Atlantic City gamblers will have the rare pleasure of attending not one, but two casino grand openings next month, with at least one of them likely offering sports betting on opening day.
Ocean Resort Casino, slated to open on June 28, has partnered with bookmaker William Hill to construct and operate a sports book inside the property.
Patrons won’t be able to miss the 7,500-square-foot facility, which will be located smack dab in the middle of the casino gaming floor. The venue will include a bar and ample screens for viewing games, and will feature the massive screens with live odds that bettors are accustomed to in Vegas-style books.
William Hill marking its territory
William Hill is a behemoth in the sports betting industry and well prepared to flip the “On” switch in New Jersey. The company represents around 25% of the total sports betting market in the UK and Ireland, and already operates 115 sports books in Nevada, which until now was one of the few states where sports wagering was legal.
The recent Supreme Court decision to strike down the federal prohibition on sports betting has changed all that and sent Garden State casinos and racetracks scrambling to set up their own sports book operations.
William Hill was already laying the groundwork in the state years before New Jersey’s challenge to the law would even reach the Supreme Court. In 2013, it announced a partnership with Monmouth Park to develop a Las Vegas style sportsbook at the racetrack, should regulations and the law align in its favor.
Monmouth and its partner were so confident in a favorable SCOTUS ruling that they went ahead and built a sports bar lounge at a cost of $1 million, which will now be turned into a full-scale sports book. The bet paid off – the site is primed and ready to begin taking bets as soon as the law allows.
William Hill plans to take full advantage of the coming sports betting explosion in the US and has reportedly spent millions investing in infrastructure and technology in preparation for this very day. That investment will bear fruit as more and more states begin to enact sports betting legislation in the coming years. Look for Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, West Virginia and Mississippi to be other first movers.
Hard Rock vs Ocean
Ocean is doing its very best to steal some thunder from Hard Rock AC, which was first to announce June 28 as the date of its debut. Ocean apparently didn’t want to get left out of the party and decided to open up shop on the exact same day.
Hard Rock and Ocean are both built on the bones of two defunct AC casinos. Hard Rock is located on the former site of the Trump Taj Mahal, which was forced to shut down in 2016, while Ocean occupies the former Revel.
Hard Rock has expressed interest in sports betting, and is likely racing against the clock to get its own sports book operation ready for its grand opening next month. The casino hasn’t yet made any concrete statements about its sports betting plans, however.
One option would be through its online gambling partner Gaming Innovation Group (GIG), which recently acquired technology that could be integrated to create a sports betting platform. Realistically, though, it seems more likely that Hard Rock would partner with a more established provider for sports to avoid some of the pitfalls that can come with working with an untested operator.
Ocean plans to open its own online casino in a partnership with GAN a leading gaming software developer. GAN is a proven entity in NJ, where it provides the platform for Betfair Casino, one of the top earning iGaming sites in the state.
What needs to happen first
Before Hard Rock, Ocean or any other qualified New Jersey casino/track can offer sports betting, state lawmakers need to pass legislation explicitly authorizing and regulating the activity.
Not to worry though – NJ’s sports betting law will be fast tracked and won’t take long to come together. There are currently two bills in circulation. The first was introduced before the SCOTUS ruling earlier this month by Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling and Assemblywoman Joann Downey.
The second was introduced just after the ruling by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney. Both bills would put the sports betting industry under the purview of the Division of Gaming Enforcement and set licensing and tax rates for operators.
Sweeney is confident that the state assembly will pass a bill on June 7, allowing Ocean, and possibly Hard Rock, time to set up their operations without getting too much of a late start compared with established competitors.