Casino gaming arrived in Atlantic City in 1978. Over the past 40 years, the town has experienced a constant flux in the gambling landscape, with shifts in ownership and casinos opening, closing, renovating and re-renovating. Currently, there are nine casinos by the seaside.
For eight of the nine casinos, there is a mini rebirth of sorts underway with the overturning of PASPA last year. Seven of the eight have opened a new retail sportsbook with the eighth, Bally’s, slated to open sometime before football season.
With summer winding down and college and NFL games fast approaching, the Atlantic City sportsbooks are prepping for their first full season of gridiron action. I review each of the books layouts, features and amenities, with today’s focus on Hard Rock AC.
Initial impressions of Hard Rock Casino Sportsbook
Address: 1000 Boardwalk, Atlantic City 08401
The Hard Rock Sportsbook is easy to find from the Boardwalk entrance by Maryland Street. However, it’s a lengthier journey for those entering from the parking garage. Thankfully, Hard Rock casino refreshed its directional signs to include the sportsbook to make it easier to find.
Hard Rock AC opened its sportsbook on April 1. The book is located near banks of slot machines and in the vicinity of the Sugar Factory restaurant. The location could best be described as “tucked away” in a relatively quiet space (for a casino).
Once you arrive at the book, it’s the end of the line. There currently are no other attractions beyond the space. The sportsbook is well furnished, but it’s small. The décor also includes a nice effort to localize the surroundings with mural images of Philadelphia and New York sports stars throughout the space.
As with all AC hotels, there is a valet parking option plus a self-park option. The self-park option, which most of the public would consider being the “cheapest” parking alternative, will set you back $20 (for non-hotel guests/or guests without a “loyalty” card) to park in the main garage on the weekend ($10 on weekdays). There is no hourly parking option, so it’s $20 whether you stay for three or 24 hours.
That’s a stiff parking fee, and I’m already in a negative ROI position and haven’t yet set foot in the casino.
After visiting the FanDuel Meadowlands and William Hill Monmouth locations and noting the multiple seating and betting locations at both of those books, the Atlantic City books are designed as part of one contiguous space. No separate rooms, no escalators; it’s all in one place.
As mentioned regarding Hard Rock, it’s secluded from the high-traffic areas of the casino. The sportsbook space is well-outfitted, but it’s small. There are eight seats at the bar and 35 other seats positioned around three long- and five short-top tables.
A seat at the bar area provides access to a video gaming machine (video poker single hand, multi-hand poker, keno, video reels and roulette). I’s also a front-row location to see the Hard Rock’s coolest feature, a video wall that has 12 HD TV screens.
Amenities at Hard Rock Sportbook
There is a total of five tellers. It’s a lower number than others, but commensurate with the smaller sportsbook space.
RATING: 3.5 stars
There are no “self-serve” kiosks in which the bettor can deposit cash and place a bet.
However, there are six online kiosks, which are tied to the Hard Rock online sportsbook. This is in-line with what appears to be the overall push from the Hard Rock on mobile. This is great if you have already set up a Hard Rock sportsbook account but, otherwise, you will need to go to a live teller to punch your ticket.
RATING: 1.5 stars
Minimum sportsbook bet amount
The minimum bet at Hard Rock Sportsbook is $5 for all in-person wagers. Lower minimum bet options are on the casino’s NJ sportsbook app.
RATING: 2.5 stars
Everything is fresh and new at Hard Rock.
In addition to the video wall of 12 screens, there are 40 other TV screens around the space. Because of the smaller space, there is no “Wow, look at that giant TV screen” in the sportsbook.
In addition to the TV’s showing live sports, 10 other screens are scrolling the latest lines and futures pricing.
RATING: 3.5 stars
The small amount of space yields a small number of seating options. With a combined seating capacity of 50, you will definitely need to arrive early to grab your seat for the Eagles opener against the Redskins on Sept. 8.
RATING: 3.5 stars
The Hard Rock Sportsbook management doesn’t control the bar/table area, so any reservations would need to be made through the Hard Rock Casino food and beverage manager.
Food and drink availability
On the Saturday afternoon of my visit, the bar located in the sportsbook was not only not open, but it was not scheduled to open until 4 p.m.
The only way to get a drink was to leave the sportsbook area to flag down a waitress in the slot area or trek to another area of the casino that had a bar that was open. I suspect that the bar in the sportsbook will be open earlier on an NFL Sunday, so there shouldn’t be an issue.
In terms of food, there is no “grab and go” burger/sandwich spot near the sportsbook. The closest restaurant nearby is the Sugar Factory, which proclaims itself to be “the Most Instagrammed Restaurant in the United States.”
It’s a short walk from the sportsbook to place a to-go order. But again, in the context of watching games and making bets, it’s less than ideal to have to leave the sportsbook and track down something to order and then pick up to eat.
RATING: 3 stars
Staffing and customer service support
As previously mentioned, the bar was not open. Additionally, there was just one live teller that opened for business just before noon. That’s it. No other sportsbook personnel was around. Again, we assume there will be a more robust staffing plan on football Saturdays and Sundays beginning in September.
You would expect to see stacks of “sheets” highlighting the day’s lines as well as futures; however, there were three sheets for “NFL Division Winner” futures and one with the previous day’s MLB matchups.
RATING: 1.5 stars
Parking and accessibility
As mentioned earlier, Hard Rock garage parking on the weekend is $20, and $10 from Monday through Thursday. It’s a five- to 10-minute walk from the parking garage to get to the sportsbook. Hard Rock Sportsbook is more easily accessible from the Boardwalk entrance near Maryland Avenue. If you come in from there, it’s just a 30-second walk to the sportsbook.
RATING: 2.5 stars
As this is Atlantic City, there’s a bounty of food, drink and casino gaming options at the Hard Rock and nearby. It’s the Hard Rock; it’s a cool spot and a great place to hang out.
RATING: 5 stars
My Hard Rock football bet
As part of every sportsbook visit, I am placing a football wager for the upcoming 2019 season. Hard Rock has a great selection of futures bets for the college football fan.
I made a wager for the Syracuse Orange to win the ACC conference at odds of 14-1. Clemson who?
Overall score: 3 stars
Hard Rock Sportsbook is a well-decorated space, but it’s small compared to other NJ sportsbook locations. Its location is tucked away from the high-traffic areas of the casino layout.
Its space comes up short in basic sportsbook amenities such as self-serve kiosks, futures and daily line sheets, and customer-service presence.
While Hard Rock will surely have sports betting ready by September’s football season, I got the impression that its retail sportsbook is merely “ticking the box” as an amenity of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino instead of being a space designed draw in the crowds.