Will Tropicana Or Hard Rock AC Be The Next New Jersey Sportsbook To Open?

airplanes lined up

Eight might be great, but the potential for 10 is on the horizon.

New Jersey sports betting is anticipating more competition soon. In fact, Atlantic City sports betting alone could go from six retail sportsbooks to eight.

Tropicana Atlantic City and Hard Rock Atlantic City petitioned the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) for transactional waivers. If granted, the waiver will permit the casinos to immediately begin accepting sports bets in a retail location and online.

How likely are the two casinos to get their waivers? Very likely, and if past precedence has anything to say about it, it could happen in a matter of days.

All that is really left to do is to speculate which Atlantic City casino sportsbook will launch first.

The case for Hard Rock sports betting

As Hard Rock AC prepared to open its doors back in June, sports betting wasn’t a focus. That didn’t mean it wasn’t on the table, though.

In fact, just ahead of the opening, Matt Harkness, the property’s president said:

“We’re not opening with sports betting, but it’s something we’re taking a very hard look at for the future.”

At the time, Hard Rock Atlantic City indicated the future was 30-60 days away. Nothing materialized though. Well, it seems the future is now.

Just a few days before filing its petition, Hard Rock joined forces with Gaming Innovation Group (GiG). It will be GiG’s first foray into NJ sports betting.

In the press release announcing the agreement, there was a hint of a timeline:

“Gaming Innovation Group Inc. (GiG) has signed a Letter of Intent with Hard Rock International (Hard Rock) for the provision of an omni-channel Sportsbook platform in the newly opened New Jersey, US market at its Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.

The intention of the LOI is to execute an agreement and launch the Sportsbook in New Jersey in Q4 2018.”

The partnership is an extension of Hard Rock and GiG’s NJ online casino deal. It bodes well for quick action because the companies have already conquered a successful NJ online gaming launch together. Hard Rock online casino opened its virtual doors in late June.

The word “omni-channel” also hints at both an online and on-site sportsbook. It’s possible that a retail sportsbook at Hard Rock Atlantic City is in the cards, too, though an exact location within the casino is unknown.

Now that Hard Rock AC is open and it has a few months of operation under its belt, the powers that be are probably looking longingly at the September sports betting revenue numbers. If that doesn’t light a fire, who knows what will.

The case for Tropicana sports betting

Nothing makes a case for imminent Tropicana sports betting more than a recent statement from Tropicana general manager Steve Callender:

“A brand new venue is being created to host sports betting in the North Tower Casino, with kiosks located throughout the property. … We are excited to share more details about Tropicana Atlantic City’s sportsbook in the coming weeks.”

However, there is an even bigger sign that Tropicana is ready to launch a sportsbook once given the green light. Both Tropicana and its new owner, Eldorado, have agreements with William Hill already in place.

William Hill US is already operating a retail and two online operations with Monmouth Park and Ocean Resort Casino. In fact, it was the first sportsbook operator to accept a New Jersey sports bet. In other words, it has the launch sequence down pat.

In addition to getting ready to launch a sportsbook, Tropicana has been undergoing a transformation of sorts lately.

The biggest change was the surprise firing of its online casino staff just one day after Eldorado’s ownership became official. Undoubtedly, it is still too early to say what this means for online gaming and NJ sports betting at Tropicana.

It does, however, show how quickly the company can move when money is on the line.

Our pick for the next Atlantic City sports betting hotspot

Our pick for the next AC sportsbook is (drum roll please) Tropicana. We pick Tropicana for many reasons, but ironically its Hard Rock that led us to this conclusion.

First of all, in the statement announcing the partnership between GiG and Hard Rock, they target the fourth quarter for the launch. It is unlikely Tropicana will wait that long.

Another observation comes from Hard Rock’s grand opening. Leading up to its big day, Hard Rock made sure every move made headlines. Even with Ocean Resort opening on the same day, it was very public and very vocal about its plans.

The fact that very few plans have made it to the press indicates Hard Rock AC isn’t quite ready to go live yet. Or at least it has things in the works and is keeping quiet for now.

Tropicana, for its part, already has a sportsbook space being built on site, putting its launch date that much closer. Remember the speed for the temp books at Golden Nugget and Resorts? Tropicana likely is thinking the same thing.

All those signs point to Tropicana accepting sports bets before Hard Rock does. It would not be surprising at all to see a development in the immediate future.

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Kim Yuhl is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about poker culture and the online gambling industry. A part-time member of the poker media since 2013, Kim recently sold her marketing business to write full-time while exploring the world.