Get your Fenders out and start brushing up on your scales, because one of the most recognizable restaurant, hotel and casino brands the world over is coming to Atlantic City.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino AC is set to open its doors on June 28, replacing the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal. The new owner is already pouring $500 million into the facility, and appears to have eyes on replacing the Borgata as Atlantic City’s premier venue.
Alongside the grand opening of the brick & mortar facility will be the launch of a brand new Hard Rock branded online casino site. And from the looks of it, Hard Rock is taking online just as seriously as its land-based casino.
Already, Hard Rock has forged key strategic partnerships with Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) to provide its platform, and NetEnt to supply dozens of slots and table games. Together this trio forms the basis of what could very well become one of the most popular legal and regulated online casinos in the New Jersey market.
Welcome bonus offers at Hard Rock Online
Hard Rock will take to the offensive at launch, likely offering new registrants both a no deposit bonus receivable at signup and a first deposit match.
The no deposit portion of the offer will consist of a small bonus, probably in the vicinity of $10 – $30. Players will be able to wager this bonus on any casino game, and will likely be able to cash it out after meeting a set wagering requirement. Alternatively, there may be no wagering requirement at all, with players allowed to withdraw any winnings upon making their first real-money deposit.
Speaking of which, if Hard Rock online casino follows the model of most other NJ sites, it will offer new depositors a 100% match up to a certain amount on their initial load. The cap on this portion of the site’s welcome package could be anywhere from $100 – $2,500, and will undoubtedly be subject to a wagering requirement as low as 1x on slots, and as high as 20x.
Of course, Hard Rock may even go a step further. GiG powered platforms are notorious for offering new depositing players free spins on top of the first deposit match. If Hard Rock hopes to differentiate itself from the masses, and we think it will, it may traverse a similar path.
Advantages of a Hard Rock online casino
- Something new: GiG is a newcomer to the NJ online casino industry, and is looking forward to disrupting the market. Together with the equally aggressive Hard Rock, the duo should offer game and promotional innovations, the likes of which players have not yet experienced. What form these innovations will take is not yet entirely known, but from what we’ve heard, there’s plenty to get excited about.
- Crossover promotions galore: Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City has already booked dozens of high profile music and entertainment acts, presenting an enviable opportunity for it to reward online players with tickets to see their favorite act. It may even offer players the chance to win hotel stays, dinners, and free play at its brand spanking new casino in Atlantic City, or at other Hard Rock venues located throughout the world. Even a Fender guitar or a chance to meet a rock idol could be in your future.
- Being late to the party is a good thing: Since launching in 2013, the NJ online casino industry has made leaps and bounds in the areas of game selection, mobile apps, and payment processing. Hard Rock online casino players should be able to enjoy these benefits right out of the gate.
Which platforms will Hard Rock Online be available for?
It really doesn’t matter how hard rockin’ an operator’s online plans are unless it locks up a solid software provider, which can offer its product across a variety of platforms.
In GiG, Hard Rock online casino has found just that.
Gaming Innovation Group is known for its lightning quick browser-based client, and we suspect that Hard Rock online casino won’t deviate too much from that norm.
Expect the interface to dazzle with hard rockin’ graphics and features not often seen in the NJ online casino market, such as a daily prize wheel, social features, and a sophisticated loyalty point tracker.
The desktop/laptop client will offer players the most comprehensive version of the platform, chock full of games, account management features, and a full cashier. It will be compatible with a wide variety of browsers including Google Chrome, Safari for Mac, Mozilla Firefox, and Internet Explorer.
As far as software developers we already know that NetEnt is onboard, and anticipate that big players like IGT, Scientific Games, and others will follow suit.
An online casino without a top mobile app is like a stratocaster without strings. Therefore, it’s nearly without question that Hard Rock will complement its desktop software with a fully functional casino app, compatible with iOS and Android powered devices.
Today’s casino apps are no longer just cheap knockoffs of the real thing, offering a portable experience that’s as responsive and feature-rich as any desktop client.
The main difference between Hard Rock’s mobile and desktop product — if there is one at all — is that on mobile there may be fewer games. But we’re likely talking about a difference in the dozens, not the hundreds.
Game selection at Hard Rock online casino
The average NJ online casino site has somewhere between 300 – 400 games, with the most ambitious sites featuring over 500. Should Hard Rock hope to compete with the masses it’s going to have to get off strong, and stay that way. That means offering players tons of slot, video poker, and table gaming options.
Is it up for the challenge? Its partnership with NetEnt, which provides over 60 games on its own to some sites, signals that it is.
Slots will undoubtedly be one of the main features on Hard Rock online casino, with titles running the gamut from old favorites like Cleopatra, Triple Diamond, and Quick Hit Platinum, to musically themed games like Jimi Hendrix, James Dean, and Guns N’ Roses.
There’s plenty of reason to believe Hard Rock will go “live” with Live Dealer games sooner than later.
For one, Live Dealer has proven a boon for Golden Nugget Casino, which was first to market with the product. Secondly, Evolution Gaming has eyes on the NJ market with plans to construct a Live Dealer studio at an Atlantic City studio sometime in 2018. Could this studio find a home at Hard Rock AC? It certainly seems plausible, especially considering that Evolution provides Live Dealer games for GiG powered sites abroad.
Lastly, in order for Hard Rock online casino to get a leg up on the competition, some of which has been rooted in NJ for nearly five years, it’s going to have to get aggressive. Launching with Live Dealer games is one way to get the attention of players.
