Sports-betting exec Joe Asher named to chair board of Washington, D.C., think tank

March 22, 2023 1:44 PM
Photo: William Hill CEO Joe Asher, right, with NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman at the AGA Sports Betting Executive Summit in 2019
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
March 22, 2023 1:44 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

Las Vegas resident Joe Asher, president of sports betting for IGT and gaming-industry Hall of Famer, has another honor to add to this resumé.

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Last week, President Joe Biden appointed Asher, a Delaware native and friend of Biden’s, to serve as chair of the Board of Trustees of The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

The Wilson Center, chartered by Congress in 1968 as the official memorial to Wilson, the 28th U.S. president who served from 1913 to 1921, is the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum for tackling global issues through independent research and open dialogue.

The Center’s previous chair was Bill Haslam, the billionaire businessman and former governor of Tennessee.

Asher said the White House reached out to him a few months ago about serving in the post. A leader in the sports-betting industry, Asher has strong ties to Delaware, where Biden served for decades as a U.S. senator.

Asher graduated from the University of Delaware and the Delaware Law School of Widener University and served a judicial clerkship with the Supreme Court of Delaware.

“I’m from Delaware, have known the president for a very long time, and been a big supporter for many years,” Asher said. “In terms of what led to this, I’m not entirely sure.”

Members of the Board of Trustees, appointed to six-year terms by the president, serve on various committees with functions that include executive, audit, finance, and investment policy; strategic planning and programming; and development and fellowship.

“They get into complicated issues and try to present the facts and solutions to key decision makers,” Asher said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity and honored by it. All I can do is bring my perspective. I live in the west, outside the D.C. and New York bubble, and I’m in in the business community rather than in government and academia. Hopefully, that’s a different perspective.”

Asher said coming from the gaming industry will also provide a unique perspective to the Board, which meets several times a year in Washington.

In terms of sports betting, Asher said it’s an exciting time for the industry, with March Madness under way and the NCAA Tournament making its first appearance in Las Vegas this week when it hosts the West Regional.

“It’s one of the most amazing developments in the last few years — with the Sweet 16 in Vegas this year and Final Four coming up,” Asher said. “We’re also having the Super Bowl here (in February), stuff that was completely unthinkable 10 years ago. It’s amazing how the landscape has shifted so dramatically. It’s going to be a great weekend in Vegas, with people coming to town to fill up the hotels and restaurants and casinos. To go from being persona non grata for these types of events to hosting them is a big change and great for the city.”

Asher, the former CEO of William Hill US, said the key issues in the sports-betting industry continue to be which additional states legalize it and how they regulate it.

“The consumer appetite continues to be significant,” Asher said. “Ohio has gotten off to a good start from all accounts, and Massachusetts just went live with mobile. And some states’ regulators and policy makers are talking about all the advertising going on, which I’ve been talking about a while. You certainly have to rationalize it. It’s tough on consumers.”

Asher will also participate in a panel discussion Tuesday at the Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention in San Diego. The topic is “Trends You’ll Be Seeing in 2023.”

Asher said sports betting has gotten off to a fast start for tribes in Washington state and Wisconsin. The resolution of litigation that would allow the Seminole Tribe of Florida to resume sports betting is a major issue. Tribes are also watching what happens in the wake of November’s failed ballot initiatives to bring sports betting to California.