The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has granted Hard Rock Atlantic City’s request for a transactional waiver to conduct sports wagering-related business with Hillside (New Jersey) LLC, an affiliate of the British online gambling firm bet365. The two parties entered into an agreement in mid-June, and regulators granted temporary approval of the relationship later that month.
The DGE ruling this month extends the regulatory approval for the two entities to do business together. Under New Jersey regulations, transactional waivers come before the plenary licensure. Firms like bet365 can’t conduct any business with the Garden State casino industry while their initial license is pending, unless the DGE issues a transactional waiver.
Transactional waivers are common in New Jersey online casino regulation. The state issued its first online gambling transactional waivers in 2013, ahead of the online gambling launch in November of that year. Procurement of full gaming licensure can take several years, as New Jersey has among the most robust and thorough gaming control agencies in the world.
Bet365 is seeking a casino service industry enterprise (CSIE) license. Those licenses are for entities “which supply goods and services directly related to the operation of the casino such as gaming equipment, simulcast wagering equipment, or slot machine distributors.”
Hard Rock is anticipating an early 2019 sports betting launch. The casino, formerly the Trump Taj Mahal, opened its doors to gamblers on June 28.
Hard Rock’s partner is GiG
While Hard Rock is doing business with the bet365 affiliate, its full-fledged sports betting partner is Gaming Innovation Group (GiG). That arrangement was announced in October.
Bet365, which is seeking its first involvement with New Jersey’s online gambling industry, would be a skin of Hard Rock’s operation.
GiG will power Hard Rock’s desktop/mobile sports wagering, as well as the casino’s over-the-counter wagering and self-service betting terminals.
GiG also powers the Hard Rock’s growing online casino platform.
“GiG is our partner for sports betting,” Lee Terfloth, Director of Online Gaming Product at Hard Rock Atlantic City, recently told NJ Online Gambling. “That wasn’t just because they power our casino. We did a lengthy process, evaluated a lot of companies, and in the end we decided to make a calculated but bold move in selecting GiG as our sports betting partner. We are just working through getting that up and running and hope to be live very soon.”
It was a major win for GiG, especially considering Hard Rock’s deal with bet365 came first.
Bet365’s US ambitions
In addition to joining the Garden State market, bet365 is looking for entry into New York State, assuming lawmakers there fully legalize sports wagering.
In November, bet365 joined forces with Empire Resorts, owner of the Resorts World Catskills casino. New York’s other commercial casinos are partnered with the likes of DraftKings, FanDuel and Kambi Group.
The 20-year deal between Empire Resorts and bet365 called for the latter to invest $50 million into Empire, giving it a roughly 5% stake in the casino operator. The “strategic alliance” with Empire Resorts is a much deeper business relationship than what the online gambling firm has with Hard Rock AC.
New Jersey’s online casino and online sports wagering markets are already well established, while New York, which has a market larger market potential, represents an opportunity for early entry and potentially greater market share.
Empire plans to use the bet365 brand, as well as its digital platform, for its sports wagering business.
Empire Resorts Executive Chairman Manny Pearlman commented:
“This collaboration, which will enable Resorts World Catskills to be a leading destination for sports wagering in New York State, highlights our commitment to the continued growth of Resorts World Catskills, as well as our dedication to working with the best, most innovative pioneers in the industry to provide world-class gaming options.”
Empire Resorts said in the presser that bet365 is “no. 1 in sportsbook revenues globally with annual revenues of over $3 billion.”
Though the deal was for sports betting, bet365 offers other online casino games (which the Empire State has considered as well) outside the U.S.
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