Report: Tropicana Finds Its Footing In A Crowded AC Sports Betting Market

Posted By Bill Gelman on March 4, 2019 - Last Updated on April 8, 2020

Eldorado Resorts is one of the newer players in the Atlantic City casino market. The Nevada-based company is running the show at Tropicana Atlantic City, a hot topic of conversation during last week’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call. 

In fact, NJ sports betting was one of the many topics to come up. As it should be.

The permanent 5,000-square-foot William Hill Sports Book at the Tropicana is targeted for a March opening, which is perfect timing for March Madness betting.

Eldorado CEO Thomas Reeg’s remarks did not go into specifics about the actual opening date, but he was eager to mention it during the call.

“We opened our temporary sportsbook at the Trop in October. Our permanent book is set to open in the next couple of weeks before the NCAA tournament starts. So we’re excited about that.”

Neither William Hill NJ or Tropicana have shared the specific details about the space. The only news related to the new space came via Facebook and Twitter.

So far, we know it will include:

  • 180 seats
  • VIP seating
  • Bar & Lounge
  • The ability to watch 16 games at once

What about Tropicana online sports betting?

But while Tropicana online casino continues to run its course, the operator’s only online sportsbook skin comes via William Hill NJ. Ocean Resort Casino and Monmouth Park also have land-based partnerships with the company.

But there is another piece of NJ sports betting news that received a brief mention during the earnings call.

“Also in the fourth quarter, we signed our second skin agreement with The Stars Group market access agreement where we get a revenue share off of licenses they use, as well as shares in The Stars Group.”

The November press release says the partnership grants The Stars Group the option to operate online betting and gaming in states where Eldorado operates casino properties.

In total, that includes 13 states, 11 where Eldorado operates and two where Stars Group had existing market access deals. New Jersey is one of the two states where The Stars Group is licensed. Pennsylvania is the other.

But the BetStars NJ app launched under the Resorts license in September 2018. It is unlikely this partnership will change. However, William Hill shares its NJ sportsbook app among its three land-based partners. BetStars could do something similar.

The Eldorado Resorts team didn’t elaborate on how this agreement will impact the Tropicana NJ online casino or its online sports betting plans, specifically.

But Tropicana has the ability to add two additional online skins if it so desires. The NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement allows three online skins per license holder.

In the press release, Gary Carano, CEO of Eldorado Resorts, elaborated on the partnership:

“The Stars Group is one of the world’s largest, most licensed and most geographically and product diverse publicly listed online gaming companies. We are excited to work with The Stars Group to capitalize on their proven ability to leverage their products to gain share in the growing market for online gaming.”

Tropicana’s place in AC

Eldorado is still a relative newcomer to the market. The company closed the $1.8 billion deal with Gaming & Leisure Properties to acquire Carl Icahn’s Tropicana Entertainment back on Oct. 1.

And 24 days after the deal closed, the Tropicana sportsbook opened

When it comes to the Atlantic City market, Borgata is clearly the leader of the pack. But Tropicana ranks alongside Harrah’s Resort and the new kid on the Boardwalk block, Hard Rock.

The property’s steady performance certainly has the attention of the Eldorado Resorts executive team. The early results, according to Reeg, are a positive sign.

“I’d start by making a particular note about Atlantic City, which has been a subject of a lot of conversation with investors and analysts, since we announced the Trop deal and certainly since we closed it.

“In the quarter, Atlantic City EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) almost doubled versus the prior year. And… since the openings of Hard Rock and Ocean on June 28, Tropicana EBITDA through the end of January is up almost 7%.”

Under Icahn’s previous management, the property received $200 million worth of renovations over the last three years. Steve Callender is still part of the Trop team, serving as general manager.

Those renovations, plus the launch of the retail sportsbook, have given Tropicana what Reeg defines as an edge in the crowded field.

“So I know there has been a lot of concern about, this is the latest market where what we are doing won’t work. But I think that the early results show you that we are doing something different.”

A Tropicana island in Atlantic City

What’s unique about Tropicana?

It has a different feel and a different focus compared to the newcomers on the Boardwalk. Reeg likens the casino to “an island.”

“The new entrants seem to target the high end of the business, basically targeting Borgata. We operate as kind of a mass market property in the market, and we’ve got kind of an island down at the south end of the Boardwalk, where we’ve got over 2,000 rooms filled with people… It’s all coming together very nicely there.”

And unlike previous years, where Atlantic City casinos were fighting to remain open, the market seems to be in a good place right now. The addition of an expansive sportsbook and the traffic that comes with it sparks attention at Trop, too.

The two new players, Hard Rock and Ocean, both opened rebranded properties on the uptown section of the Boardwalk. The latter is in the process of an ownership change with the New York-based hedge fund Luxor Capital Group. The former has billed itself as an entertainment destination resort.

The Tropicana, which features The Quarter, a 200,000-square-foot dining and entertainment complex, has a strong hold on the down-beach section of town. It’s sandwiched between the Atlantic Club and Trump Plaza, the two remaining shuttered casinos with no signs of coming back to life.

All in all, Reeg is liking what he sees for the Trop in the now nine-casino AC market. To him, the additions are a blessing and not the end of the world.

“I will tell you if Atlantic City has outperformed our wildest expectations, we were expecting a gift from the new entrants and it’s been gratifying to see early on what we’ve been able to do with that asset.”

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Bill Gelman

Bill Gelman is a veteran sports writer based just outside of Philadelphia and not too far from the Jersey Shore. Bill spends time in Atlantic City writing about casino openings and expansions, special events and now NJ sports betting and online gambling.

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