The Nevada Gaming Control Board postponed William Hill's (WH) acquisition of a Nevada gaming license. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the British sports book expected to gain the license in May, however, the state's gaming control officials are still in the process of inspecting the company and its executives.
The two main issues causing the delay are the company's head of strategy and corporate development, Robin Chhabra, and WH's bonds with another online gambling venture Playtech.
It appears that former investment analyst Mr. Chhabra, who was in charge of WH's expansion in Nevada, has been fined $150,000 by the Financial Services Authority for “market abuse” by sharing “price sensitive information with a prolific trader.” Although Chhabra's involvement in WH's future affairs is unlikely, his role seems to raise concerns for the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
Another issue in WH's acceptance in the Silver State is its ties with Playtech, an Israeli-based internet gaming company. Playtech is a joint venture with WH online and 40 percent of the company is owned by Playtech founder Teddy Sagi. The business ties between the two entities are raising questions with Nevada's gaming control officials due to Sagi's past – in 1996 he was sentenced for fraud and bribery.
Despite the impediments and delays, business insiders believe that WH's Nevada license should be approved eventually. “This is part of the normal process and proves the Gaming Control Board is taking their time and being thorough,” said John English, senior vice president of business development and public affairs for American Wagering Inc., a company which was acquired by WH in April 2011 for $18 million. “We expect William Hill to be a great asset to Nevada.”
In preparation for stepping into the Nevada market, WH bought two more gaming ventures – Club Cal Neva Satellite Race and Sports Book division in Northern Nevada for $21 million and Brandywine Bookmaking LLC, a mother company of Lucky's sports books, for $14.25 million. The numbers total $53 million which WH already invested in Nevada even before receiving the operating license.
“Our strategic focus continues to be on developing our products to enhance the customer experience, on broadening and strengthening our channels to maximize our customer reach and on developing the business internationally,” said William Hill's CEO, Ralph Topping to the shareholders back in February.
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