Anatomy Of A Merger Part II: Online Implications For Eldorado-Caesars

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In a deal that has far-reaching implications, Eldorado Resorts agreed to purchase and merge with Caesars Entertainment. In a new three-part series, Play USA will analyze how the $17.3 billion deal impacts the land-based casinos, online gambling and sports betting. 

When Eldorado Resorts and Caesars Entertainment join forces in the first half of 2020 (contingent upon the approval of shareholders, state regulatory bodies and the FTC), it will largely be business as usual for the two companies’ land-based casinos.

Things are a bit more up in the air when it comes to the online gambling operations of the two companies.

Both companies have partnership agreements with whom they’ve formulated online strategies. When they merge, many of these partnerships become redundant. Trimming will almost certainly occur to fit the disparate pieces into a single cohesive unit.

In Part I of this series, we specifically looked at the land-based aspect of the deal. In our second installment of the series, Play USA will attempt to unravel what the online gambling offerings at the new Caesars will look like.

The current version of Caesars online

Caesars is an active player in multiple US online gambling markets.

In Nevada, Caesars and 888 formed an online poker partnership that resulted in WSOP.com.

The same poker partnership also exists in New Jersey. In addition to the WSOP– and 888-branded New Jersey poker sites, the duo also collaborates on the HarrahsCasino.com and the US.888casino.com online casino sites.

Caesars also has a second New Jersey partner, NYX/Scientific Games. That partnership powers the CaesarsCasino.com online casino.

But wait, there’s more. Caesars is also partners with Scientific Games for sports betting, with Scientific Gaming powering Caesars-branded online sportsbooks across the country.

Hold on–we’re still not done. Earlier this year, Caesars entered into a strategic partnership with DraftKings that provides DraftKings with access to certain markets where Caesars operates land-based casinos. The plan was for DraftKings to be a secondary brand (after the Caesars brand) in markets that allow multiple online skins.

And just for good measure, there are the ancillary sports betting partnerships Caesars has inked with Turner Sports, ESPN, the NFL and the following individual teams:

  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Las Vegas Raiders
  • New Jersey Devils
  • Philadelphia 76ers

It’s not clear how operator/supplier changes would impact these agreements.

The current version of Eldorado online

The online gambling landscape is almost (but not quite) as convoluted at Eldorado.

When it acquired Tropicana Entertainment, Eldorado inherited Tropicana’s online gambling partnership with GameSys in New Jersey.

In September 2018, Eldorado acquired 20% of William Hill US in exchange for market access across its portfolio.

While William Hill powers its existing retail operations, Eldorado subsequently entered into another big partnership with the Stars Group. The deal gives the Stars Group access to markets that permit multiple skins, and William Hill has the right of first refusal.

The Stars Group has since joined forces with Fox Sports to create Fox Bet sports betting. As such, the new Caesars will control the deployment of the new Fox Bet platform in several states.

Eldorado appears to be calling the shots

After reading through the partnerships, it’s abundantly clear that there are too many mouths to feed.

Anyone who’s been around the industry for a while has likely heard the grumblings of dissatisfaction from Caesars regarding some of its online partners (Scientific Games sports betting and 888).

Eldorado seems more content with its selected partners.

During an investors call following the announcement of the merger, Eldorado brass responded to a question on this topic:

“We bring the William Hill and The Stars Group access partnerships. Caesars has a plethora of sports partnerships, including league partnerships, team partnerships, ESPN… and we see them all fitting together. We would see William Hill and TSG rolling into access deals across the Caesars portfolio to the extent that they’re not already offered in our portfolio. But we think the opportunity in sports betting in the combined company is as good as there is out there at this point.”

And in a statement, William Hill staked its claim as the new Caesars online sports betting provider:

“William Hill entered into a strategic partnership with its long term business partner Eldorado in September 2018. Under the agreement, William Hill gained the right to exclusively operate sports books at all properties owned or managed by Eldorado in the United States and to operate mobile sports betting in states where Eldorado obtains a license. These rights apply to casino properties owned or managed by Eldorado when the strategic partnership was signed and any subsequent acquisitions. Therefore, the rights apply to casinos currently owned or managed by Caesars if Eldorado’s acquisition of Caesars is completed.”

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Some scenarios for Caesars version 2.0

One online sports betting scenario would see Caesars cut ties with Scientific Games and use William Hill as its primary sports betting operator.

The access deals with Fox Bet and DraftKings would likely remain, making those two independent brands a strong second and third options in markets that allow multiple skins.

On the online poker front, Caesars has plenty of options, too. Two that might make sense are:

  1. Offering both PokerStars and WSOP.com through 888, or, if the agreement allows it,
  2. migrate the WSOP.com online poker platform to PokerStars’ software.

The latter might be difficult in Nevada, where PokerStars is still on the state’s “blacklist” and seemingly unable to obtain an online poker license.

The merged company would possess no less than three online casino platforms. While redundant, multiple online casino operators are less of a problem than it is with online poker.

Online casinos don’t require liquidity in the same way online poker sites do, so other than some marketing overlap, having multiple online casino products can be a good problem to have.

That said, Eldorado inherited GameSys, and there its long-rumored Caesars and 888 aren’t exactly a happily married couple.

Steve Ruddock

About

Steve Ruddock is an avid poker player and a veteran member of the gaming media. His primary focus is on the regulated US online casino and poker markets. He writes for numerous online and print publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.

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