The newly opened Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City just opened its doors two weeks ago, but the venue is already making strides towards offering sports betting.

In a letter posted to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) website, the regulatory body’s director David Rebuck approved Hard Rock AC’s request to partner with the Bet365 sportsbook.

Bet365 is one of the leading bet shops in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe, but the newly inked deal with Hard Rock AC marks the company’s initial entrance to the American market.

In the letter, which was dated June 25, Rebuck signed off on a letter of intent signed between Hard Rock AC and Bet 365 six days prior:

“The Division of Gaming Enforcement has completed its review of PRN 1761801, which seeks authorization to conduct sports wagering related business transactions between Boardwalk 1000 LLC, d/b/a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and bet365 Group Limited, and applicant for casino service enterprise CSIE licensure.

This approval will be for the narrow scope of approving only Article 3 of that agreement.”

The NJDGE has not clarified what “Article 3” of the approval request entails. But given the fact that any casino in the state seeking to offer online sports betting must already maintain a physical sportsbook onsite, it likely refers to Hard Rock AC’s construction of an in-house facility.

Furthermore, Rebuck’s letter only grants temporary approval for the Bet365 agreement, with the assent expiring on July 31.

Atlantic City’s newest casino opened to the public on June 28, after parent company Hard Rock International completed an extensive renovation project to improve the defunct Trump Taj Mahal.

At the time, Hard Rock International chairman Jim Allen told PlayNJ that the company intended to use a brick and mortar sportsbook as the precursor to online and mobile wagering:

“While there has been a few sports betting windows open… we understand that the market is actually more favorable on a handheld device – or your smartphone, if you will.

Nobody has that technology approved yet by the DGE. We are in that process, so we’ll be making some announcements probably sometime in the next 30 to 60 days as far as how we’re going to do that.”

The involvement of Bet365 – which runs an exclusively online worldwide sportsbook that serves more than 20 million customers – is necessitated by New Jersey’s strict regulations regarding conflicts of interest. Hard Rock International is a major partner of the National Football League (NFL), a relationship which precludes the company from directly offering sports betting.

Allen addressed that regulatory obstacle in an interview with PlayNJ when the Hard Rock AC opened:

“I know we have had quite a few questions over the last month or so in regards to our ability to offer a sportsbook and the answer is ‘yes.’ The media is probably aware that we are involved in the frankly now world-famous Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida. We are the host of the 100-year anniversary of the NFL and the 2020 Super Bowl.

But there are some restrictions in our agreement there which we want to comply with in accordance with our relationship with Stephen Ross, the Miami Dolphins and obviously the NFL.

So we will not be able to set the bet, but we certainly are able to partner with other companies, which frankly is most of the models where you partner with say a provider or a platform provider, and that will be our goal for Atlantic City.”

As Allen alluded to, New Jersey law does allow casinos with conflicts of interest to contract with third-party operators – which is where Bet365 comes into play.

Jonathan Zaun

One of Gamble Online's first dedicated reporters, Jonathan has spent well over a decade reporting on the gaming industry. While breaking legal news is his main area of expertise, Jonathan is an avid blackjack player & strategist who follows professional poker closely.

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