regulators won’t find “perfection” with any online gaming applicant.

During the marathon three-hour long public vetting process, William Hill ended up satisfying the three-member Board. Concerns about Playtech will be addressed during its application for online poker. If regulators don’t find Playtech suitable, William Hill could sever its partnership.

Lipparelli considered approving William Hill with conditions, so that regulators could formally re-examine the company after a certain period of time.

However, an attorney for the company argued strongly against it, calling a condition “counterproductive” because it would create unanswered questions going forward.

“I find all the individuals [at William Hill] to be extremely suitable,” Burnett said as the meeting was winding down. “We would be welcoming into Nevada a very well respected company and brand. This will make the state’s gaming more competitive.”

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus



almost 9 years ago

all of this means nothing if you can't get pokerstars to comeback. So you can get the best available room with the most players and allow it to play against other players from other states and coutnries.


almost 9 years ago

Pokerstars will never operate in the US again... period. They stayed open after the 2006 UIGE and this market is dead to them. No one that operated in the US after 06 will ever be licensed and it's unclear if being absorbed into a bigger company would clear that up.


almost 9 years ago

You are so clueless. You have no idea how things work (even though you think you're an authority). There is no legislation currently in play regarding any federal licensing, and states can write their own regs. independent of each other. Anyone who did business in US in 2006 is only prohibited if it's written into new legislation. The only ones who prohibit would be influenced by Nevada corporations who don't want to compete against a better product. Even Reid's federal legislation allowed post UIGEA companies a way to submit for a license after 3 years.

Considering there was no violation of Federal Law having a post UIGEA internet poker room, and it was an unconstitutional (by allowing other types of internet gambling) law anyway, it won't matter. If Skarden Aaps can grease the right wheels, PokerStars will be back in the US someday. In fact, as this country gets deeper and deeper in debt, they will welcome back PokerStars with open arms if they can extort a 5 billion back taxes payment from them, which PokerStars will gladly pay.

It's all about the bucks and the connections.


almost 9 years ago

Pokerstars will never receive a gaming license in the US is my opinion but it's a really safe bet . Party Poker stopped taking US customers for a reason. The powers that be will not allow them back into the market. If Pokerstars and other poker sites weren't operating in violation of federal law then why were there indictments? Why don't they allow US customers right now? There hasn't been any new laws that would have impacted them. I may be clueless about most things but I will be right on this issue. You are right about one thing.... it is all about connections... and Ceasers Entertainment and Party Gaming hve more of them.


almost 9 years ago

I'll answer the questions about why there were indictments, and why they don't allow US customers right now. Let me answer these by beginning with a question. Why were people that were indicted on the Black Friday charges, including money laundering, who were facing 35 years on such serious charges all pleaded out to misdemeanors and 3 month jail slap on the wrists?

When the DOJ issues indictments on somebody or some company, that is not any sort of indication of whether or not those charged broke any law. All it means is that the DOJ convinced a grand jury that there was sufficient reason for a charge. Only a trial will produce a legal decision regarding one's guilt or innocent. So how the DOJ works when dealing with weak cases, is produce a charge that carries long federal prison sentences, and then strike a deal for 6 months if the parties admit guilt. Why? Because they know that they might lose in court, and the floodgates will be opened. Why does the defendant plead guilty? Because even though he may know he's innocent, do you want to risk 35 years in a cage by the whims of 12 citizens, when you can plead guilty and do 6 months?

Sorry to get long winded, so let me briefly answer the question as to why PokerStars is no longer serving US if they broke no laws. They made a deal with the DOJ. The DOJ seized 100+ million from them, and seized many international bank accounts. Seizures are treated differently than criminal charges, and would be a long fight to get them back. PokerStars also wanted to pay all of their US customers, which they couldnt do effectively with DOJ seizing funds and harassing banks. So they made a deal, they agreed not to allow real money play for US residents, and the DOJ unfroze their money and allowed them to pay all their US customers (which they did in 2 weeks with DOJ allowed bank transfers).

Don't forget that the man who got UIGEA snuck through in the middle of the night was Martin Gold. He was the main lobbyist for the NFL. Eric Holder used to be the NFL's top legal representative in his days at Covington & Burley. So it's not hard to connect the dot's on why his office was so zealous.

Don't underestimate PokerStars connections. Stars was gearing to get Nevada licensing with a Wynn partnership right before Black Friday. If the price is right, they'll get back on US soil someday. But right now, Adelson's and the NFL's connections, who don't want any internet gambling, are trumping everyone's wishes at the Federal level.

PokerStars has one of the biggest and powerful law firms working for them. Some who were big shots in the DOJ in the past. Never is a long time, I'd lay 6-5 they have some sort of presence in the US by 2020.