You wanna bet?

Firms are pre­par­ing for the pos­si­ble le­gal­iza­tion of sports gam­bling.

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY WAYNE PARRY

AT­LANTIC CITY, N.J. — Some gam­bling tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies ex­pect the U.S. Supreme Court to le­gal­ize sports bet­ting and are jock­ey­ing for po­si­tion in the new in­dus­try months be­fore a de­ci­sion is even ren­dered.

A law­suit filed Thurs­day in At­lantic City shines some light on the scram­ble. NYX Gam­ing Group Ltd., a com­pany based on the Bri­tish is­land of Guernsey, is su­ing London-based Wil­liam Hill PLC over Las Ve­gas-based Sci­en­tific Games Corp.’s pro­posed ac­qui­si­tion of NYX.

Wil­liam Hill owns stock in NYX and is threat­en­ing to use its vot­ing shares to block the ac­qui­si­tion un­less it re­ceives cer­tain as­sur­ances from Sci­en­tific Games about what the newly merged com­pany will and won’t be able to do.

NYX, a lead­ing provider of gam­bling soft­ware, terms those re­quests “ex­tor­tion­ate” and anti-com­pet­i­tive, ac­cord­ing to its law­suit. They in­clude de­mands that Sci­en­tific Games not com­pete with Wil­liam Hill, and that it hand over source code for some NYX prod­ucts.

Wil­liam Hill says its ac­tions are “per­fectly rea­son­able.” Sci­en­tific Games did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

The ma­neu­ver­ing takes place as the na­tion’s high­est court pre­pares to hear a case brought by New Jer­sey that seeks to le­gal­ize sports bet­ting. The state is tak­ing aim at a 1992 law that for­bids state-au­tho­rized sports gam­bling in all but four states that met a 1991 dead­line to le­gal­ize it: Delaware, Mon­tana, Ne­vada and Ore­gon. Ne­vada is the only state to al­low sin­gle-game wa­ger­ing.

“Many in the in­dus­try think it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore sports bet­ting is opened up one way or an­other ,” said David Schwartz, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Gam­ing Re­search at the Univer­sity of Ne­vada-Las Ve­gas. “With that mind set, it is im­por­tant to estab­lish a po­si­tion now, as states and op­er­a­tors will be choos­ing part­ners quickly.

“For the past 30 years, gam­ing com­pa­nies have been driven by the prom­ises of ex­pan­sion,” he said. “In the past that meant more states open­ing them­selves up to casino gam­ing, but the fi­nal fron­tier may be sports bet­ting.”

On Sept. 20, NYX an­nounced it would be ac­quired by Sci­en­tific Games, which makes a va­ri­ety of prod­ucts for lot­ter­ies and casi­nos.

But Wil­liam Hill is threat­en­ing to block the deal.

“Wil­liam Hill has made clear to (Sci­en­tific Games) and NYX that it fears com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket­place,” NYX wrote in its law­suit. “Wil­liam Hill has ex­pressed its view that the U.S. sports bet­ting mar­ket is a‘ twohorse race’ be­tween Wil­liam Hill and NYX, and that as of now, Wil­liam Hill has con­trol over NYX.”

Wil­liam Hill spokesman Ciaran O’Brien said the com­pany is de­fend­ing the rights of its share­hold­ers.

“Ag­gres­sive liti­gious ac­tiv­ity is a hall­mark” of merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions in the U.S., he said. “But it will not de­ter Wil­liam Hill from seek­ing per­fectly rea­son­able as­sur­ances about joint projects with NYX.”

Asked about the in­dus­try’s de­sire to lineup mar­ket share ahead of a high court rul­ing on sports bet­ting, O’Brien said: “This may give a clue as to the ag­gres­sive lit­i­ga­tion be­ing aimed at Wil­liam Hill.”

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