By Hilary Russ
(Reuters) - U.S. sports teams are clamouring for sponsorship deals with British bookmaker William Hill PLC as legal sports betting starts to take off in the United States, the chief executive of the company's American division told Reuters on Wednesday.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in May that flung open the doors to legal sports wagering across the country, the company has been "inundated" with emails and phone calls from teams looking to do sponsorship deals, said Joseph Asher, CEO of William Hill U.S.
Asher's remarks come as sports betting gets set to expand nationwide in states that agree to regulate and tax the activity.
On Thursday, New Jersey is set to finally see its first-ever legal sports bet, the result of its years-long court battle against professional sports leagues. The leagues opposed legalizing the activity in part because they fear games could be fixed and lose their integrity.
William Hill made its own gamble on New Jersey, when it agreed in 2013 to spend $1 million (£747,513), an amount more than doubled by now, to build out a sports book at Monmouth Park Racetrack, where the first bets will be placed.
Delaware, one of the few places to have already allowed limited sports wagers, rolled out full-scale sports betting last week.
It is also where Asher started working at horse racetracks in 1984 when he was just 16 years old. The next year, he started calling races there, becoming the youngest track announcer in North America.
Now, he says that despite tension between bookmakers, casinos, state regulators and the leagues over revenue and data sharing, "the leagues and the teams are interested in doing commercial deals."
The CEO of "one of the most prominent franchises in the country" discussed the idea with Asher in Las Vegas even before the top court's ruling, Asher said, though he would not name the team or the sport.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ)