- William Hill sued FanDuel for copying a sports betting guide almost verbatim
- FanDuel’s version even contained text referring to William Hill
- An undisclosed settlement has now been reached
Background to this case
The US operations of William Hill brought a lawsuit against one of their biggest competitors, FanDuel. This civil suit was brought in the New Jersey federal court.
The suit alleged that FanDuel, which is majority-owned by Paddy Power Betfair, was guilty of the infringing William Hill’s copyright in a betting guide.
The guide in question is titled “How to Bet Guide.” It was published in June 2018, in advance of the opening of sports betting in New Jersey. An identical version of the guide was issued by FanDuel in pamphlet form at its sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
A version of the pamphlet was also offered on FanDuel’s online platform, which targets customers in New Jersey. Large swathes of the William Hill guide were directly copied, including examples in which the odds, markets, and teams were exactly the same.
William Hill was even mentioned in the FanDuel version of the guide. When discussing the different types of sports betting markets, the FanDuel guide refers to “professional wagers offered by William Hill.” Therefore, it looked like a fairly clear-cut case.
Was there a trial?
William Hill sought a jury trial and damages for this infringement of copyright. They asked the court to award “all profits realized by FanDuel due to its wrongful acts” as well as legal fees and court costs.
William Hill US officials noted that they usually do not bring suits of this type, but it was such a clear-cut case that they could not ignore it. They said that it is ridiculous and that any funds awarded will go to aid creative writing programs in New Jersey’s colleges and universities.
What was the outcome?
The case has now been settled. The CEO of William Hill’s US operation, Joe Asher, did not disclose the amount of the settlement. However, he did say that some funds would go toward the treatment of problem gambling as well as to creative writing programs.
The settlement was agreed upon at the start of January, and FanDuel paid the agreed-upon amount to William Hill on January 14. The suit was filed in October 2018. In June, William Hill released the guide through their Monmouth Park Racetrack sportsbook and the nearly identical guide was issued a month later by the FanDuel sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
State of New Jersey sports betting
William Hill and FanDuel have been doing battle in New Jersey since sports betting became legal. They both have a significant presence in physical facilities and through online platforms.
New Jersey hit new gambling revenue highs in 2018, with sports betting playing a significant part. Figures for 2018 from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement show that December was a record-breaking month. Online poker and casino revenues rose by almost 40% year on year.
Sports betting became legal in the state in June, and the intake by sportsbooks surpassed $1bn (£780m) by the end of the year. The December intake was slightly down from the November figures, dropping to $319m (£249m).
The actual revenue for the two parties was almost $21m (£16m). Sports betting traditionally has had slim margins. FanDuel’s sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack led the way with betting revenue of $9.1m (£7.1m). The William Hill sportsbook at Monmouth Park could manage only the third best revenues for December, with $2.32m (£1.81m).