Regardless of who Hard Rock ends up partnering with for Live Dealer, it appears to be no longer a question of “if” Hard Rock will spread Live Dealer games, but when.
Online casino players in New Jersey can expect favorable rules for these games, like 3:2 payouts on naturals for blackjack, roulette wheels with just a single zero, and solid odds on pass line bets for craps.
Going further, it’s not implausible for Hard Rock to offer table games rarely (or never) seen in the market, like Red Dog, Super Wheel, Pai Gow Poker, and the Perfect Pairs side bet for Blackjack.
Single- and multi-line games from Spin Games, IGT and NextGen are the norm for most NJ online casinos, and it’s difficult to see Hard Rock deviating too wildly.
Expect single line pay tables to offer returns hovering around 99% or higher, and between 98-99% for multi-line games. Players should be able to play a hand for as little as $0.10, and still receive max odds on Royal Flushes.
Games may include:
- Jacks or Better
- Bonus Poker
- Double Double Bonus Poker
- All American Poker
- Deuces Wild
Other possible game formats include Slingo, which is rapidly gaining popularity on NJ online casino sites, Scratchers, and bingo. Maybe Hard Rock will introduce a new format to the market, like multi-play slots.
Given its aggressiveness and supposed commitment to the NJ market, anything seems possible.
Hard Rock online casino loyalty program
Hard Rock is a bit of an anomaly in that its brick & mortar casinos don’t all offer the same player rewards program. For instance at its Las Vegas hotel, the scheme is a four-tiered program called Backstage Pass, while players in Florida will be treated to the two-tiered Seminole Wild Card. Players visiting Hard Rock Resort and Casino in Biloxi will find that the loyalty program is called Encore Club. And so on.
We suspect that because Atlantic City is closest to Las Vegas in terms of visitation demographics, Hard Rock AC will roll out something similar to its Backstage Pass program. Members will be treated to the following amenities, with higher tier members receiving greater benefits:
- Free play based on play
- Discounts on dining, hotel stays, and spa visits
- Special invite promotions, including bonus days where players receive point multipliers
- Priority seating and check-ins
- Room upgrades
It’s plausible that the land-based program will be connected to the online one, similar to how Caesars’ affiliated online casinos connect Total Rewards. It’s also possible that Hard Rock online casino will support its own unique program, featuring exclusive bonuses, cash back, and comps for use at Hard Rock AC.
What cashiering options will be available?
Getting money on and off a NJ online casino is hardly the chore that it was a few years ago. Expect Hard Rock to launch with a bevy of industry standard depositing options like:
- ACH (eCheck)
- Online banking transfer
- Visa/MasterCard credit/debit cards
- Hard Rock branded prepaid card
- PayNearMe (7-Eleven)
- Cash at the Hard Rock Cage
It’s also highly likely that Hard Rock online casino will support one or all of the following newer methods, all of which feature a nearly unparalleled level of reliability:
Many of the aforementioned options will be available for withdrawals as well, pending they were used for at least one successful deposit. In addition, players should be able to request a paper check in the mail, or possibly a wire transfer directly to their preferred bank.
Customer service at Hard Rock Online
Great customer service is the cornerstone of any successful business. No one knows this better than Hard Rock, which operators dozens of cafes and casinos throughout the world.
At minimum, expect access to service agents via the following vehicles:
- Live chat
Email responses should take no longer than 24 hours, and players utilizing either Live Chat or the phone service could receive answers within minutes. All of these services should be available 24/7, or at least all but slowest hours of the day.
More about Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City
Hard Rock has had eyes on the New Jersey gaming market for years. In fact, this is the third time in the past decade that it’s issued plans to open a casino.
The operator’s journey began in 2010, when it revealed plans to open a boutique hotel (less than 500 rooms) and casino on the Atlantic City boardwalk. Construction was poised to begin in 2012, but the combination of a poor economy, crumbling casino revenue, and increased competition led Hard Rock to quietly pull the plug.
Hard Rock’s next attempt to get something going in New Jersey came in 2015. This time around, the plan wasn’t to build in struggling Atlantic City, but to look north to the Meadowlands. Given the Meadowlands prime position near NYC and the most populated areas of New Jersey, Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen saw a booming opportunity for the right casino to generate even more revenue than the Borgata.
Hard Rock went so far as to unveil its plans for the first NJ casino to exist outside of Atlantic City.
Opportunity arose once again in 2016, and this time Hard Rock capitalized. It was in October of that year that the much maligned Trump Taj Mahal shuttered its doors. Interestingly enough, the attached Hard Rock Cafe was the only component of the old Taj to remain open.
Just a few months later in March 2017, Hard Rock International announced that it purchased Taj for the bottom barrel price of $50 million (it had cost over a billion to build in 1990).
Of course, it would have to invest in rebuilding the dilapidated property. In April 2017, an ambitious $375 million renovation project was announced. Since, that number has risen to approximately $500 million.
Just over a year after announcing its plans, Hard Rock provided anxious casino goers with an official launch date: June 28, 2018. The launch announcement was accompanied by the booking of dozens of high-profile music and entertainment acts.
Hard Rock will consist of a 2,000 seat theater, 167,000 square feet of gaming space (2,200 slots, 125 table games) and more than 2,000 hotel rooms, rendering it one of Atlantic City’s largest casino venues. An online site, presumably branded Hard Rock Online Casino will likely accompany the launch of the land-based venue.