- Hard Rock and Ocean Resort file for online gaming licenses
- Shuttered Atlantic City casinos will reopen this year
The two companies engaged in reopening two of Atlantic City’s most prestigious casino venues will also enter the online gaming market during 2018, reports the Associated Press – as long as state officials approve their license applications.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hard Rock Cafe franchise and Bruce Deifik’s AC Ocean Walk have recently completed purchase deals for the former Trump Taj Mahal and Revel casinos, respectively. Both properties are slated to reopen later this year.
If both companies secure their online licenses, there will be seven Atlantic City operators in the online gaming space. Last year, online gaming was worth $245 million to the state of New Jersey. AC Ocean Walk has also announced its intention to enter the sports betting market this year, if the state is successful at securing an exemption at the Supreme Court.
Former Taj Mahal gets $500 million makeover
The former Trump casino will reopen as the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel later this year, after the completion of a $500 million refit to transform the property. Hiring for the venue is already underway, and former employees have been invited back to discuss returning to their jobs. No date has been confirmed for the opening, but executive leader Jim Allen has reportedly stated previously that the casino will be open for the Memorial Day weekend celebrations in May.
Plans for the site include poolside gaming, and gambling in some restaurants, as well as the creation of a huge waterpark and two sports arenas.
The venue has been stripped of its former Asian influence, and given a fresh new look that fits the iconic Hard Rock brand. The venue has a license for 2,400 slot games and 130 table games – and it now reportedly hopes to add online gaming to its offerings when it opens later this year.
Former Revel to open in 2018’s second half
Less work is required at the Revel, recently bought by AC Ocean Walk. The casino hotel was in operation for less than two years before it was forced to close, so the majority of the property is as good as new. The boardwalk property will be rebranded as the Ocean Resort Casino, and it will feature 2,200 slots and 100 tables along with a host of hotel, dining and entertainment services.
However, gamblers in New Jersey have told the Associated Press they want a revamp at the former Revel before it will attract them back. The old property was said to be badly laid out, with more effort needed to make the extravagant property customer-friendly.
The Ocean Resort will need to address these problems to avoid the same fate as the Revel. Introducing online gambling and sports betting might just give the venue the edge.
Applications for online gaming
Both the Ocean Walk Casino and the Hard Rock Casino have filed with the state for online licenses. New Jersey legalized online gambling in 2013, becoming the third state to do so. However, state law requires licensed operators to have a physical presence in Atlantic City, and to keep their servers within a city casino. This has ensured the online market is not eroding land-based gaming, which is a crucial source of income for the state.
It is likely both operators’ applications will be approved, taking the number of online service providers in AC to seven. This is proving to be a profitable sector: online gaming netted $245 million in revenues last year, while three Golden Nugget licensees hit the $5 million mark for a single month during February 2017.
Ocean Resort plans for sports betting in future
In 2018, the US Supreme Court will hear New Jersey’s case against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which prohibits all sports betting except for exempt states: Delaware, Montana,, Nevada and Oregon. New Jersey wants the state to control sports betting, and hopes to have the federal law overturned.
If successful, other states could look to move to overturn the law entirely, giving all states the right to opt in to sports betting.
The Ocean Resort Casino is hoping the state wins its case, as it has plans to bring what it calls a “best in market” sportsbook to New Jersey players. AC Ocean Walk recently signed with a British company, GAN, to provide online gaming solutions; the group is likely to seek UK input on its sportsbook as well, given the success of the British sports betting model.
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