Hard Rock Misses A Note: New Atlantic City Casino Opens The Door For Ocean By Not Offering Sports Betting

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Two Atlantic City casinos will welcome players this Thursday under new names and new management, but only one of them will offer New Jersey’s newest legal gambling option, sports betting.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City is set to open the doors of what used to be Trump Taj Mahal with a guitar-smashing ceremony on the Boardwalk at 11 a.m. Thursday. If you were hoping to run to the windows and bet on an evening baseball game or throw a few bucks on your favorite NFL team to win Super Bowl LIII, however, you’re out of luck.

“We’re not opening with sports betting,” Hard Rock Property President Matt Harkness told The Press of Atlantic City Monday, “but it’s something we’re taking a very hard look at for the future.”

Two hours after Hard Rock’s opening riff, Ocean Resort Casino will cut its own ribbon about a half-mile down the AC Boardwalk, at the site of the former Revel Casino Hotel. And Ocean will welcome the rising tide of eager sports bettors.

Boardwalk betting beginnings

That means Ocean will plant its flag as the first Boardwalk casino to feature sports betting, a historic claim that could have belonged to Hard Rock. Borgata Casino was the first AC property to take sports wagers, opening its sports book on June 14, but it is located in the Marina District.

Ocean was destined to play a little catch-up, not just because it’s opening two hours later than Hard Rock, but also because of its location at the far end of the Boardwalk, a significant distance from the heaviest foot traffic on a summer day at the shore. Among numerous other factors, that location is presumed to have played a role in the $2.4 billion Revel’s shockingly quick demise in 2014, just 29 months after opening for business.

At least Ocean owner Bruce Deifik will right some of Revel’s more dubious business decisions, which included a full smoking ban, and lack of a buffet, but there’s little that can be done about its undesirable location.

Hard Rock had the inside track to win Thursday’s festivities, but with one overly conservative calculation, the music-themed property is allowing Ocean to steal the spotlight. Granted, sports betting isn’t the number-one game in town, by any means. It’s not as if Hard Rock is opening without functioning slot machines.

Still, customers who are descending upon “America’s Playground” with an itch they’ve been waiting to scratch since the Supreme Court reversed PASPA on May 14 are going to take their business a few blocks to the east. Having now ribbon-cutting regular Gov. Phil Murphy on scene to make the first wager, may see Ocean steal some of the media attention as well.

Ocean’s planned 7,500-square-foot sports book will not be ready by Thursday, but the property is smartly setting up a temporary book in the meantime.

For those about to Rock

There’s still plenty of reason to check out Hard Rock, of course, from Robert’s Steakhouse to Scores gentleman’s club to a chance to see what the property looks like without the gaudy pink and purple Indian theme that marked its original failed incarnation.

Harkness said the lack of sports betting, for now, owes to management being more focused on the opening of the property than on getting one new gaming option off the ground. It also likely has something to do with parent company Hard Rock International having an affiliation with the Miami Dolphins, a sticky situation while the NFL remains slow to publicly endorse sports betting.

Whatever the true reason, Hard Rock will not be taking sports bets on Day 1, and that will help to guarantee that the competition doesn’t start out oceans behind them.

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Eric Raskin

Eric is a veteran writer, editor, and podcaster in the sports and gaming industries. He was the editor-in-chief of the poker magazine All In for nearly a decade, is the author of the book The Moneymaker Effect, and has contributed to such outlets as ESPN.com, Grantland.com, and Playboy.

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