Photo by Anthony Mair
The Odds Ambassador
Sports betting in Nevada is in the midst of a British invasion, and a Las Vegan is going to be leading the next wave. Joe Asher is slated to become the CEO of William Hill United States as soon as the British sports-betting giant’s acquisition of three Nevada books—Cal Neva, American Wagering (Leroy’s) and Brandywine (Lucky’s)—wends its way through regulatory approval. It’s a job he’s been waiting for all of his life.
Gambling is in Asher’s blood. His father loved to gamble on the horses and anything else he could get a line on. By the age of 16, Asher had a job at Brandywine Raceway in Wilmington, Del. He soaked up every aspect of the business and, while still a teenager, became the youngest track announcer in North America. He paid his way through the University of Delaware by writing about racing and sports. Then he applied the same drive to law school, getting his degree and going to work for a firm. But it wasn’t his passion. “I’d come home from work and I’d read the Racing Form, not legal briefs,” he says.
Asher left the firm to work for a client, which led him to move to Las Vegas. After parting ways with them, he started up a business operating race and sports books for casinos. He brought on a slew of veterans, including legendary line-setter Jimmy Vaccaro, former Gaming Control Board technology chief Joe Bertolone and bookmaking maven Tony DiTommaso. In 2008, Brandywine Bookmaking took its first bet.
Asher was ahead of the curve, as today more casinos are turning to outside companies to run their sports books. When the William Hill transaction becomes final sometime in the next few months, he’ll be steering the American arm of a British wagering juggernaut. They’ll be expecting big results, and Asher’s innovations—such as the exterior walk-up sports-betting window at the Riviera—will be augmented by Leroy’s advances into mobile and kiosk betting. He wants to make betting on sports easier—and more fun—than it’s been before. That means new technology, but also a friendly atmosphere that would have made his dad feel at home.
“People still like the personal experience that they get in a casino,” he says. “There’s a social element to it—they get to develop relationships with the ticket writer and their fellow patrons. I think the experience in the U.K., where online and mobile have been legal but the betting shops are still going strong, bears that out.”
So while sports betting is poised to become increasingly tech-savvy, Asher is going to make sure William Hill won’t lose sight of what makes it fun.