Hard Rock AC President Hints That A New Retail Sportsbook Will Open End Of March

Hard Rock Atlantic City customers are well aware the property is open for NJ sports betting. But the full NJ sportsbook experience leaves something to be desired.

The area is lacking seats, large monitors and a bar. That situation is expected to change for the better sometime this month.

Joe Lupo, the property’s president, told NJ Gambling Sites earlier this week that phase two is expected to be open by the end of March, just in time for the tail end of March Madness betting.

The space is expected to include a large bar, additional TVs to watch games and a “sufficient amount” of seating, said Lupo.

The NCAA Tournament is considered one of the biggest events on the sports betting calendar. First-round games are taking place March 21 and 22. But believe it or not, March Madness is not the primary target audience for Hard Rock sports betting.

Lupo explains:

“Ultimately, football season is a primary focus, so being prepared for that going into late summer is a primary emphasis for us.”

Hard Rock sports betting is live

While waiting for phase two to be rolled out, Hard Rock customers have two ways of wagering. This includes betting futures on how many home runs Philadelphia Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper will hit this season.

The Hard Rock online sportsbook launched in late January. The platform is integrated into the existing online casino app powered by Gaming Innovation Group. The retail sportsbook betting windows opened on Jan. 3o, days before Super Bowl LIII.

Lupo said it’s too early to judge how things are going on the retail end, but he does expect to see the business grow.

Lupo told NJGS that the mobile/online component is the primary focus at Hard Rock AC.

“Online sports betting is a top priority due to its convenient way for players to wager and partnering with Gaming Innovation Group gives us a great advantage as we move forward with enhancing the player experience.”

This makes sense considering NJ online sports betting accounted for the vast majority of handle and revenue in January.

But Hard Rock is working on expanding its mobile sports betting offerings via a couple of partnerships.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement permits each license holder to have up to three online skins.

Hard Rock has additional partnerships in place with Bet365 and Kindred (Unibet). Both are expected to launch at some point this year.

Hard Rock has an online casino, too

Hard Rock’s mobile casino platform has been live since the summer.

The rebranded Trump Taj Mahal officially opened on June 28, along with Ocean Resort Casino (the former Revel).

While the sports betting operation was a work in progress, the casino app launched the same day. And Lupo is extremely pleased with the results.

“We couldn’t be happier with the launch of our online casino, especially given that we have not advertised to any level of our competitors whatsoever.

“We have increased revenues very quickly month-over-month, and we are very excited about our future.”

It helps to have a strong team in place to oversee the online operations. When asked what helps Hard Rock stand out from other NJ online gambling platforms in the crowded market, he responded “innovation and our people.”

“Kresimir Spajic who oversees the Hard Rock online division is truly one of the most innovative and aggressive professionals in the business.

“He has great insight and vision for what online gaming will be years from now, so we are building for the future.”

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Rejoining the established Atlantic City market

Of course, Lupo is no stranger to the Atlantic City casino scene, having previously served as senior vice president of operations at Borgata.

He joined the Hard Rock AC team in the fall, relocating from the company’s property in Tampa. He served as president there, too.

Hard Rock is one of those brands that circled the AC rumor mill for years. It finally became a reality last year. And the name comes with national recognition.

But can this Jersey Shore gambling town handle the addition of two more casinos?

Remember AC was once home to 12 gambling properties before a string of closures left its financial future in doubt. All but two (Atlantic Club and Trump Plaza) have reopened under new ownership. The neighboring Showboat operates as a hotel only.

Having opened just days before the Fourth of July, Hard Rock jumped right into the prime summer season. Like any opening, there were some kinks to work out.

But as the property approaches its one-year anniversary, Lupo is liking the direction the property is heading.

“In a high frequency market like Atlantic City where there are loyal customers, a challenge is simply acquiring and growing the database.

“It takes time, but after about a year of fine-tuning, we feel very confident going into the spring and summer months that we will be well prepared to see a healthy growth.”

Rock on.

About the Author

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 world championship boxing at Boardwalk Hall. He is now adding NJ sports betting and online gambling to the mix.