Sports industry veteran Joe Asher talks sports betting advances

September 11, 2022 6:01 AM
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
September 11, 2022 6:01 AM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
  • United States

As the NFL season kicks off this week and college football has had an exciting start to the season, Joe Asher said bettors have a lot to look forward to as technology and wagering operations advance in the sports betting industry.

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Asher, the president of IGT PlaySports and gaming industry Hall of Famer who previously served as CEO of William Hill, is approaching his first anniversary with the company and leading the ongoing expansion of its sports betting business in North American markets. The PlaySports solution powers dozens of U.S. sportsbooks across the country as sports betting is legalized across the country.

IGT is FanDuel’s exclusive retail platform provider across the U.S. In Nevada, IGT helps run Boyd Gaming and Resorts World’s sportsbooks. With Boyd, it’s providing the hardware and software platform. With Resorts World, it’s providing both the technology and some trading services, which means providing the lines and betting options and helping them manage the risk.

“It continues to be an incredibly fascinating industry as it has been for a number of years,” Asher said. “The momentum towards legalizing sports betting in so many states continues, and the states that passed it are gearing up.”

Asher said it’s hard not to be impressed with FanDuel and its success and with its profitability during the second quarter for the first time in the U.S. Looking forward, he said he’s interested in what Fanatics looks like when it launches sports betting and how ESPN is interested in getting involved in the industry.

“I wonder about the operators who are not among the top five and how do they position themselves and move forward,” Asher said. “You see folks like SuperBook expand into various states, but they are taking what I describe as a niche approach.”

IGT PlaySports continues to expand across the country and cites SuperBook and Circa Sports.

After spending some time in Southern California over the summer, Asher said it was impossible to miss the television advertising on Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 to legalize sports betting – but he couldn’t tell which way the election will go.

Proposition 26 legalizes retail sports betting in tribal casinos and race tracks. Proposition 27 brings in an element of mobile gaming and is backed by commercial casino gaming interests.

“I think it’s kind of hard to think one would pass and the other would fail,” Asher said. “Logically, you would think they both pass or they both fail.”

Asher said that for years he’s cited that the expansion of sports betting across the country would not have an impact on Las Vegas. When the federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada was overturned by the Supreme Court in May 2018, Asher said many predicted a decline in Las Vegas that never materialized.

“More than half of the market is locals, so California is not going to impact that and with respect to tourists, people will still come here for the big events,” Asher said. “There is nowhere better to come than Las Vegas for March Madness or the Super Bowl.”

With the arrival of FanDuel in Las Vegas to offer its brand and other services to Boyd Gaming at the renovated Fremont Hotel & Casino in downtown, Asher said “they’re a great partner of ours” as is Boyd by using the IGT system for their retail businesses. FanDuel said it has no plans at this time to set up shop and operate a sportsbooks in Nevada.

“So much of the mobile sports-betting business in Nevada is the in-person registration requirements as opposed to remote registration, so that obviously impacts the competitive dynamics of the marketplace,” Asher said.

Asher said he doesn’t know if in-person registration will ever change. The long-term policy in Nevada has been to invest in brick-and-mortar casinos because companies have made substantial investments in their sportsbooks.

“The industry is split on the issue of remote registration versus in-person registration in Nevada,” Asher said. “When it is split like it is, that makes it harder to get done. It’s hard for me to see it changing at the regulatory level because it’s a public policy issue reserved for the Legislature and citizens through the ballot process.”

IGT will roll out bar tops that allow for video poker and slots while also betting on sports. They will be displayed at the Global Gaming Expo in October in Las Vegas.

“We got customers all over the place asking for them,” Asher said. “The bar tops are important for us, but more broadly you will see a lot of (technology) move towards personalization. Customers have favorites so the content you see on your app will be personalized to you rather than a common menu that everybody sees.”

Asher said that the advent of same-game parlays and their continued rollout will continue.

“Derek Carr passes for more than 275 yards, Davante Adams makes eight receptions and the Raiders win would be an example of a same-game parlay,” Asher said. “You will see an increased amount of that. We’re trying to make the product as compelling as possible for customers. Right now so much of the industry is marketing driven but over time I think it shifts to being product driven. At the end of the day, the product is going to win. Operators will continue to invest in their product.”

Asher said he’s interested in what will happen with micro betting, betting on “snippets of the game” as he calls it. That’s whether the next pitch will be a ball or a strike or is Kyrie Irving going to make or miss his next shot.

“There’s divergent views on whether that becomes relevant, and It will be interesting to see how it plays out,” Asher said. “Is there interest in that level of granularity or is it just disruptive to the viewing experience and not all that significant?”