William Hill Purchase Finally Gives Caesars Access To Michigan

Written By Matt Schoch on September 30, 2020Last Updated on October 22, 2020

The Caesars Casino name had been conspicuously absent from the Michigan square dance of gambling partners.

It appears the American gambling leader has paid its way into the party.

Caesars has agreed to purchase William Hill for $3.7 billion this week, the second massive Caesars move this quarter.

The deal is expected to be finalized next year, presumably after Michigan’s online casino, sports betting and online poker sectors are already going strong.

William Hill, which put its name on a northwest Michigan sportsbook last week, plans to launch its online brands soon.

But could a rebrand using the new parent company’s brand next year make more sense (and more cents)? Would Caesars using the cachet of its name equal more Michigan cash? And is this the path Caesars will take to bring Caesars Casino and WSOP.com to the Wolverine State?

When Playinmichigan asked Wednesday about what the deal means for Michigan, representatives from Caesars and William Hill did not comment.

William Hill brings sports betting to Traverse City

William Hill was one of the first companies to acquire online access in Michigan, announcing a pact with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians back in February.

The tribe operates Turtle Creek Casino in Williamsburg, just east of Traverse City, Michigan’s top summer getaway. The tribe also runs Leelanau Sands Casino up the Leelanau Peninsula in Peshawbestown.

Leelanau has a satellite location with sports betting kiosks.

But when online gambling launches later, likely around Thanksgiving, how the two companies will approach branding the product becomes a serious question.

William Hill already behind in brand marketing

William Hill started in the United Kingdom in 1934 and has been an iconic brand across the pond.

The brand expanded to the US in 2012. It now has some form of sports betting available in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington DC, and West Virginia.

William Hill launched online sportsbooks in Illinois and Colorado in September.

Those states are just months ahead of Michigan’s timeline. Industry developments in those states are useful to follow for a future glimpse.

But US online gambling continues to be dominated by brands like Golden Nugget, DraftKings, and FanDuel. The latter pair have been marketing daily fantasy sports to Michigan residents for years and dominate the sports betting marketplace as well.

Notably, William Hill has not yet been marketing its brand significantly here, unlike competitors like BetRivers and PointsBet, which used to be unknowns in Michigan.

BetRivers is popping up in sports radio ads and paid social media advertising, while PointsBet aligned with the Detroit Tigers, the first sportsbook partnership for any MLB team.

Caesars making moves during pandemic slowdown

Meanwhile, Caesars is making deals of its own.

The company completed a merger with Eldorado Resorts this summer and now is buying a well-stocked sports betting operation in WH.

As for media, Caesars and William Hill have a content deal with ESPN as the exclusive odds provider.

Caesars already has a presence near Michigan. Canada’s Caesars Windsor is across the Detroit River from the state’s largest city.

And what about Michigan’s iconic hometown pizza brand, Little Caesars? The cross-promotional opportunities are endless! (“Pizza Pizza” becomes “Teaser Teaser”? We’ll workshop it.)

That’s on top of decades of name-brand recognition with gamblers familiar with their Las Vegas and Atlantic City behemoths.

The William Hill deal should close in the second half of 2021, pending regulatory and competition approvals.

After that, will the brands co-exist within the same company? And what would that arrangement look like in practice?

Caesars is a known brand in Michigan and could be a key for sustaining success. William Hill, meanwhile, may have Michiganders asking, “Who is that guy?”

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He’s also the former host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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